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Studying at university

Ever wondered what exactly the difference is between a lecture/seminar/tutorial? – Look no further!

It is important that you realise that even lecturers have different opinions on this, so as with school or college, each lecturer has their own teaching style and expectations.

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What is a lecture? - Francis (BSc Business Administration and International Relations)

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Lectures tend to be really big. Sometimes, if you are on one of the popular courses and it's basically one way, the lecturer is talking at you, or to you. And you are not really expected to engage with them. You could ask questions, but they don't really expect you to. They just want you to take what they say in and then go away and study it. It could be as small as maybe 15 people actually, or as big as 200 people.


What is a lecture? Holly (BSc Human Psychology)

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Basically, depending on whether or not the module is compulsory, it's all the people on your course who sit in a hall, with one lecturer at the front with a projection of the lecture slides, and he basically goes through those slides and expands on the topic, and just gives a basic structure of what you need to know and then will normally recommend areas or bits of research to go and investigate further yourself independently. So, it's basically just the initial steps of what you need to know. It's like the skeleton of knowledge that they introduce to you and hopefully explains it to you to understand it.


Preparing for a Lecture - Holly (BSc Human Psychology)

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Yeah, I'd generally say print off the lecture slides, that's always a good start and have a read through before you go in. It's so much easier to understand the topic and to understand the flow of the lecture, and what the ultimate goal of the lecture is, if you've read it beforehand. If you go in there not knowing anything then you're going to be thinking 'oh what point is he trying to make'. If you already know where he's going with the lecture then it makes it a lot easier to piece everything together. Yeah, so have a read through that and print it out so that you make notes on it. I generally had a look to see if they had made any recommendations in regards to further reading; if not then you can always go and ask that at the end if it hasn't been put on there.


What is a tutorial? Abbey (BSc Sociology and English Language)

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A tutorial is when it is just one person and the lecturer, and you normally have to arrange this yourself out of the usual classroom because there would be too many people, so you book into office hours, as they call them. You go to speak one on one to speak about something which you don't understand and that you need more information about.


Preparing for a tutorial - Abbey (BSc Sociology and English Language)

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And with the tutorial as well, you have to prepare, as it is something very specific to your needs. So if you just went to a tutorial saying 'I don't know anything about the course' they will send you away to do more work and preparation of your work. Otherwise, they just can't help you with everything.


What is a tutorial? Holly (BSc Human Psychology)

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A tutorial is kind of led by someone, mine was for statistics, so there would be a group of students in a computer lab and then there'd be one person saying what the aim was of that session and the steps that we had to take. So we'd all do our own thing on each computer working through the steps to get to the end goal and then there'd be a couple of demonstrators going round, to make sure people are ok and asking any questions or showing people how to do things they weren't sure of. Again, it's more hands on and interactive, but slightly more structured than a seminar in the fact that you've got someone there, leading you in the right direction I suppose.


What is a seminar? - Rehana (BSc Psychology)

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With seminars, it is a lot smaller, it kind of feels like a classroom I guess, I felt like I was back at school when I was doing a seminar. You get to interact with other students, and rather than being passive, you get to have an active role within the classroom and share ideas. With psychology, we had seminars straight after a lecture for a specific subject, for a module and we got to apply the theory that we learned in the lecture. For example, with health psychology, we discussed a theory on how you can promote healthy behaviours and in the seminar, we got given the example 'so, how would you promote exercise in heart failure patients?' and then from that, you get to share ideas with other students and you are more comfortable with expressing your ideas and views because it is a lot smaller and you get to interact with the tutor and ask them questions because it is less daunting because the numbers are smaller. It is a way of sharing ideas I guess.


Advice on preparing for a seminar - Rehana (BSc Psychology)

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Advice I would give to new students would probably be just prepare beforehand. Even if it is just printing off lecture notes. With seminars, they are only useful and helpful if you are going to actually look through it beforehand and go in there with ideas and share them with others and discuss. There is no point in going to a seminar and just sort of sitting there and listening to everyone, but not really having an input, because it is all about having an input, about contributing.


What is a seminar? Holly (BSc Human Psychology)

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I think for me, I did psychology, so that's going to be specific to me, but my seminars were basically critically analysing research, so basically what would happen is we got together as a module and would split off into four five or six people and talk about a journal article and analyse that and evaluate how successful it was and criticise the method, things like that. Which is quite nice. It's very different from a lecture when you're kind of quiet, just listening ; that's much more interactive, working with your peers.


How to prepare for a seminar - Holly (BSc Human Psychology)

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Yeah, you have to be, I think, seminars definitely have to be really prepared for because other people are relying on you to do something and you rely on other people, so it's really important that you put the work in before you go to a seminar and generally this will involve you doing some sort of research or reading through the journal article before you go in and highlighting, making some points to contribute in the group discussion. So yeah, I would say just preparation is the key and be familiar with the piece of work that you're going to be talking about is key.


What is a seminar? Abbey (BSc Sociology and English Language)

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A seminar is where, well, in my experience, the class is halved, and it's more of a classroom setting, so you sit around tables and you usually move, and instead of it being the lecturer just dictating, you have discussions about things that you didn't really understand in the lecture or stuff that you really want to expand on more, with the lecturer offering more interaction.


Preparing for a seminar - Abbey (BSc Sociology and English Language)

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But for a seminar, you definitely need to prepare, because they normally set readings, and if you haven't read the thing, then there is no point in going to the seminar, because it is all about the reading.

What is a lecture? - Professor Helen Higson

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A lecture is actually a very effective way of giving a start to students. It’s where you can lay down some principles, some general concepts, some thoughts for them to follow up. So it’s perhaps not the most active way of learning and increasingly I think people should be encouraged to learn through doing. But it’s a really efficient way to make sure that students get the right start. The basic things that they can then follow up and because people learn in different ways, lots of different ways there will be some people that find that ‘actually the lecture is the most effective way of doing things as they will listen and take from it what they need to do. They like to be told things in quite a regimented way. So I use it as the start of the learning process and because I think that active learning is the most effective, I do it as a sort of theatrical show and try and engage students. But the main purpose is about getting the main key facts that can be built on.


How should students prepare for a lecture? - Professor Helen Higson

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Well, again as students learn in different ways, there may be a number of different ways that they should prepare. I don’t necessarily expect them to have done reading before or have looked at the notes before but I do always provide something before the lecture because I know that some students will want to look at the key concepts in the slides beforehand. I think the main thing is be prepared by actually coming in, in a listening mode, not necessarily try to get lots of notes down and not see the lecture as the be all and end all of the learning. Sometimes I’ve heard students saying “I was examined on this but it wasn’t in the lecture.” But the lecture is only the start.


What should students do during a lecture? - Professor Helen Higson

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Really listen. Some students worry that they need to get everything down. I mostly use PowerPoint slides, quite detailed PowerPoint slides, that they can annotate if they wanted to. But I also use Aston Replay, so that actually they can go back and sit and listen to the lecture. I don’t use the video part of Aston Replay, I use the oral part and the slides, so that they can go back and revisit it. I would rather they take the notes then and really listen in the class.


What should students do after a lecture? - Professor Helen Higson

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I think it’s really important that after a lecture, students follow up the things that they’ve been asked to do in the lecture. Because as I’ve said, the lecture is not the be all and end all. For example, I often say read a newspaper or do something quite active as a result, and it may not be a traditionally academic thing I ask them to do. But if you don’t do it, then you’re missing out on some of the learning associated with the lecture.


What are seminars and tutorials? - Professor Helen Higson

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I would say that seminars and tutorials for me were very similar. As I’ve said the lecture is the start and the lecture is where you get the most efficient way of getting the information. A seminar or tutorial is where you’ll probably be in a much smaller group of people.


What should students do during a seminar or tutorial? - Professor Helen Higson

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In a seminar or tutorial you should really make sure that if you need to speak you do, that you ask any questions that you weren't quite sure about in the lecture or going through Aston replay. That you have a much closer relationship with the Lecturer in the tutorial/seminar because there are fewer of you and you can delve into the topic in much more depth. Either, for example, by doing problems or case studies or in my case some rather more active things for example in one of my tutorials I get the students to do a learning styles questionnaire, a bit like you'd see in the magazine quiz, and testing what their learning styles are and then I get them to discuss with other students what their learning style is like. By that stage they are really quite buzzing with conversation but they are learning through doing and then at the end of the tutorial we have covered what an individual learning style is and you can go away and use that in the rest of your learning and also you can understand other people's learning styles so that for example in group work the quiet person who doesn't seem to be communicating may actually have the best ideas and that you can draw them in. So it's about going into more depth, asking lots of questions and making sure that you take advantage of that opportunity because it's much more difficult to ask questions in the lecture and a tutorial or seminar is more your time.


How to prepare for a seminar or tutorial? - Professor Helen Higson

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Well I think that's really one of the things that a lot of students miss the opportunity on, it's incredibly important to have looked over your lecture slides for related lectures, gone through what you have learnt in a lecture or in your reading and have come prepared with any questions that you might have but also if you have been set some work that you've done it. If you think, as a student you're paying a certain amount of money, every time you don't do the investment you're being asked to do in your learning, you're actually making your education more expensive. Every time you do something or attend something you're making your investment in yourself cheaper. I know that one shouldn't see this in a commodity way but we've done some research which shows that students who attend and students who prepare the sessions do better at university than those who don't. and given that doing better is really important for employability in the future, I think that, that's a no-brainer


How do you advise students to prepare for a lecture? - Dr Patrick Tissington

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The lecturer will usually expect you to have read some material before you come to the lecture and my advice is always do the reading, always without fail, every single time do the reading. By this, by reading you don't need to fully understand the material, that's the point of the lecture is that after the lecture, hopefully you will understand it but you should have read it through at least once before you go into the lecture, even if you skim through it quite quickly. What it does is to put in your mind some of the structures, some of the understanding and the lecturer will add to that. So really in terms of preparation for the lecture apart from turning up on time and normally be awake, I would expect that you would have done the reading. I cannot emphasize enough that you should do the reading, I think I've said about three times and I'll say it again – do the reading before the lecture. This is one of the main ways you will get value out of being at university, this is the way in which you are going to learn at university. Not every lecture will have reading that you will need to do but when it does have reading beforehand make sure you've done it. There's a couple of other things, lecturers almost always give you slides to be downloaded and you should download those and have them with you to make notes on, take a pen so that you can write on them and just make notes to add to it. And if you've done the reading, you've got the notes and a pen and that you're awake then you should be able to gain the most out of the lecture.


What should students do after a lecture? - Dr Patrick Tissington

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Transcript

After the lecture and by this I mean on the same day go back over the material for the lecture, even if it's very quickly. If you've completely understood it then it will only need to be a very quick flick through but having read the material before the lecture which you may not fully understand and its fine, then you go to the lecture where hopefully it starts to make sense and then you go back over the lecture and it should be solidly in your mind by then. So go over what it is that has been in the lecture, another thing is of course you are making notes on the printed out slides in the lecture, it may well be that you have had to write them very quickly, so make sure that they are legible afterwards. Because immediately after a lecture you will remember what you have written but if you come to them in several weeks time you may well not. If you consolidate your notes into something that is legible, that you can come back to. But this is I think one of the thing students sometimes struggle with because there are so many distractions like going for a coffee with your friends or whatever, but find some time even a short time after the lecture on the same to consolidate your learning by going over the material again.


What are seminars and tutorials? - Dr Patrick Tissington

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Seminars and tutorials are more flexible affairs they can change between modules and between weeks even on there as to what's required and this is very much down to the lecturer concerned, the topic that you're covering and they will change over time at university. My main advice about these are to put them together as a category and to say is that these are the ones that students seem to think are optional but they're not at all apart from the policy being you must go to lectures and tutorials, the policy aside it's a great opportunity for learning, it is often the place where you can take a different view on the material which is presented in the lecture or you've read about in your text books. It's a way of getting to grips with perhaps using the material in an exercise, looking for practical applications and very often in a very much smaller group than you would get in the lectures and in as a way of exploring the subject more and you can always tell that a student who has been and paid attention to those if you like, going to the seminars and tutorials is a great way of getting an in depth knowledge that you need to gain from university. It's where one of the key places to get value out of your time at university. So don't regard them as being optional.


Lectures, Seminars and Tutorials - Debbie De (Learning Development Adviser)

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The lecturers and students on these podcasts are all from different subjects and you may have noticed that each one has described lectures, tutorials and seminars in a different way. Lectures in general are attended by everyone who follows a module, these are usually delivered by one lecturer who usually stands at the front of the lecture theatre or lecture hall and delivers a presentation using power point. There isn't much opportunity for interaction during lectures, however, it is very important that you attend these sessions and that you and that you follow the sessions and prepare for them adequately. Seminars and tutorials in some subjects are comparable to the classroom settings that you may have been used to in school of college. The numbers within seminars is much smaller than that within lectures. This is your opportunity to interact with the lecturer, or the lecturer's assistant, whoever is leading the session. It is your chance to ask questions and to go into detail on the specific things which you are finding difficult.


Preparing for Lectures, Seminars and Tutorials - Debbie De (Learning Development Adviser)

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Transcript

A key point which has come from students and academics is that it is essential that you prepare for lectures, seminars and tutorials. It is essential that you do so in order to get the most out of these sessions and ways in which you may prepare yourself is to print off lecture slides before the lecture, to flick through the slides before the lecture, to make notes and make notes of questions which you may wish to ask. Have a look at questions before seminars or tutorials; identify the areas that you think you will struggle with so that you can focus on these during the seminars or tutorials. It is important that you make the most of the opportunities that you have to spend time with your classmates and with lecturer. So, preparation is the key to being successful.

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