What are lectures really like?

Lectures at university can be quite different from lessons at school and college, particularly when you are taught in a big group. 2020/21 will be even more different as we work to develop our academic courses to be effective and engaging and safe for students and staff.

Background

Within your full timetable of learning activities, you will typically receive 4 hours a week of in-person learning on campus. This will mainly take the form of small group tutorials and seminars, peer-to-peer learning and group discussions. Where relevant, in-person time will also be spent on lab work. In addition to this, there will be live interactive sessions using Microsoft Teams and other online platforms as well as independent study.

We are not planning to provide in-person large group teaching and lectures, instead utilising alternative tools for this to be delivered online, so that you can access this when it fits best with your schedule. This means that you must be ready to join the lecture at the start time, and dial in via your computer or smartphone. Make sure you have been to the loo and got a drink and are somewhere quiet, or have headphones so that you can hear the lecturer clearly.

 

How could this affect me?

 

Keeping up with note taking, being in a big group call and dealing with sensory stimuli can be both challenging and exciting – just like the content of lectures themselves. Many students really enjoy lectures as it’s a chance to learn more about a subject you’re really interested in from an expert in your field.

If you have issues with broadband connection you may miss some of the content of the lecture. If this is a regular problem, let your lecturer know so that they can record and upload the lecture, so that students can access it again later. (They might do this anyway, and make the recording available in Moodle.)

If people in your halls have lectures at different times, they might make noise in their rooms while you are studying. You can ask them to be quiet as you are in a lecture, or agree that you will all use a signal, like a sign on your door handle, when you are studying and need quiet.

What to do next?

Think about your coping skills

Practical tips

Making notes

  1. You can’t really write down everything that is said, even if you have amazing shorthand skills. Though developing your own shorthand and abbreviations isn’t a bad idea (see this Guardian article).
  2. It’s pointless copying exactly what’s on the slides – they are often uploaded to the virtual learning environment (Moodle at the University of Bath) and/or printed as a handout.
  3. Try to write what you think about the contents of the lecture, reflectively, as well as the main points of what is said.
  4. Mind mapping, either via software on your laptop or drawn by hand, can be a really useful way of showing how ideas are linked and might suit your way of thinking better than writing down full paragraphs or even bullet points.

Timing

  1. Lectures don’t always start on time, but it’s better to assume that they will. If you can, join early as you will not miss anything and you can get settled before it begins.
  2. Sometimes being late is unavoidable – while some lecturers don’t allow latecomers, they should tell you in advance if this is the case. You should be able to catch up later from the recording if you can’t join in the live lecture stream.
  3. Other students may well arrive late or need to leave early themselves. This can be distracting, but it’s okay to do this at university, as everyone has things going on outside the course.
  4. If you have time, go to the loo first! It sounds obvious and embarrassing, but lectures are often two or three hours long and not all of them have breaks (and if they do, there can be queues). You don’t want to be thinking about it throughout the session or having to run out at the end.

Question time

  1. There will often be an opportunity to ask questions in a lecture – either the lecturer will ask if there are any questions during the session or there will be specific time left aside for this at the end. Write your question down and save it for later.
  2. You should only ask a question publicly in a lecture if you think everyone in the session would benefit from hearing the answer. This is quite hard to get to grips with. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask things that are more personal to you and your understanding of a topic or assignment, it’s just that you need to either ask privately at the end of the lecture, email your lecturer or arrange an appointment with them.

Telling the lecturer about your autism

 

“In first year I missed a lot of lectures and also would sometimes have to leave during one as I would have severe anxiety due to having to sit surrounded by people, not moving and often in a room with no windows and unnatural light. Lecturers were aware this could be the case and so did not mind and knew I was not being rude.” (Fern, final year student, Autism&Uni interview)

It can be beneficial to tell your lecturers know (in person or via email) that you are autistic and how it affects you – even if you think they already know. Read the rest of Fern’s interview and the toolkit section on Telling people at university about your autism, if you haven’t already done so.

Questions to think about

  1. Do you prefer to read handouts online or on paper?
  2. What helps you to focus on someone speaking, like a lecturer, when a lot is going on?
  3. Do you know how to mute your microphone and adjust the volume of the speaker?
  4. If you need to leave a lecture early, either because you have an appointment or you need to go somewhere quiet for a while, how will you sort that out in advance?
  5. Do your lecturer and fellow students know that you are autistic? Do you think it might help if they did know?