I've started to implement GTD to my life recently and I was figuring out, how should I organize my university courses into my system? They're not really goals (courses are pretty small for a goal) and area of responsibility or project doesn't seem to fit perfectly (adding subprojects or sub-areas of responsibility doesn't seem like an elegant way to do things). I'm interested to hear how others are implementing university courses in GTD and how well is that working for you. Please send me your tips and ideas. Thanks in advance!
A wishy washy (but true) answer is that you should do what makes sense for you in your GTD system. Try something, figure out how it doesn't work right for you, then change it so it works better.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts.
I agree with you that it doesn't feel right to have a class as an Area of Focus (20,000 foot). I would have Student as the Area of Focus, with a 30,000 foot (1-3 year) goal of completing a degree. Or perhaps a 40,000 foot (3-5 year) goal when starting an advanced degree. Note those time frames are guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
So in a strict GTD interpretation, you're left with the 10,000 foot level for Projects, and the runway for next actions. My experience is that in this area GTD works best if you keep very clean edges around the meanings of things. I suggest that a class as Project is the best fit, with the possibility of additional Projects that are related. Remember that the GTD definition of a Project is an outcome that will need more than one step to accomplish. There's nothing wrong with having a project that depends on another project before it can be completed.
I'm long past university courses, but I do attend seminars, workshops, and online courses both for work and hobbies. In my system, each seminar / workshop / course is a project. Assignments may be additional projects or next actions, depending on complexity.
Here's an current example, snippets from my actual system as of today (2014-07-20):
I also have time blocked on my calendar for forum participation, with alarms set to remind me to stop.
I use RememberTheMilk for my Next Actions list, and included above some of the tagging I use that keeps things moving:
It has been quite common in this course for a forum discussion to spawn a small project, for example researching a piece of music and putting together a curated YouTube playlist, then posting a link back to the forums. The "notary history" research may become one of those. If it does, I'll create a project "Research and summarize history of notary for Spanish Manuscripts class" and process it as any other GTD project. It may end up with only three or four actions, something like research topic, draft essay, revise essay, post essay. Depending on how my time goes, those actions may not actually ever be entered in a list. For example, if I finish revising and immediately post, there's no need to make a "post essay" entry in my Next Actions lists. Unless I want the positive reinforcement of checking it off as done, of course.
I hope this example helps.
Courses are generally time bound (semester, start and end date etc.) or they can be classified under (pervasive) topics of knowledge.
If they are kept as time bound categories, then considering them as projects (with many sub-projects) works like a charm.
However, in my personal system, I consider multiple courses under topics and have tried to keep each topic as mutually exclusive as possible from the other (cannot eradicate as knowledge is interlinked).
Within each topic, I have certain sections (a wiki, courses, a projects portfolio, a library and a to-do list). In your case, the projects portfolio can be branched under courses as sub-projects if you like.
I do it this way because I take MOOCs that are linked to projects as I am done with formal studies. In your case, if you are a student and are course oriented, projects can be pegged under them.
The complement of tagging really makes this an effective system for me.
I use Evernote for this . With each topic folder, I have associated tags that actually link notes belonging to different courses, topics, projects to each other (like a web of hyperlinks)
Hope it helps :)