University Seminars, Lecturers & Workshops: What Actually Are They?

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University is an exciting time! The way you learn is slightly different to how you’ve learnt at school and college. There are a number of different types of lessons and while they are less formal than in school you still can’t simply skip them all and still hope to get a degree. You’ve probably heard the terms lectures, seminars and workshops, but what actually are they?  

Well, in short, these three things are types of lessons and different ways to teach you the content of your degree. In lectures you are told the content in a presentation like manner. Seminars are like the traditional school type lessons. Workshops are usually optional extras, similar in style to a seminar. 

Now you know the three types of lessons at university keep reading to learn what each one is in much more detail.  

What are University Lectures?

Lectures are probably the term you’ve heard the most from people who are talking about university. Let me first say that lectures will differ for every university and course. If you want specifics about a certain university do your own research, but what I’m about to discuss will generally apply to most universities.  

Lectures will teach you the main topics of your course and involve between one and three hours of teaching per module per week depending on your course structure. Lectures are usually delivered to a large number of students; therefore, they are usually held in a lecture theatre where the lecturer is talking and you, the student, making notes and taking in the information. Lectures are generally not very interactive, especially for maths and science-based subjects. During lectures there will be limited opportunity for discussions and debates.

In many universities lectures are compulsory to attend, they are the most formal of the three different lesson types. Be prepared for your lectures in advance, including knowing what time they begin and where they are. It’s also important to know how to act during lectures. Don’t try and write everything you hear; you will likely miss out on key information while writing something down.  

Lectures are one of the most important parts of university, as they give you the basic knowledge of your subject. Make sure you have high attendance at your lectures to give yourself the best opportunity to get a high-level degree.

What are University Seminars?

A seminar is a more interactive accompaniment to a lecture. You will be expected to take the information you learned in the lecture as well as using knowledge from your own reading and study to prepare for your seminar.  

Generally during these seminars students are completing group tasks and are taking part in discussions and debates. This is your opportunity to ask your tutor any questions on the topic that you may have. Unlike in lectures, where you are expected to simply sit quietly and listen, seminars are almost the complete opposite.

Seminars are a welcoming environment where they want to hear a range of different opinions. Seminars resemble a typical school classroom atmosphere with much smaller class sizes than lectures. The benefits of this are that it gives students a much better opportunity to interact with each other and the teacher to further their learning. Also, students who may find it difficult speaking in front of large groups will benefit from the more intimate class sizes. Seminars accompany lectures and usually go over the material covered in the lecture in more detail, so they are vitally important to attend.

What are University Workshops? 

Workshops are a slightly different take on teaching when compared to lectures and seminars. Unlike the lectures and seminars, workshops are separate to the other two and are often seen as an optional extra to the other two types of lessons. They are a good way to add to the information you have learned and consolidate the learning you have done already.  

The most important thing is not to treat them as an optional extra, as many university students do. They are a valuable part of your learning; you should take them seriously.  

Workshops can help you gain a broader knowledge, not just of the content of your topic, but also how to apply it. They are quite possibly the most useful part of the three when it comes to actually being able to apply your subjects in the real world. 

Workshops can be refreshing to do something a little more practical. They can actually also be quite enjoyable and are often a nice change of pace to the lectures and even seminars.

The lesson to be learned from this article so far is that while all these types of learning are different, they are all important and you should attend all three lesson types to get the best out of your degree

How Much Contact Time Do You Have at University?

So now you know a bit more about what the three different types of learning are, you may be wondering how much time does each one takes up. The first thing to mention is that this massively depends on the course you take. 

Subjects such as politics or history will allow you much more independent study time. This is to give you time in order to read books and do research. While subjects like maths and sciences will probably be more based around teaching. To learn more about independent study at university check out this article here

Let’s take chemistry at York for our first example. Not only is this a science, but it is a practical one, meaning it will need a lot of teaching time. York University says that 8-10 hours a week will be spent in lectures. 9-10 hours a week will be in seminars and workshops and there will be a one-hour tutorial per week. This will take about 8 hours of reading and preparation in your own time. You don’t need me to do the maths for you, but that’s about 20 hours a week of formal teaching. 

For our second example, we’ll look at a very different degree. Politics at the London School of Economics. Like all other politics courses students are required to do a lot more independent. At the LSE there will be around 4 hours of lectures and 4 hours of seminars and workshops per week, equating to 8 hours per week. However, they recommend 30 hours of independent study per week. This is a lot more than in more maths-based courses, as there is more to read and research.  

Overall, all courses will ask for a similar amount of work, it just depends on how it’s divided up between classes and independent learning. See what you prefer and pick a course that best suits your type of learning. 

How Do Online Lectures at University Work?

There is a tonne of lectures recorded and published from different universities on the internet. These are a great tool for your learning and can be massively useful. But a lot of people wonder if they can replace a lecture taught at their own university. While online lectures are very useful as a way to consolidate and add to the learning you have already done, they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the lectures you do in your actual university.  

Let’s look at an example, and let’s say you’re studying politics at the LSE again. You could watch a politics lecture from Oxford. It could very well add to your learning and be useful, but the courses for every university and every subject are different, so in order to get the right specific information for your course you will need to attend your university’s lectures.  

Having said that please don’t be put off the idea of looking at online lectures. They are so useful, as they can help you to reinforce the learning from the lecture you just attended at your own university. Often the lectures you attend will be recorded and put on the university website, allowing you to go back and watch them again at a later time. If you just need to remember some of the information you learned, then that is a great way to go.  

What Options Do You Have to Avoid University Lectures?

So, if you’ve read everything so far, and have decided lectures just aren’t for you, then you’re probably wondering if there is a way you can avoid doing them. Firstly, I should point out that if you do decide you want to go to university there is pretty much no way out of lectures.

In order to get all the information you need for your course and to give you the best chance of getting your degree, you should be attending all of the learning time at university. There are certain practical courses, such as drama which rely on lectures less, but overall if you are planning to come to university you probably have to learn to get on with lectures. However, if you haven’t made the choice about what to do after A-levels yet then maybe this should factor into your decision.

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