Lectures, tutorials, readings… and you

Hi! How was Orientation? Hope you all had a blast, made some friends and learned a few things about La Lovely La Trobe.

In last week’s blog Textbooks! Subject Guides! Preparing for the Semester and Your Classes, I gave you an overview into how uni works for students and why each part plays a key role in your learning. With that understanding in mind, this week’s blog provides a rundown on how those components actually work. Given you need to learn independently – unlike high school’s teacher-directed style – feeling overwhelmed initially is a sure side effect of the first lectures, tutorials, readings and first assignments.

However, a little understanding about these things goes a long way, and I hope that I can ease you into semester feeling confident about your studies, knowing what’s what, how to access it, and how to make the most of it.  Welcome to uni.

AIM

AIM is a very simple learning module you need to do to pass first semester. It takes about 45mins, and is composed of some videos and reading on plagiarism and the importance of submitting your own work. You do a quiz at the end and then it’s over. Getting it done in the next couple of weeks is ideal, before all your first assessments are due.  Then it’s out of the way and you can focus on your subjects’ classwork and assignments.

The LMS

The LMS also known as Moodle, is La Trobe’s online classroom and your go-to place for learning. Other blogs discuss logging in and accessing your subject guides, but what is it?  It’s the place where you access your subjects and all the details about them. Lecturers will post info to you as a whole class through News and Announcements, and provide weekly links to readings, lectures (via Lectopia), and lecture slides. You can chat with others in your class on the General Forum, sign up for tutorials if they aren’t available on Oasis, submit assignments through Turnitin and later view your assignment grades and feedback. 

If you haven’t already, login and spend some time familiarising yourself with it. It’s important to make sure all your subjects are visible; if they aren’t, check Students Online as a first stop to make sure you are indeed enrolled in the subject, before seeking help from the IT support in the library, with your lecturer directly or with your faculty office. You also need to make sure you are signed up for the tutorial of your classes either on LMS or Oasis. Leaving it too late means missing out on your preferred classes.

New to LMS you can also find access to your faculty office – posting short or simple questions on the General Forum is a great way to get answers without booking an appointment or waiting in line. You can also find links to other frequently used sites too many and varied to specify; suffice to say it has fast access to all you need from your faculty office. The other link you may have is one for your degree, as a place to have access to news and events, job and volunteer opportunities, all provided by your course convenor and other students. Do utilise this link if you have it – it’s a great way to find some handy tips about starting those first steps toward your career. Even in first year.

Lectures & Slides

Lectures are a summary of the key points of the readings plus an overview of the week’s topic, covering the best ideas of the past, present and future. The slides present this in a visual format which is put on the LMS for your records – either to refer back to or to save.  Usually presented in Powerpoint and easily printed off 6/9 to a page under print options for note-taking, or for adding comments to on your laptop in a lecture, there are however, lecturers that put them on LMS as a pdf or some other format.  Some use lots of colour/black in their backgrounds or pictures – beware when printing as it can deplete ink quickly.

Some lecturers upload their slides onto the LMS prior to class, useful for said note-taking actions above. They are often located under weekly or topic divisions and easily found.  Some lecturers prefer to wait until after the lecture to upload the slides, later that day or the early the next. This is either to make sure you attend, they’re not organised or they just like to make lots of last minute changes. Annoying for us, but they’re human, and as students it just means we can’t be lazy – we have to pay attention and work out how we best want to make notes from this type of class.  You may write or type the key points of the slide, and download the missed bits later, or note key things the lecturer says, or simply write nothing at all and wait for the slides. Check the LMS before lectures to figure out who does what, or just ask.

Occasionally lecturers are technologically backward and will dislike slides and Lectopia. Slides may be all pictures, or only rare dot points, or they may just dictate and you must work out what you think is important. Some may barr access to Lectopia.  If this is the case, keep up with the readings, it will help you a ton come lecture time to know what they are on about and cut down on your note-taking.

Lectopia

Lectopia is a marvel for keeping up with classes, if you are sick, working, or  just absent, as well as to go over things you didn’t understand, or recover key points when you decide to do your essay on a particular topic. Whereas in the past only popular classes were recorded, I hear whispers that from this year all lectures will be. In the past  some were not be released until exam time, or were only released to students with special exemptions like a clashed class or serious illness, but we will see this year what happens! There are two kinds – audio only, and audio-visual (which is usually the slides plus sound).

Lectopia is found on the LMS. Within your subjects, the layout may be divided into weekly sections where you can access both the Powerpoint lecture slides and the recording, or there may be one spot where you can access all lectopias as they are recorded, usually at the bottom of the screen. Click on it once and you will see the title of the lecture number and subject, then a grey box to download. Sometimes there will be several format options, to download audio or audio visual, or stream audio or audiovisual. Pick according to preference and what internet access you have; streaming uses more megabytes. Select the format (ignore the ones for other campuses) and open. A pop up will ask you to continue with a grey box of La Trobe info behind it. Then you will get to the next pop up, Lectopia Caster. The first time you use Lectopia on your computer, select the little grey option to download Real Player or Quicktime, and follow the prompts to set it up. Then you can go back to Lectopia Caster to the blue hyperlink saying ‘download recording format’. Here you must RIGHT CLICK and either select ‘open with’ and choose the compatible program (which I used to do for streaming), or ‘save target as’ for downloading. Save it to an appropriate file and then open and run it. If you have a mac, sorry folks, I never paid attention to their problems in class but I know some people in my classes had some issues with streaming while I think downloading was okay. If you do encounter issues, go on your subject’s forum on the LMS and ask for help. Other than that, listen to your Lectopia without further issue. 

It’s really quite simple, especially if you are looking at the slides as you go.

Remember the LMS general forums are (usually) the easiest place to contact lecturers and get messages from them; so if you are having technical issues or don’t understand something, write to them and they will normally get back to you within a couple of days, or at worst, within the week. 

Tutorials & Readings

READINGS FOR CLASS: Tutorials are a great platform to discuss the multitude of readings you will get, and to help you understand them. Come prepared, check the LMS or subject guide to see what reading you need to do prior to the week’s tutorial, and if you can’t manage them all just skim read. Get through introductions, conclusions, subheadings, even the first sentence of each paragraph. Having some idea of what they are talking about is better than not knowing at all. Also, there is no shame in reading the shortest reading if you are either pushed for time or having trouble, but again try to skim read the other readings for that week too. It’s always great to pick up a couple of quotes as you go as well.  Anything to give you an idea of what the gist is, will set you ahead of the rest and make you more confident when writing assignments and exams and attending tutorials. Tutors are there to help stimulate conversation based on the readings, so having opinions or just knowing their argument sets you up to contribute positively in class, be it as a whole group or small group.  Surefire way to succeed both in class and assessments I have found.

READINGS FOR ASSESSMENT: When you are writing reflective pieces and journals, your readings are the backbone of your whole assignment, and when you write essays, they are your best starting point. As for exams, if your lecturer or tutor keeps banging on about certain readings, I can guarantee you they will be in your exam. So identify key readings that discuss theories or have well-known authors that other authors are inspired by. You can put a star next to them in your subject guide/reading list if necessary. These will often be the hardest readings. Highlight important quotes, terms and general summaries, and/or make notes about them. It will help you when you need to review for exams or slot them into assignments. The tutors like to see the important readings at least mentioned or perhaps guiding some ideas throughout your assignments, so even if they are hard to read, give it a go and see if you can work out what they are talking about. Tutorials are so useful in this respect because your tutor and tutorial are a great way of helping get some clarity. 

For subjects with exams try to make a few notes each week about key authors/issues/discussions, so that you can jog your memory come SWOTVAC and revise more quickly. On pdf readings you can add sticky notes or highlight text, while printing on paper gives you a concrete form to do the same. You can also write summaries on note cards or in a book for easy referral. Keep your eye out for quotes and meaningful parts of the text that will come in handy for assessments. If I know my essay topics early enough, I keep them in mind as I make my way through the weekly readings and start my research with some simple notes and referrals back to key readings.

Another thing I do is jot a summary sentence beside each paragraph I read, to keep me focussed and refer back to in harder readings to gauge an overall picture. This is active reading, and much more time consuming, than passive reading, but you get so much more out of it and keeps you focussed – when you lose that you know its time to break. 

Keep in mind that often subjects start you on the theories which are the foundations of the subject. BORING! My absorption of theories is low, I admit, but I do know which ones guide each subject and can link examples/case studies to particular theories in an assignment. The good news is that after a couple of weeks, readings often get more interesting because you’ve made it through all the groundwork – so keep positive!

First Assessments

Finally a quick note about assignments, check your subject guides for the first due dates because many subjects have their first assignments this week and next. They are only short assignments but that gives you only a couple of tutorials to clarify what’s expected and get on top of it.

Workshop quizzes and other first assignments are very easy and straightforward. You just need to start with your readings and notice any references these authors make to your topic and grow your research from there, until you have a good understanding of the topic in question and can confidently answer questions accordingly. Quizzes are often based on readings and the first lectures alone.  These early assignments are designed more to get you in the swing of things rather than throw you in the deep end.

Hope this week’s blog has helped make the world of lectures, tutes and readings a little less daunting and a little easier to navigate. Once you get started, managing your studies will be a piece of cake. There are of course differences between faculties, so be sure to clarify your questions with your Connect Mentor, your first stop for info on campus, email and facebook.  Best luck. – Bec

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