Studying at university

We've provided some information below about what it's like to study at university, with some tips for making the most of your lectures and tutorials.

For further assistance please contact Learning Support.

What type of classes will I have?

Courses (subjects) at the UNSW Business School generally include two one hour lectures and a one hour tutorial each week. Some courses also include a one or two hour computer lab session. There are relatively few contact hours in your courses so you’ll need to make the most of them.

Lectures, tutorials and labs complement each other and you need to participate in all of them to fully understand the course material.

Typically, concepts are explained and illustrated in a lecture, then practised and applied in tutorials and labs. Your course outline will explain how the course is organised and how the lectures and tutorials fit together to achieve the course aims, as well as giving you important information about class times and key dates, assessments, expectations of you and resources available to assist you.

It’s very important to attend all class hours. The material is covered very quickly. Usually one or two new topics are covered each week so it’s difficult to catch up if you miss any classes.

In many courses, topics are presented sequentially and build on knowledge learned earlier, which means that missing material early in the course will make it very difficult for you to understand topics later in the course.

Students are required to review each course for attendance requirements. For some courses attendance of at least 80% may be required for activities such as tutorials and lab work. Students should plan their schedules with these attendance requirements in mind.

What are lectures?

A lecture is a formal presentation normally held in a large lecture theatre. Your first year lectures may have up to 500 students in them. The lecturer speaks at the front of the theatre and usually shows overhead or powerpoint slides to emphasise main points or to illustrate concepts.

Students are expected to listen and take notes, although  some lecturers involve the students more actively during the lecture by asking questions or asking students to briefly work on problems or discuss issues in pairs or small groups.

Students usually have the opportunity to ask questions during the lecture or at the end of it. Many lecturers provide full or summary lecture notes and also facilitate online discussions.

Please note: Moodle is the primary learning management system for UNSW courses.

Why are lectures important?

It's important that you attend lectures. The lecture program is set out by the lecturer in charge of the course and provides an overview and information on how the lecture topics fit together.

Lectures reflect the main learning outcomes of the course and contain the key concepts and information which you are expected to know. The lecturer will set the assignment and exam questions on those lecture topics. New students often find the amount of material covered in their textbooks and courses overwhelming, so lectures are a valuable guide to knowing what is most important.

How can I make the most of lectures?

Before the lecture

  • Take time to prepare for the lecture. Check the topic and recommended reading in the lecture program, which will be in your course outline
  • Read the relevant textbook chapter and print and read any online lecture notes. Take a note of anything you're not sure about
  • Reading and thinking about the topic in advance gives you important background knowledge and makes the lecture more meaningful and easier to absorb. By doing this you can focus on extending your understanding in the lecture rather than on trying to grasp new ideas.

During the lecture

  • Bring any notes that were provided to the lecture and use them as a base to add to. Don't try to write everything down that the lecturer says. Preparing for the lecture helps avoid this. Listen actively and think about what you’re hearing
  • Make clear and useful notes. Underline important points. Use sub-headings, numbers and arrows to show the relationship between ideas
  • Draw large, clear and accurate graphs and diagrams. Use coloured pens if needed
  • Develop a system of note taking abbreviations and symbols to speed up your writing, e.g. ‘dvlpt’ for ‘development’, ‘+’ for ‘and’, ‘->’ for ‘leads to’
  • Make sure you understand (and note down if you won't remember) the main ideas and information 
  • Take a note of information which the lecturer emphasises in the lecture, e.g. definitions, key points, concepts, issues and arguments - especially if these are not in your textbook 
  • Note down examples and illustrations as these will help you to understand the concepts, and may be similar to those set for tutorials 
  • Think about the material while you are listening and make notes to yourself, e.g. include question marks after anything you don't understand, reminders to look up a particular book or website mentioned, or ideas you have while listening. Also, note any material you want to ask about in your tutorial

After the lecture

  • Compare your notes with a friend if you think you may have missed something.
  • Read your notes again as soon as you can, but ideally the same day. Edit or re-write your notes to make them clearer and easier to remember. Make sure you understand the main points. Read your textbook to fill out your understanding and make cross-references to relevant parts. Note down anything you still don't understand.
  • File your lecture notes with notes from the readings and tutorials on the same topic.

What are tutorials?

A tutorial is a group of about 20 students led by a tutor. Tutorials give students the opportunity for less formal and more active learning, and more personal interaction with the tutor.

In many first year business courses, students apply the concepts and theories introduced in lectures and the textbook by doing exercises and problem solving activities in tutorials. Some tutorials may consist of more of a discussion of issues based on the lecture and required readings.

Students are expected to prepare for tutorials by doing the required reading and sometimes by completing preliminary tutorial questions or tasks which are then discussed in the tutorial. Sometimes this homework is collected and marked, contributing to the final assessment.

Another common assessment task conducted in tutorials is individual or small group presentations. These develop professional presentation and communication skills and are assessed by the tutor, and often by classmates too.

Why are tutorials important?

Tutorials are crucially important for making sure that you understand the course material. They provide an opportunity to practise skills, to apply new knowledge, to ask questions, to raise any problems or to seek clarification on a topic or other aspects of the course.

Tutorial exercises are often similar to exam questions so they provide valuable practice in mastering the most important material and techniques.

Tutorials also give students the opportunity to get to know academic staff and each other better, especially when students work on tutorial tasks in small groups.

How can I make the most of tutorials?

Before the tutorial

  • Prepare thoroughly. Successful students agree that your first study priority each week should be to complete the tutorial preparation; both the reading and any preliminary homework exercises. Make a note of any problems or questions that arise while you’re doing this
  • It's also a good idea to go over your lecture notes on the topic and any relevant parts of the course textbook
  • Completing the preparation work allows you to make the most of the tutorial and to clarify your understanding. It also means that you can participate much more actively in the tutorial.

During the tutorial

  • Participate actively. Listen, engage in discussion, ask questions, offer ideas and contribute to small group discussions. Remember that you will receive a mark for your tutorial participation
  • Many students lack confidence to speak up in first year and feel that they can only speak if they are very sure of the material. However, you can participate just by asking questions or admitting that you are uncertain about something
  • You can also join in a discussion by agreeing, disagreeing or adding short comments. You don't have to be an expert or make a formal speech in order to participate effectively in tutorials.

After the tutorial

  • Take some time to tidy up or rewrite any notes you made during the tutorial so that they will be intelligible to you when you are revising them later
  • Note any references to the textbook or other readings, or anything which you need to follow up. File your tutorial notes with your notes from the readings and lectures on the same topic

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