When is a Class not a Class? When it’s a Lecture!

Posted in: University Life

You have been in many lectures already if you started this September …  even more if you are a second or third year Undergrad. Experienced or not, we can all benefit with a refresher of key skills and how they can impact our learning effectiveness and outcomes. 

At University you may have a wide range of educational experiences, and you may have lots to keep up with on your timetable. It makes sense to understand the differences between the learning styles. 

Lecture – educational talk or class usually run by one speaker with little audience participation. Often run by a senior lecturer or external speaker, in an ideal world there will be little to no open questions asked to individuals in the lecture theatre. 

Workshop – a smaller class usually in a classroom or seminar room. Involves discussion and often a sharing of homework / ideas with the class. These are often participation led sessions. 

Other types of learning at University include:

Seminars which are small groups usually taken by a lecturer to workshop and develop ideas on a certain topic. Similar to a workshop however the group size is often considerably smaller.

Whether you are a STEM student or not it is possible that you will have some sort of Lab session. A Lab is essentially a workshop using specialist equipment, be that Bunsen burners and petri dishes or computer software for graphic design. Any class that requires a change of equipment can be considered a lab. 

A field trip is an external visit for an educational purpose. These may come termly or not at all depending on your course content. They should be affordable to give everybody the ability to attend.

Tutorials are one to one meetings either with a module leader or personal tutor. These are most likely bookable in the run up to deadlines and exams. 

Now you know the difference, how should you prepare for a class?

We have talked before about ways to manage your stress to ensure you are prepared for University. (You can read that blog post here www.sulets.com/managing-student-stress/ ) but being prepared for University is quite different to being prepared for your classes. 

As I mentioned in our blog post about managing stress, packing your back the day before is one of the best ways to prepare for a class. If you know that you will need a certain piece of equipment then pack it. The likelihood of you remembering in the morning isn’t very high and you don’t want to be that person that always forgets the essentials. 

For each module you will have allocated reading to do. Your institution should have a hub of sorts where all of the reading is posted. Check this every few days.You never know when you will miss an announcement or a link to something essential. The reading may seem like a boring chore but it is very important. Even if you just skim over it just before your class to get the gist of the content. 

If you have read the content you will be able to be aware of concepts you do not understand. This means you can have some questions ready. Many Universities will have the slides/ handouts available a few days before so you can read those as well for a bit of extra information. 

Note taking may be the bane of your life but it is necessary. There are many different ways to take notes and it may take a few tries before getting it right.

If you will reliably print the lecture slides before the session it might be wise to use those and make physical notes around the slides. Of course, this method is only worthwhile if you keep all of your module notes in one place. 

If you like traditional note taking then try a Cornell approach. 

This is an easy way to keep your notes clean and separate. Often lecturers will cover several topics in one go so by having a summary section it allows you to take the key points from each. see a quick guide for this here: https://medium.goodnotes.com/study-with-ease-the-best-way-to-take-notes-2749a3e8297b 

I like to use a laptop for my notes and I collate all of my work into OneNote which is basically an online folder. This helps me to keep all of the documents, handouts, and my own work in one place. Depending on your course you may be given worksheets, 

If you know that the resources will be made available it might be worth just listening to your lecturer without taking notes. You could be surprised at how much you might learn. 

Being prepared for classes is half the battle at University as juggling studies, living away, a social life, and sometimes a part time job can be very challenging. If you have a can-do attitude, you will be able to do anything. 

Good luck!

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