Unique U of A courses to pique your interest

Looking to expand your skillset? Find a different elective? Iman shares some courses you may not have heard of.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Iman (she/her) is a fourth-year Science, Technology and Society major in the Faculty of Arts. Born and raised in Edmonton, her current goal is to identify her true passions by trying new things. When not writing, you can find her reading, listening to music, making games, or perfecting the art of coffee! Iman enjoys getting to know new people and meeting friends while grabbing a coffee or a bubble tea.

U of A offers plenty of classes that often go unheard of. Whether you're looking to expand your skill set, explore new interests or just want to take some interesting electives, there are many options to spice up your schedule. Here are just a few courses that I want to share for your consideration.

CMPUT 250- Computers and Games

This isn't your average computer science course. You probably know of this course if you have anything to do with the Computer Game Development certificate, as it is the intro course for this multidisciplinary program. You get to kick off the semester with a pizza party and speed-dating-like activity to create teams. In these teams, you get to make a computer game. The labs focus on teaching you the basics of game-making — nothing too scary! It's a fun course to gain an intro into the complex world of games (and the fun side of programming.) This course also offers a fun game award ceremony that happens at the end of every year! Be warned that an application is required to get in. 

RELIG 274- Studies in Witchcraft and the Occult

By now, almost everyone has heard of this course, the witchcraft course! And no, you don't get to learn how to cast any spells. It focuses on teaching the history of witchcraft, dating back to early Egypt and Mesopotamia; who knew magic went so far back? And yes, you do eventually get to cover the Salem Witch Trials. 

STS 397- Special Topics

Special topics courses are always hidden gems, especially because the topics change up so often. When I took STS 397, it was a fun, small, seminar-style course that focused on directly tying together the world of art and technology. Being an STS major, it wasn't always the easiest task to find relevant courses, but this one did a very good job. It's kind of like learning about technologies such as AI through a humanities lens! And if you haven't yet, try out STS 200 Introduction to Studies in Science, Technology and Society as a segway into this new perspective. 

CLASS 102 - Greek and Roman Mythology 

Were you a fan of Percy Jackson growing up? Did that spark your interest in Greek mythology? With this intro course, you can now reignite that passion and continue learning more about ancient mythology through various authors, both old and new. This one is supposed to be a super interesting and easy course, even if you're not used to taking arts courses! This is a good option if they seem daunting, especially compared to any science courses you may be used to.  

INTD 350 - Game Design Principles and Practice

If you haven't had enough of making video games yet, this is another class that comes next in line after CMPUT 250 (which is a prerequisite for this class). You get to take a break from all the screens and programming in this course and go back to good, old-fashioned tabletop games. It kind of makes you feel like you're doing arts and crafts again as you make all the little pieces for your games, though it is very hard to create one. (Surprising?) Labs in this course are super fun, you spend three hours playing board games and playtesting each other's board games — it's hard to call it work! These games end up counting in the game award ceremony that happens at the end of the year, too.

MST 350- Understanding Video Games

Another video game course. Who knew there were so many? Again, CMPUT 250 is a prerequisite, but you may be able to get in with the consent of the department if you are interested enough! This class talks about early video games, modern games and just general theories about the world of games. You also get to work on a text adventure game, and yes, this also counts towards the annual game awards!

PHIL 291- Existentialism and PHIL 399- Religious Existentialism

Both of these courses deserve their own section, but the topics covered are easily related. If you're like me and have existential crises like it's your job, these classes are fun to take. Both classes cover philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, a classic existential philosopher. Not sure if it'll help your case or worsen it, though…it definitely provides material to think about!

WRITE 294- Introduction to Writing Poetry

Ever watched Dead Poets Society and been inspired to become an aspiring poet as well? This class teaches you how to write poetry through workshops! It can seem really daunting at first, and workshop classes are always kind of scary when you know everyone is going to be reading your work. It makes you feel very vulnerable, but the payoff is worth it. And you end up with some really cool skills by the end of it that you can flaunt like the dramatic, broody poet you are.

Honourable mentions:

HECOL 211- Human Sexuality

That one course about sex that everyone wants to take, even though it's always at 8 a.m. And always full. Good luck getting in. 

Looking into some of these unique courses may inspire you to add something more to your degree, like a certificate to complement your studies, or they may end up sparking a new passion. Many of these courses help to teach you skills you may not already have; how many of you can say you know how to write up rules for a board game? You may end up polishing up your writing skills and realize that essays aren't as scary as you once thought. Don't be afraid to look at courses that don't necessarily line up with your major; you may end up finding a new interest!