Lectures, Seminars And Tutorials
Lectures, Seminars And Tutorials
Simon Kemp (Lecturer, Module Coordinator) gives expert video advice on: Why should I go to lectures?; Can I ask questions in lectures?; How can I organise my notes? and more...
What is a lecture?
A lecture will be a summary of the key parts within a subject area. A typical lecture will normally be around 45 minutes long, and it'll involve presentation by an expert in that particular field. What they would do is, they would normally use Powerpoint. Some lecturers might still be working with the more old-fashioned technology, such as the overheads. They would run through a series of points which would follow a prescribed structure, and would fit the overall context of the actual course.
What is a tutorial?
A tutorial is where you'll meet with somebody who is designated as your personal tutor for your time of study. Within a tutorial, you might discuss a particular issue. For example, I lectured in environmental sciences, and we might have a discussion on the impacts of climate change in a particular coastal region. Or, it could be about study skills such as essay writing, about exam revision technique. Also, it can be about making sure that you're happy with the university and that you feel comfortable in your studies.
What is a seminar?
Seminars differ across universities. Some seminars can be part of an actual lecture course. Within the seminar, you might have a group of students who are working, and let's say there's about 80 students in a course, you might decide that it's difficult to get a discussion going. Discussion enables you to learn in more detail, so what might happen is that the lecturer might split the group into, say, four seminars. thus, you will then have a seminar of 20 students and you would be expected to do some reading in advance, prepare some materials, and discuss an issue in a lot more depth. It's an excellent educational tool because it allows you to explore issues in a lot more detail and also allows you to formulate your own arguments, which is important in terms of writing essays and in certain debates. It enables you to learn about a particular subject area in a lot more detail. An alternative seminar is when some universities advertise a seminar as being an outside guest speaker. For example, using the climate change analogy again, there might be an overall course on climate change, but we might get a climate change scientist who works at a different university to come in and give a very detailed presentation on a particular niche area of study. Those seminars are not timetables as part of the course, but they are useful for studying because it enables you to get an alternative perspective, and also learn about a particular area in a lot more detail.
Why should I go to lectures?
There's a very good reason to go to a lecture, because you will learn a lot more in a lecture than you would ever get from simple handouts. In the days of information technology, more and more courses are putting handouts onto a dedicated environment. for example, we use a system called Blackboard, automated off a dedicated website. You can download the notes from there, but you'll just get a skeleton of the actual subject area. If you go to a lecture, the lecturer will expand on the points in a lot more detail, and the clarity of explanation will allow you to develop your own understanding. Also, you might have the oppurtunity to ask questions for particular points that you don't understand. For example, I tend to put notes up on the blackboard side and give handouts, but they are just bullet points. Taken in isolation, they wouldn't make much sense - you need that extra context from attending the lecture. It's something that we're quite heavy on in the University of South Hampton, and I do push it quite heavily to students, otherwise you don't get a full understanding of the subject area.
Can I ask questions in lectures?
Asking questions in lectures is a very good idea, as long as the lecturer is happy with that. Some lecturers like to be rigid in their overall structure and would prefer to have questions asked towards the end of the lecture. Other lecturers are very open to questions in the lecture environment. It is a good idea to ask a question in a lecture because if you don't understand a point, then you can bet that most of the rest of the class won't understand the point as well. There's no need to be embarrassed - if there's something you're not quite sure of, then by all means ask the question. By asking the question in the lecture, you can make sure that you get a full answer that enables you to develop your understanding.
What should I do if I miss something in a lecture?
If you miss something in a lecture, the best idea would be to approach the lecturer at the end of the session and say "Well, I missed that point", because you might have been making a diagram that was placed on the screen and the lecture content had progressed. It might help asking the lecturer at the end. The lecturer will then either be able to explain what you missed, or direct you towards further reading. Also, it might be worth asking your colleagues, who are on the course with you. What's the point that you missed? What are the dangers that they might actually have missed the point themselves, and just make it up as they go along? The best idea would be to ask the lecturer, and then maybe do some further reading around that point.
Can I ask the lecturer for private help?
Asking the lecturer for private help is not something that we would recommend. What you should try to do, if you are confused about issues within a lecture course, is ask the lecturer at the end of the lecture if you could arrange for a meeting with the lecturer. Many lecturers will have alloted slots within their time table of a week, whereby they will allow students to come see them regarding issues with the course, or maybe book projects. If you contact the lecturer and ask for help that way, then it can be done within normal study hours. Private help is generally not available because it would create an unbalanced platform.
What should I do if I've missed lectures?
If you've missed a lecture, it's always worth getting in touch with the module coordinator. Let the coordinator know that you missed the lecture for whatever reason, and what will normally happen is that the lecturer would then direct you to some recommended reading to make sure that you are up to speed, so that you don't lose track with the rest of the course. Also, it's sometimes advised to get some copies of lecture notes from your friends. However, always be aware that they may not have taken down the information that's actually needed. In general, I'd recommend that you do the additional reading.
Why should I go to seminars?
Seminars are an excellent method of learning, and it's always recommended that you should attend all seminars. You will be able to expand your knowledge quite considerably - not just from the research that you'll be required to perform prior to the seminar, but also in terms of the research that other people have been required to perform prior to the seminar. It's a good way of getting involved in discussions, and if you have to explain something to somebody, then you can bet you know it in a lot more detail, and you have a better understanding of it. It's always a good idea to attend all seminars wherever they are available.
How important is it to join in discussions in seminars and tutorials?
It's always important to join in discussions during seminars and tutorials. Within a tutorial, your tutor might decide that you've got different subjects to look at. If you don't research your subject area, then you won't be able to participate in the discussion. If you don't research your subject area, then you're likely to not understand the subject area. It's an important life skill to be able to get involved in a discussion in a debate. It's useful for the work environment, it's useful when you're giving presentations, and it's also something that will help you develop your knowledge base.
Can I ask my tutor for private help?
You shouldn't ask your tutor for private help, because it's not something that universities allow. If you have any pressing issues, you should contact your tutor by e-mail or even by phone, and ask if you can come to see them. Your tutor is unlikely to say you can't see them if you have a specific pressing personal issue. If you've got some pressing academic issues, then you can ask your tutor within the normal working hours. Your tutor will have allocated slots to make themselves available to you, but private help is not something that is offered in most cases.