profile panorama photo
New Media Design
Avon NY

Engineering Classes vs. Design Classes

Becky Drexler on Monday, 05 January 2015.

This fall was my first semester in my new major – New Media Design. My first year, I was studying Civil Engineering Technology. One of my roommates is currently still in the Civil Engineering program here, and I would've been in the same classes as her right now had I continued in the major.

I absolutely love my new major, but naturally I am curious about what I'm "missing" out on in my old major. Throughout the semester I would compare my work to that of my roommate's. Engineering classes were more straight-forward, black-and-white. The grading was objective – you either got the answer correct or you didn't (and even then you might get partial credit for correct work/formulas). I was used to having a homework assignment, followed by a quiz, followed by a test (wash, rinse, repeat).

There was a lot of math, science, and formulas. Even in high school, I was used to this style of class. If you did well on the tests, you did well in the class. One bad test could throw your whole GPA off.

This year, I experienced an entirely different style of class. In my new major, our portfolio will be key to getting a job in the future. Many of our classes are geared towards helping us build our design skills in various forms and medias. That being said, a majority of my classes are project-based. Instead of having tests and quizzes, our grades are based off of the projects we have completed throughout the year.

A lot of my NMD homework consisted of sketching out multiple rough drafts for new projects, finishing the projects, and editing the projects. In drawing, I could spend up to 8 hours just on the rough draft. I would then bring in my work for critique, and spend another 8 hours (easily) fixing my drawing (or starting over, if necessary). I probably spent over 20 hours on one project only for my drawing class! In my civil program I would grind out math assignments and lab work week after week along with studying for quizzes and tests. My time was split between a lot of smaller tasks, whereas in NMD I sink many hours into creating and finishing a single project.

Finals week this past semester was also quite different from what I was used to. Instead of having 5 or 6 actual final exams (short answers, math problems, multiple choice, etc.), I only had 1 actual test and the rest were all projects. These final projects had been announced well before finals week, giving us time to work on them inside and out of class. Two of my final projects were due on the last day of classes, before the official start of finals week. I found finals week this year so much easier and less stressful. Last year I was cramming for a test in every class. This year I had worked hard to finish as much of my projects during classes so I could get feedback, so most of them only needed minor changes and edits during finals.

Interactive Algebraic Problem Solving (an intro to coding) was one of my only classes with a final exam. Like the midterm, there was a written test portion and a practical portion of the exam (code on the spot). Our projects throughout the year helped to relieve the pressure of a pass/fail test grade, but I still spent a lot of time studying and cramming for that final exam.

I must admit, I would prefer final projects over final tests any day. I remember studying for hours and hours each day leading up to finals. It would be frustrating if I looked over a wide range of topics for a particular test and focused in on areas that weren't as heavily tested on. Granted, I do enjoy my new major a lot more and would gladly spend more time working on projects than I would have to study for engineering. Everyone's learning style is different, so see what works best for you if you're torn between two programs!