Preparing for your studies
Congratulations! You're at the very start of your studies at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) – a really exciting time. But we know that studying at university level may be a different learning experience than you’re used to. Whether you're an undergraduate, postgraduate or international student, it helps to know what to expect when you start your studies with us.
How will you be taught?
Lectures are sessions held in lecture theatres or teaching classrooms and are similar in format to a lesson you might be used to at college. Primarily the academic will talk and students are expected to take notes and participate when encouraged. The purpose of lectures is to give you a framework to structure your learning around. They will introduce you to the main themes of your subject.
Seminars and workshops
These are smaller sessions where a group gets together, led by an academic, providing an opportunity to debate and discuss your learning. They are designed to be interactive, so you’ll need to contribute to them. It's likely that you’ll have reading to do in advance of your seminar or workshop so that your discussion has a wider context.
You’ll spend most of your study time outside of the classroom. Remember, you’ll be expected to conduct preparatory reading for all of your lectures and seminars. Some of the best independent research can be done with peers from your course; your course leader may set up study groups or you could head to the library with friends to discuss notes and share ideas.
You’ll be assessed by a variety of means during your studies, including coursework. Coursework can vary from essays to portfolios and presentations. Over the first few weeks at university, your course tutors will be giving you lots of advice about how to write university-level coursework and providing hints and tips. So don’t miss your course induction sessions – these are really important to help you successfully start your university study.
Learning from feedback
You’ll probably find that feedback at university level is different to what you’ve experienced before; it’ll nearly always be given after you’ve handed in the assignment. Make sure you take time to understand and learn from it. You can contact your lecturers and tutors by email or they may run office drop-in sessions if you’d like face-to-face feedback.
You’ll find out about the specific teaching methods applicable to your studies in your course induction.
How important is your first year?
You first year is quite possibly the most important of your whole degree. Why?
- The first year introduces the essential, basic parts of your degree and the expectations underlying university study. Getting these right from the start will enable you to meet the demands of the following years of study.
- Your first year results may be used to assess possible option choices in your future years.
- If you’re on a course with a work or placement element, the only grades that the recruiters will see is from the first year. When you apply for graduate jobs, increasingly employers are looking at marks from all years of study, especially your first year.
- Your whole university experience is important, but you need to develop a work-life balance that allows you to make the most of your time at university. You need to learn to have fun, but crucially achieve the results that will stand you in good stead for the future.
We're not suggesting that you immediately start studying for 50 hours a week! However, it is important that you commit to working regularly and consistently throughout the year.
If you're going straight into postgraduate study from your undergraduate degree, to a certain extent, you’ll find the transition into postgraduate study intuitive, as you’ll already have mastered learning independently and acclimatised to university life.
However, you may still find the following helpful.
- Most postgraduate courses are intensive and are often studied part-time. This means that good time management and self-motivation are essential.
- If you’re studying alongside holding a full-time job, or you have a family, or both of these apply to you, it's important that you’re disciplined about when you’re going to study. Studying little and often might be your key to success.
- You’ll probably find postgraduate study more academically demanding than undergraduate study, and you’ll need to demonstrate independent analytical and critical thinking. Ways to do this include reading all of the essential reading list, engaging with criticism and theories, asking your tutors lots of questions and debating ideas with your peers. Be inquisitive!
Returning to academic studies can be a challenge if you’ve been away from university for a while, of course, and it might help you to brush up on your essay and report writing skills. Get onto this early in the year, rather than waiting until it’s time to submit your coursework.
You could consider buying a good book on study skills, and speak to your tutors to see if they have any samples of essays and reports to show you.
Teaching and learning methods
You’ll find the learning resources for your course in NOW (NTU Online Workspace) a virtual learning environment that contains all kinds of useful information such as timetables, reading lists, highly recommended textbooks, etc. It’s a very good idea to log in to this before you arrive so that you can familiarise yourself with the resources for your course.
We use a variety of teaching methods at the University, each designed to develop your existing subject knowledge and skills. Here are a few examples of the types of activities you may be involved in during your studies.
- Lectures – a teacher delivers a talk to students on a serious or specialist subject in a formal teaching space
- Seminars – a teacher or expert meets with a group of students to study and discuss something
- Workshops – students meet and discuss and / or do practical work together on a subject or activity
- Group work – students work together to achieve a common goal
- Individual projects – you work alone to achieve a learning objective
- Day trips – students travel to another location for the day to learn
- Role play – students pretend to be someone else as part of learning a new skill
- Case studies – students investigate an individual, group, or event in detail
- Presentations – students deliver a talk to the group on a given subject for assessment
- Work placements – students take on a temporary position or job at an organisation in order to get some work experience
Most courses are divided into modules. Some of these are compulsory (you have to do them) as they form the basis of the degree. Others are optional (you can choose) and you may find that these lead you to an area of particular interest to you that you can specialise in further.
You need to successfully complete a certain number of these modules in order to progress to the next year of your degree or to graduate. Assessment methods include:
- group work
Visit the Prepare for Success website for lots of useful advice and resources.