According to Richard Weimer, assistant dean of Weinberg, the credit value of each course is determined by "a faculty committee which reviews all new course proposals submitted by WCAS departments and programs." However, many students still register for these courses because you can get recognition on your transcript.
Linda Garton, Bienen's assistant dean for student affairs, says that most classes that are listed as zero credit "don't really have the same academic structure as a regular class. So there's no exams and no consistent required papers."
Here's how no-credit classes break down for each school:
None of the Weinberg majors require enrollment in any no-credit courses. However, Weinberg does offer a no-credit internship course and the Gateway Science Workshop (GSW) program. GSW, a once-a-week class is for students who want extra help in a math or science course, offers supplementary homework to help you in the credit course that you're enrolled in. The no-credit internship course lets you participate in internships that require you to receive academic credit.
If you're in Bienen, you're pretty much screwed. You might only be taking five "credits worth" or class, but you could be enrolled in 13 or 14 classes each quarter. According to Garton, freshman vocal majors are in five no-credit courses their first quarter at Northwestern, which can lead to a pretty hectic schedule.
“When you look at a music major’s schedule online, it’s all filled up with places they have to be all the time," she said. "So at some point they have to figure out, 'when am I going to practice and when am I going to do my homework?'” These students are booked solid with all the no-credit, half-credit and full-credit courses that they are required to take every quarter. But Garton does believe that no-credit classes can still be beneficial.
“They are discussion-based, a more casual setting but still required because you can learn so much. It’s more of a setting where you’re exchanging ideas and knowledge rather than somebody is transferring knowledge to you,” Garton said.
Medill has a zero credit course for undergraduate students who want to complete an unpaid internship but need to be able to earn academic credit, similar to Weinberg. Because it doesn't provide any real credit, you don't have to pay for it. After you complete your internship, Medill will ask for an evaluation from your employer and then based on that either give you a "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" grade. According to Jim O'Brien, the director of Medill Career Services, these courses are zero credit because "its credit hours do not accumulate toward curricular requirements for graduation."
Though only one no-credit course is required for McCormick students – specifically, only for biomedical engineers – there is a wide variety of courses that you can take, from co-op preparation courses to dance lessons, according to Associate Dean Stephen Carr.
“Twenty or 30 of our students in any given year find it transformational to do dancing. It’s really good for making a person aware that they have creative capacity,” Carr said.
Carr believes that no-credit courses are valuable because they allow students to discover themselves outside of their major. “It grows a dimension of you that makes you more than just simply the technical content," Carr said. "You’re not someone who just mastered the technical content, you’re somebody who extended themselves, had developed context for why to study engineering."
School of Communication
Communication advisers declined to comment, but the school does offer zero credit and 0.25 credit summer internship options. There are also some dance classes that count for a third of a credit.
No zero credit courses in SESP, guys. Sorry! Or, congratulations, you're actually getting credit for your classes.