What’s the difference between a lecture and a tutorial?

Wondering about the difference between a lecture and tutorial? We know uni-speak can seem like its own language sometimes. So, we’re about to break down the difference between a lecture and a tutorial for you. And Charles Sturt student Sarah Poulsen will give you some insider tips on tutorial etiquette to boot!

First up, what’s a lecture?

To understand the difference between a lecture and a tutorial, let’s first look at lectures.

A lecture is a formal teaching session usually presented in a large theatre on campus. It will be given by the academic staff member who has developed or is responsible for the subject.

At Charles Sturt, you’ll generally have one lecture a week for each of your subjects. The lecturer will teach a different topic each week. Some subjects might have two lectures each week. Lectures are scheduled for either one or two hours.

The lecturer will present and you’ll listen, learn and take notes on the content delivered.

Most lecturers will use a PowerPoint presentation on the large screens in our lecture rooms. Where a subject is run on more than one campus, the lecture may be video-conferenced across campuses.

Generally, lectures are recorded, although this is at the discretion of your lecturer. If a lecture is recorded, you’ll have the option to stream (watch and listen to the content online) or download to listen to later.

Up to 200 students may attend a lecture, so there will be minimal group discussion. Some lecturers might invite questions – but wait for the invitation as lectures are usually more a ‘listen and learn time’, with questions reserved for tutorials.

So, what’s a tutorial?

Besides the lecture, the content for each subject is also taught in a tutorial. A ‘tute’ is a smaller class of about 15–20 students, usually scheduled after the lecture. Your tutor may be your lecturer or another academic staff member.

The purpose of the tutorial is to discuss and interact on the topic with your classmates, guided by the tutor.

Joyce Voerman, Academic Skills Adviser at Charles Sturt University, explains.  

“The tutorial has the important function of discussion time so you can get familiar with the ideas and use the language of the subject. It will often involve exercises and different activities to apply the concepts in the lecture.

“Each tutorial will usually be two hours. Some lecturers combine a one-hour lecture followed by a two-hour tutorial. The tutorial could also be a practical – called a lab prac or simply, ‘prac’.”

Before your tutorial, you should go over your lecture notes and any prescribed reading. Make sure you look up the meaning of any words that are new to you. That way you’ll be ready to discuss issues related to the topic. During the tutorial you can ask questions about anything you didn’t understand. The tutorial is also a great place to clarify what is expected in upcoming assessments.

A student’s guide to etiquette in tutorials

Charles Sturt Master of Teaching student Sarah Poulsen wrote about etiquette for tutorials. Here’s the inside scoop.

Phones

This is a big no-no. Smaller class sizes, group discussion, and your professor sitting a couple metres away do not create good conditions to be on your phone. Not only is it kinda rude, you’re also robbing yourself of a really valuable learning opportunity. And no matter how sneaky you think you are by checking your phone under the desk, you’re always going to get caught.

Snacks

It’s best not to eat during a tutorial. You’ll be in close quarters with your classmates, and you’ll probably be expected to contribute at some point, and that’s difficult to do with a mouthful of pretzels. Try to suppress your hunger as long as possible, and maybe take a fake bathroom break to munch down a chocolate bar if you get desperate.

Attendance

It’s pretty important to make sure you attend tutorials. In some classes it’s compulsory, but you should have two weeks you can miss if you have a family emergency. Also, if you get graded on participation, your tutorials are where you will earn those marks.

So, what’s the difference between a lecture and a tutorial?

In summary, a lecture is a formal teaching session to a large group. A tutorial is a small, interactive class where you discuss the topic of the lecture with your fellow students. And together, they’ll give you a well-rounded learning experience at Charles Sturt.

Got more questions like ‘what’s the difference between a lecture and a tutorial’? Reach out to our friendly student advisers who will know the answers!

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