Types of Courses/Lectures

What types of courses/lectures are there at a university?

Especially at the beginning of a course of studies or when collecting first information on studying at a university, the different types of lectures/courses might be very confusing. Here, we provide you with an overview of the different types of lectures/courses you will come across at a university.

Since the topics of the individual lectures/courses can vary from semester to semester, TUCaN is still indispensable as a source of information regarding a specific lecture/course. The pages offer basic information about the specifics of the different types of lectures/courses.

What is a basic course?

The basic course is – as the name implies – a course/lecture that you will encounter at the beginning of your studies. These courses are to be seen as a prerequisite for your further studies, as they cover the fundamental terms and tools of the chosen course of studies. In this way, you will find your way into your field of study and you will be able to continue your studies on this basis.

At the Institute of Linguistics and Literary Studies, there are various basic courses to each course of study. The range depends on the individual subject areas: Thus, there are basic courses on Linguistics, Literature, and Medieval Studies, sometimes with a digital focus. As all of these topics have to be covered in your studies, you have to attended and successfully complete all of the respective basic courses. So as to ensure that you manage to do so, some of the courses are accompanied by tutorials in which experienced students help you to repeat and internalize the study matter of the basic course.

What happens in a basic course?

A basic course usually takes place once a week for one and a half hours. The exact dates can be found in the current course catalog. During the course, the different topics will be presented and explained by teachers of the institute, usually one topic per session. In the scope of Linguistics, for example, the theory of word formation or semiotics. In literary-scientific basic courses, you will learn about genre systems or be introduced to literature history. The basic courses in Medieval Studies provide an overview of the grammar and structure of Middle High German and address Middle High German texts such as the “Nibelungenlied”.

Usually, the courses rely on so-called “teacher-centered teaching”: a teacher presents the study matter, but the students might have to participate to a certain extent. Finally, the acquired knowledge is addressed in an exam – usually in the last session – which must be passed to complete the basic course successfully.

What is a lecture?

Lectures are commonplace in a course of studies. From the first semester onwards, students will come across lectures throughout university life. Each lecture deals with a specific topic. Generally, individual sessions of the lecture shed light on one aspect of the topic. All sessions of a lecture are held by the same teacher – with the exception of the so-called lecture series, in which each session is held by another lecturer.

The topics covered in a lecture can be very different. At the Institute of Linguistics and Literary Studies, the topics are obviously related to (Digital) Linguistics, (Digital) Literary Studies, and Medieval Studies, but with a broad scope. Thus, the lectures can address content that is fundamental to the subject – but there are also lectures require a certain level of knowledge or serve to present the current research work of the lecturer.

What happens in a lecture?

Lectures are completely based on teacher-centered teaching, once a week for one and a half hours each. In the individual sessions, the lecturers talks about the respective topics, often with the help of a presentation. Depending on the teacher, the lecture can be held freely or be based on a prepared script. As a rule, students are allowed to ask questions, but it is not required to participate actively. Rather, students are supposed to concentrate on the contents of the lecture: listen and take notes! However, it is not necessary to take notes of everything the lecturer says – especially since many lecturers will provide a script for their lecture. Rather, students should learn to make notes in order to find further information and to reflect on the contents of the lecture on their own accord. At the end of the lecture course, often in the last session, this is put to the test by means of a written exam on the contents of the lecture.

What is a seminar?

The seminar is a very common – especially in the humanities. It serves to gain experience regarding scientific work: research, writing, presentation, and discussion. There are two types of seminars for this purpose: Proseminars, which are usually attended at the beginning of a course of studies, focusing on the basics of scientific work. Here, you will learn the necessary tools, supplemented by specialist knowledge of the basic courses. If you attend an advanced seminar (Hauptseminar) later on, the contents are seen as a basic requirement – to be practiced and deepened.

Thematically, of course, seminars are based on the chosen course of studies. Accordingly, the Institute of Linguistics and Literature offers seminars on (Digital) Linguistics, (Digital) Literary Studies, and of Mediaeval Studies. As all these subject areas also have to be covered during your studies, you will have to attend seminars from each of these areas. The specific seminar content is not always the same. It is often based on the research work of the respective lecturer. Thus, the contents of the seminars changes from semester to semester, as it primarily serves to practice scientific work in general.

What happens in a seminar?

Measured by the number of participants and compared to basic courses or lectures, seminars tend to be small. They usually take place once a week for one and a half hours. The focus lies on interaction between the students, i.e. on discussion and argumentation. The lecturers decide on the topics for the individual sessions and provide theoretical texts on the matter. Based on these texts, the students have to prepare themselves for the respective session in order to actively participate. In order to spark a discussion, it is common to start off a seminar session with a short presentation on the topic, to complement the knowledge from the theoretical texts.

While the individual seminar sessions are aimed at exchange and conversation, you will often have to write a seminar paper to successfully complete seminar. Other options are smaller essays, extensive presentations, or other achievements. The necessary skills are taught during the seminar. In the course of your studies, you will write texts of different types – which, in addition to the scope of respective seminar, is also to be seen as a good exercise for your Bachelor's or Master's thesis.

What is a tutorial?

Tutorials can be found in virtually all courses of study and subject areas – not only in Bachelor's or Joint Bachelor's courses, but also in teacher training courses or Master's courses. As the name implies, tutorials are to be seen as an opportunity for practice, for example basics of scientific work such as research, citation, and writing. However, there are also tutorials that focus on advanced techniques such as dealing with different theoretical approaches or the use of different (digital) tools.

What happens in a tutorial?

In terms of size, the tutorial is similar to a seminar – usually involving a smaller group of students. Usually, a tutorial takes place once a week for one and a half hours, addressing content prepared by the lecturer. Depending on the topic, the requirements for the students vary. Thus, some exercises focus on presentations or on discussion and interaction, while others prioritize individual work or group work.

Accordingly, there are also differences in the achievements that are necessary to successfully complete a tutorial. The spectrum ranges from essays to papers, exams, or smaller projects that are carried out during the event. Accordingly, there are tutorials that are graded and some that are not. Nevertheless, ungraded tutorials should not be ignored, as they can serve as an important basis for further studies or work.

What is guided self-study?

Guided self-studies are quite common in the different courses of study at the Institute of Linguistics and Literature – and you will probably take part in more than one during your studies. Whether you are enrolled for a Bachelor, Joint Bachelor, Master, or a course of teacher training, you are bound to come across this type of course.

Thematically, guided self-studies are assigned to specific modules and, thus, also associated to the topics of a specific area of study. At the Department of Linguistics and Literature, we address the areas of (Digital) Linguistics, (Digital) Literary Studies, or Medieval Studies – depending on the respective course of study or module. In some courses of study, there are interdisciplinary self-study offers, ensuring that you will become familiar with content from all the subject areas.

What happens in guided self-study?

As the name implies, guided self-study is self-organized. But that does not mean that you are completely free to work on a topic of choice. The thematic framework of guided self-study is given, as well as the academic achievement necessary to complete the course. This may be, for example, a paper, a cross-departmental exam, an examination interview, or even project work. In the scope of guided self-study, however, you are free to decide how to prepare for the examination is free. The students have to decide where, when, and how to study, and how much time they want to spend on self-study.

In this process, the students are not left alone. There are no regular lectures/sessions in the sense of weekly meetings with other students and a lecturer, but the students will usually meet up with the responsible lecturer more than once to discuss the contents. This should take place at least at the beginning and the end of the semester, but it might help to schedule additional meetings in order to complete the guided self-study as well as possible.

What is a colloquium?

A colloquium (from Latin: colloquium = “conversation, discussion”) is not limited to a single course of studies. You might come across a colloquium during your Bachelor studies, but also in a Master's course or in the scope of teacher training. The purpose of the colloquium is to exchange ideas about specific scientific topics and to practice discussing and arguing. Usually, colloquia are organized by a specific department within an institute, so the topics are mostly in line with the respective subject area.

What happens in a colloquium?

Due to the way the individual subject areas are organized, colloquia can take quite different forms. Some colloquia are held weekly over the course of one semester, others are limited to one or more consecutive days. What they all have in common is that students and researchers have the opportunity to present their projects and to give an insight into their scientific work. In some programs, participation in a colloquium is compulsory, while it is voluntary in others.

Usually, a colloquium begins with a lecture, in which the lecturer talks about his/her current research work. This may involve a Bachelor's or a Master's thesis, but also a dissertation or other research projects. Also, it is not necessary that the projects are already completed. Often, it is desirable and helpful to present work that has not yet been completed. After the presentation, there is an opportunity for discussion. The plenary can ask questions about the work project, but also provide suggestions and critically consider individual points. The result is a conversation in which both the audience and the person presenting a project can gather information, practice scientific discussion, sharpen their presentation skills, and get new impulses for their projects.