We are all different, and different people thrive in different environments.
Many people who didn’t like school absolutely flourish in higher education. It’s a completely different experience and way of learning.
So, what is school like?
The school week is based around a timetable that requires you to be there from 08.30 until around 15.30 (or thereabouts). During these times, there are fixed slots for lessons with lunch and breaks in between. This structure is the same every day and the only thing that really changes daily are the lessons.
While you’re at school, you are told where to be, what to do and what to wear. If you don’t attend a lesson, or do what you’ve been asked to do, you’ll be held accountable. It’s not like this in higher education.
University contact time
A day at university looks very different from a school day. On a weekly basis, students will have a certain amount of contact time. These are hours that are actually spent attending lectures, seminars, workshops, meetings, or tutorial sessions – sessions where you’re with a member of teaching staff in some sort of form. On average, you can expect around 12 hours of contact time per week, but this varies from course to course.
Independent studying and motivation
On top of contact time, students will spend time working independently and sometimes in groups. Independent work can again vary from course to course, but an average would be around 14 hours per week. This is what really makes higher education different from school.
Lectures are the starting point for all students’ learning at university. They’re not the same as lessons in school. In a lecture, a subject-specialist will provide an outline of a particular topic while the students take notes of key points. This acts as a starting point from which you go off and learn more about yourself (or sometimes with a group). Lectures often cater for larger groups of students as there isn’t usually much discussion taking place; however, lecture sizes often depend on the size of the university or college.
Usually, seminars take a topic that was introduced in a lecture and explore it further among much smaller groups. In a seminar, there is much more discussion and debate. Through discussion and debate, a lot of learning takes place as you get to hear the opinions of others.
Again, like seminars, workshops are for smaller groups, but instead of discussion, students might learn about a tool or a technique that they will be required to know about for their course. They are generally practical in nature – in fact, they might even be called ‘practical sessions in some institutions.
Depending on the course, you might get to go on field trips!
A field trip could be half a day visiting a local business or facility, or a month on the other side of the world, Again, it really depends on the course. Many of the images in the Student Life area of our gallery were taken on field trips – check them out here.
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There you have it! Being a student in higher education is a completely different experience from being in school. You’ll be treated like an adult and you won’t get told off for not doing your work – the way universities and colleges see it is you’re a paying customer and if you don’t attend or do your work, it’s your money you’re wasting.