University courses differ from one another, and no two classes are ever the same. Even if you are studying a similar course at the same university, or at another institution across the country you’ll find yourself learning in a contrasting way to your friends and classmates. Here are some examples of how you’re actually going to study during university, and why it is important to understand how they affect you and your learning.
A lot of courses require research, and the term ‘research’ can be used figuratively or loosely within the context of a degree. There are specialised research universities, and you could find yourself conducting your own hypotheses and theories when completing Mathematics, Science or Psychology degrees. But that doesn’t mean you won’t come across the act of researching in other schools. When you have deadlines, exams and coursework to complete, it will be expected of students to research deeply into their subjects, essay questions and topics that they cover in each class. Also, research is a skill much needed in the academic world – especially when dissertation time creeps closer! – therefore, learning how to research effectively and correctly will work in your favour, and result in decent grades.
The term resources refers to what you use to study, and these sources can vary from internet, textbooks, journals and class discussions. You should never underestimate what is spoken about during classes, even if they seem mundane or unrelated to what you want to write about in your coursework. As other students and your teacher’s ideas can spark inspiration in your own work. The important thing to remember when it does come to resources, especially with academic writing, is to use sources that are respected, valid and that they are correctly referenced. Plagiarism is taken very seriously at university level and beyond, and you need to understand when to quote someone else and to always be honest when something wasn’t your idea or thought.
This resource isn’t just used by bookworms and you’ll discover that textbooks and ‘reading’ will feature heavily during your studies. Your lecturer’s expect you to complete the required reading that compliments what you’re covering in class and want you to explore further topics discussed. Your university library will always have something that will aid you in your work and have copies of the majority of books on your reading list. And if you really don’t get on well with books, there are trusted sites online – and maybe even your university library has an online database – that can give you the same information.
What is considered ‘practical’ in each degree can be entirely separate to what you believe it to be. In some degrees writing modules are considered ‘practical’ and at the same level as producing and making films, or studying Graphic Design. Each university will have their own rules about how many ‘theory’ and ‘practical’ modules you are allowed to take, and it will help you out a lot later on if you look into what modules you are actually able to do before applying. Otherwise you might become disheartened that you have to fill up your degree with ‘theory’ classes that you don’t really have any interest in taking.
The number of staff at universities can be quite impressive and you may only cross paths with a handful of teachers, lecturers and course administration staff during your time studying. Most teachers will have profiles and contact information on the university website and you should take note of these before you course begins, so that if anything happens and you need to get in touch with someone you can contact the right person sooner rather than later. You’ll have teachers for each separate class, a personal tutor, – who is your first port of call if anything disrupts your studies and/or coursework and who can deal with any questions you have- a course administrator, – who will deal with getting you onto the right course and modules – and your Head of Department who is in charge of several teaching staff, students and courses that come under that school within the university. All of these staff play a big role in your studying and academic development and you should feel comfortable to contact them at any time.
You are going to learn a lot from your classes, and as previously mentioned above, group discussion will help you throughout your course. If you aren’t confident enough to participate, listening to other students interact and debate about particular issues can help you understand theories and ideas as well as give you different approaches which you can use later in your coursework. All classes will be different and reflect on that lecturer’s teaching style, and can range from powerpoint presentations to screenings, and group work to the teacher talking for the entire seminar. Each student will learn effectively through their own preferred learning style and one of the most difficult things to master during university is how to translate the different teaching styles into a productive lesson; even if it doesn’t work for you.
With all the different ways that students study during university you need to bear in mind that you are expected to study independently, conduct research and explore the topics and issues you’re learning about on your own. University education is unalike GCSE and A-Levels and you have to really put the work in if you want to walk out with a decent degree.
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