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What is different about teaching and learning at university?

In this video, students from the University of York share their thoughts on how learning at Uni is different from what you've experienced before.

In the video above, you can hear some of the students at the University of York talk about what is different about learning and teaching at university.

Coming to university is likely to mean that you are learning in new and different ways. On a university course, you will attend different types of learning sessions, referred to here as contact events and led by tutors on your course. These include lectures, seminars, tutorials and problem classes. The types of contact events you’ll do will depend on how your course is structured and the subject that you are studying. Some courses are more likely to have practical and problem classes for example, whilst others will have seminars.

Contact events: Lectures

Lectures are a type of learning that may be new to you. Most subjects will have some lectures each week, attended by a large group of students and usually held in a lecture theatre. Lectures are delivered by a lecturer and are often used to introduce new concepts, to explore links between different concepts or topics, and to guide your independent study. Lectures are not there to give you all of the information you need for your assignment, or to give you the ‘right’ answers.

Lectures can be led from the front, with the lecturer presenting for a lot of the time, but you will still need to be actively involved. Some lecturers will ask students to actively participate in the lecture, for example by discussing questions in pairs or small groups or by using apps on your laptop or phone to take part in polls or to respond to questions.

You will also need to be actively taking notes during lectures, to make sure you get the most out of them. Most universities will record lectures using lecture capture software, and may also make the presentation slides and notes available for you to download. This means you don’t need to write down everything the lecturer is saying word for word. When you write your notes, focus on the key learning points from the lecture and make notes for yourself about the areas you would like to follow up on in your self-directed study. This could be books or articles you want to read, or concepts you want to find out more about.

Contact events: Seminars, tutorials and problem classes

You will also take part in seminars, tutorials or problem classes. The format of these smaller classes will depend on the subject that you are studying. You will be actively participating in these sessions, and will be required to prepare for them in advance as part of your own independent study, and then discuss a question or problem in the session. There may not be one correct answer to these questions or problems, as they are designed to encourage you to work together to consider different perspectives and to develop your own opinions.

You may be asked to work through problem questions in advance of the session, revise a topic or read an article or book chapter. You will often work in sub-groups within the class of around 5 or 6 students. It is important to do the preparation for these classes, so that you can join in the discussion and get the most out of them.

What else?

In the next step, we will look at some particularly key elements of university learning that are not classified as contact events but are crucial to your studies and skills development more generally.

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