lectures and seminars

Lectures and Seminars

If you're on a taught course, it is likely that lectures and seminars will be key components of your learning experience.  Lectures are often used to deliver the main topics of your course. They are led by the lecturer, with students taking notes, and often don't include a lot of interaction.  By contrast, seminars are small interactive group discussion sessions, which provide an opportunity for students to exchange ideas.  

You will mainly access lectures and seminars in-person, as per your timetable. Digital recordings or live online sessions may also be used to support your learning.  Recordings could be of the live scheduled lectures that you attended, or academic staff might also use what is known as a 'flipped' approach; sharing recordings for you to watch ahead of a scheduled session. Recordings may be made via Encore, the University of Sheffield lecture capture tool, or Kaltura video player.  Whereas recordings of scheduled lectures can be used to revisit content from lectures you have attended, some recordings are designed to be watched before a scheduled learning session. Both aim to support and reinforce your learning. 

The tabs below provide tips on how to get the most out of seminars and online lectures, as well as effective use of recordings. You might also want to look at our information on effective note-taking.

How to use lecture capture

 

Lecture Capture Overview

 

Most of your scheduled lectures will be recorded using Encore, the University of Sheffield lecture capture tool. Using the lecture capture service to revisit content from lectures is a valuable way to reinforce your learning and prepare for exams and other assessments. Although lecture capture recordings are no substitute for the face-to-face lecture experience, they can be a useful way to access information that you may have missed, go over challenging areas again or review your lecture notes.

The following tips and suggestions have been compiled by students as a way to make the most of lecture capture videos available on your course as part of your day-to-day study.

Attend lectures

Attend lectures

  • Research shows that students who attend more lectures tend to get better grades.
  • Studies show that students find live performances more engaging than watching a video. If you don't attend you may miss valuable interactive activities.
  • There are social benefits to attending lectures. You become part of the community.
  • It is best to use lecture recordings as a supplement to attendance. Use recordings to revisit bits you don't understand rather than using them as a substitute.

Take notes

Take notes

  • Note-taking helps you learn but it also gives you material to review at a later date.
  • The best way to take notes is to summarise or paraphrase what the lecturer is saying, rather than writing down word-for-word. Good note-taking can be difficult but you can use systems like the Cornell Method to help you structure your notes.
  •  Focus on understanding the lecture, writing down the key information.
  • Don't be anxious about writing down every word, if you miss something you can revisit the recording.

Be specific

Be specific

  • Before you rewatch the lecture try to recall as much as you can.
  • Check your notes and identify sections you missed or didn't understand.
  • Rewatch specific sections of the lecture related to these problem areas, rather than watching the full recording.
  • Revisit the recording within 2-3 days. Don’t rewatch immediately after the lecture, or wait too long.
  • Use the recordings to add detail to your notes, but don't forget to summarise and paraphrase in your own words.

Catch up

Catch up

  • If you can't attend a lecture for valid reasons, watch the recording in full within one week.
  • You learn more effectively when your learning sessions are spread out so it's good to keep up-to-date with the lecture content each week.
  • There is evidence you won't learn as much if you watch the recording at high speeds, so watch it at normal speed once and take notes as if you were in the live lecture.
  • Once you've watched the recording in full, then go back and revisit bits you don't understand.
  • Make sure you spend the same amount of "time-on-task" as a student who attended the live lecture.

Ask for help

Ask Questions

  • Even though there's a recording you can still ask for help if you don't understand parts of the lecture.
  • Consider asking your lecturer or other students and attending study groups or peer-assisted learning sessions where available.
  • Use the recordings as a help resource to check your knowledge when testing yourself.
  • By reviewing specific bits of the recordings you can identify exactly which parts of the lecture you are struggling with.
  • You can use the same language as the lecturer to help you formulate the question you want to ask.

Don't cut corners!

Don't cut corners

  • Don't binge-watch lectures during revision week. There is a lot of strong evidence that in order to learn effectively you need to space out your learning: you will learn more, in less time, if you do it week-by-week.
  • Do not rewatch lectures in full (unless you missed the lecture): the act of thinking about which bits you need to revisit will actually help you learn more.
  • Do not engage in multitasking such as household chores or driving whilst listening to recorded lectures. You need to give them your full attention in order to learn.

Lecture Capture: Time Travel for Students

Watch this short video to find out more about the advantages of using Lecture Capture as a study tool.

Using recordings to prepare for a live session

Lecture Capture Overview

 

You may be provided with recordings to help you prepare for a live session. This is sometimes referred to as a 'flipped' approach to learning. The following tips and suggestions aim to helping you use recordings ahead of time so that you can make the most of your scheduled sessions. 

Use recordings as you would a live lecture

Attend lectures

  • That is, sit down and prepare to watch them from start to finish without pausing or rewinding.
  • The recordings are designed to give content, which when used with the interactive live sessions, will help develop your knowledge and skills.

Take notes

Take notes

  • Your notes will give you a helpful resource to refer to when it's time to attend the live session. The best way to take notes is to summarise or paraphrase what the presenter is saying, rather than writing down word-for-word. Good note-taking can achieved by using systems like the Cornell Method to help you structure your notes.
  • Focus on understanding the content of the recording, writing down the key information. Don't be anxious about writing down every word, if you miss something you can revisit the recording.

Be specific

Be specific

  • Check your notes and identify sections you missed or didn't understand.
  • Rewatch specific sections of the lecture related to these problem areas, rather than watching the full recording.
  • Use the recordings to add detail to your notes, but don't forget to summarise and paraphrase in your own words.

Keep up with the material

Catch up

  • Keep up with the set recordings in order to get the most from your live session. Without having done the pre-session work, you may struggle to understand the content of the live session.
  • You could watch the recording with others on your course as a study group activity.

Ask for help

Ask Questions

  • Use the live session as a chance to test and reinforce your knowledge.
  • There will likely be time to interact in the live session, so ask questions about anything you didn't understand.

Don't cut corners!

Don't cut corners

  • Don't binge-watch recordings. There is a lot of strong evidence that in order to learn effectively you need to space out your learning: you will learn more, in less time, if you do it week-by-week.
  • Don't rewatch the recordings in full: the act of thinking about which bits you need to revisit will actually help you learn more.
  • Don't multitask! Give the recordings your full attention.
Getting the most out of seminars

Seminars are a crucial part of learning and teaching at university. Seminars provide a unique opportunity to revisit course material, ask questions and clarify points. They help to deepen your understanding on a topic by learning from others, and sharing points of view. Being able to contribute effectively is key and will lead to the development of a number of related communication skills, such as active listening, clarifying your explanations and mediating conversations and debates.

Seminars will generally run alongside your lecture programmes, and provide the opportunity to study and discuss topics in more detail, supported by independent study and participation from students. Seminars are much smaller than lectures – generally between 8 and 20 students – and are much less structured in their approach to the module material.

Participation is crucial! In both seminars and tutorials you will be expected to contribute to discussions in the classroom based on what you have read and prepared. You may often find yourself asked to investigate an issue or question independently or within a small group of students. Your lecturer may guide you towards key readings; however, most decisions about what to read, how to read it, and how to address the questions posed will be up to you. Make the most of this opportunity to develop your ideas, and to raise questions on anything you’re not sure about.

Seminars can be quite daunting, especially for those new to university or to the topic in question. The first thing to remember is that seminars aren’t designed to test you. Instead, they offer the opportunity for discussion and debate with coursemates, and to really get to grips with the details of what you’re studying, and the aspects you’re most passionate about. You might want to try using this preparation and consolidation template to help prepare for and reinforce the learning outcomes of the seminar.

Read more...

Strategies for making the most of seminars

If you’re worried about the reading…
Look back at your lectures, or at the questions set for the seminar, and see if you can identify the key theme or topic, and any key words. Look for these while you’re reading in preparation for the seminar. Underline any key terms, or any terms you don’t understand. This can help you to pinpoint which sections of the reading are likely to be most helpful, or where you need more clarification from the seminar leader.

If you’re worried about participating…
Before the seminar, try and jot down some ideas or notes on at least one of the questions you have been set. If you don’t have any prompt questions, try and think of some of your own, and devise answers to them. You might ask yourself what the article tells you, what the main argument is, or what the key words are. If you’re really stuck, try and think of two questions of your own that you might ask in the seminar, one about something you understand, and one about an aspect you might be struggling with. Some examples might include: how does this fit with last week’s discussion? How does this relate to the lecture material? Does anyone have a different example of this? Contributing just one idea is a good way to start building your confidence.

If you find it hard to follow the discussion…
Take notes and record the seminar if you can. Listen out for any key words from your reading, or any terms that are repeated: this is a sure sign that these are key to the discussion. Afterwards, sit down and jot down everything you remember – it’s best to do this on the same day as the seminar. See if there are any gaps in your notes, and chase these up, either through extra reading, discussion with your classmates outside of seminars, or in office hours with your seminar tutor.

If you want to make progress from one seminar to the next…
Set aside some time (even just 10 minutes) to reflect on how the seminar went. How did your preparation go? Did you participate? Was there anything you didn’t understand? It can be useful to write this down, particularly if you want to participate or contribute more. Use Gibb’s model for reflection for this, and see if you can make an action plan for next time. See this information sheet for a template on how you might do this.

Top Tips
  • Prepare thoroughly by doing any preparatory reading or writing. Use keywords to help direct your reading.
  • Think about your formal and informal role(s) within the seminar group. What are you expected to contribute, and when are you most confident in contributing?
  • Listen actively, and support the contributions of other students to create a positive collaborative environment.
  • Try and participate when the conversation moves onto something you are comfortable with, even if your ideas aren’t fully developed. Seminars are a chance to try new ideas out on others, and to ask about anything you’re not sure on.
  • Reflect on the seminar and create an action plan for next time.
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Getting the most out of online lectures

Getting the Most out of Online Lectures

 Large lectures are sometimes delivered online as part of a programme involving a range of different learning environments. It may be you’ve not encountered online lectures before, or that you have questions about how to get the most from them. The following tips and suggestions have been compiled to assist you in preparing for and engaging with the online lectures on your course.

This guidance is focused on lectures that will be delivered synchronously (live) online through Blackboard Collaborate as part of the timetabled activities on your course. You may also be using asynchronous (pre-recorded) content as part of your studies, or be revisiting recordings from your live lectures. See the other tabs on this page for more information on how to use lecture capture and using recordings to prepare for a live session.

How can I prepare in advance?
  • As with a face-to-face lecture in a lecture theatre, you should always be prepared for the hour that lies ahead. Have you got stationery to hand? Ensure you’re fully equipped with all the necessary stationery (at the very minimum a pen and paper), a working internet connection, and any additional technology needed to watch the lecture.
  • Make sure you’re caught up on previous lectures - it may be tempting to skip ahead but doing so puts you at risk of missing vital information.
  • It’s better to use a laptop or tablet if possible, so that the screen is big enough for you to see detail without straining your eyes. If you don’t have access to either a computer or a tablet, speak with your department as soon as possible.
Timing is of the essence
  • For lectures delivered synchronously (with recordings released afterwards), try to attend at the scheduled live time if you can. That way, the lecture has your full attention and you’ll get the information you need. Also, you’ll be able to participate in any interactive content.
  • Create a timetable to keep you on track with all of your study commitments each week. You might find the 301 Time Management resources useful, where you can find tips and tricks to overcome procrastination, a weekly planner and more.
Your environment matters
  • Choose a workspace which is free from distractions as much as possible.
  • It’s important to form clear boundaries between your workspace and the space you relax in. If possible, don’t study in bed, and use a desk or table to set up a dedicated workspace.
  • You should be comfortable when watching the lectures (but not so comfortable that you fall asleep!). Keep the room at a reasonable temperature and ensure that the position you’re sat in isn’t causing any unnecessary strain on your body.
Working effectively
  • Approach the online lecture as you would any lecture and take notes as you normally would. Don’t rely on being able to watch the lecture back. There are specific note-taking strategies that you might want to try, such as the Cornell Method. Take a look at our note taking guidance and resources.
  • The best way to take notes is to summarise or paraphrase what the lecturer is saying, rather than writing things down word-for-word.
  • Revise the notes after the lecture to make sure you’ve understood the core concepts. If you feel like you’ve missed something, and are able to, you can revisit the lecture (a few days later), but there’s no need to watch the whole thing again.
  • Be prepared to concentrate on the lecture for its entirety. If you’re easily distracted by technology, you can take advantage of notification blockers on your phone, and extensions which block websites on your computer browser. It’s extremely normal to procrastinate, but don’t fear! Our video on Beating Procrastination may give you the boost needed to stay focused.

What if I get stuck?
  • As a first step, rewatch the relevant parts of the lecture (if possible) to see if there is anything you might have missed the first time through.
  • Your lecturers are likely to have office hours, or an email contact for you to arrange a suitable time to discuss anything from the lectures. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have questions.
  • Use discussion boards or other peer learning groups and activities. This is a good way to forge relationships with other students on your course, and allows you to bounce ideas off peers to strengthen your understanding.
You get out what you put in
  • Even in the online learning context, try to participate as much as you would normally do. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask the lecturer. Do they welcome questions as they go along? Will they make space for questions and answers at the end of the session? It may take a bit of time to get used to the style of online lectures, but try not to let this put you off asking questions. It’s most likely that the question you’re thinking about is in the heads of other students too!
  • The thought of using the microphone to ask questions to the lecturer can be daunting. However, Blackboard Collaborate has an in-built chat function to type out comments and questions, meaning you’re not obligated to use the microphone if you feel uncomfortable or there is background noise in your study space.
  • By using the chat function, you will also encourage other students to join in the conversation. This is a great way to network with your peers and have meaningful discussions about the module.
Useful Resources


Academic Skills Certificate

Recognition for your skills development

The 301 Academic Skills Certificate provides an opportunity for you to gain recognition for developing your skills and reflecting on this experience. Through this reflection you will be able to identify changes and improvements to your academic skills that will lead to long-term benefits to your studies. The 301 Academic Skills Certificate acknowledges your commitment to enhancing your academic and employability skills and personal development.

You can find more information on the 301 Academic Skills Certificate here.

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