Upper Level Courses: What to Expect

With your registration dates fast approaching, many of you will likely have already picked out your courses for your second year of university! But how do second year courses differ from first year courses? What can you expect from your course material in the years to come? A lot of times it varies from department to department, but here’s a guide for what you can generally expect in the years to come…

1) Smaller class sizes – The way it works in most disciplines (though not all!) is that your 1000-level course is often a huge room with a couple hundred students. Although profs try to encourage class involvement by asking questions, the format is usually a slideshow presentation and everyone just takes notes. Starting in second year, you will start to see smaller classes where the prof can really engage the class in discussion. Many profs make an effort to learn everyone’s names. By the time you get to third and fourth year, the prof will definitely know you by name and participation will be much more of a requirement!

2) Course material more focused – In a 1000-level course, you really only get to skim the surface of the course material because there is so much ground to cover. In first year, profs are faced with the challenge of presenting their entire discipline (often spanning centuries of scholarship!) in a short period of four months. A lot of profs have to work outside of their preferred subject matter as well (ie., an early modern historian having to teach the ancient history portion of the 1000-level course). But in second year, you get to see much more of a focus upon more specific subjects! And it only gets more in depth from there.

In history, we call the broad 1000-level (and some 2000-level) courses “Plato to NATO” courses, because they literally span that kind of vast period of time (over 2000 years!). It’s no wonder that it all rushes by in a blur. Upper level courses can actually be easier in that regard because rather than trying to learn such a broad mish-mash of terms and concepts, your studies will be narrowed to a more digestible segment of the discipline.

3) Expectations higher – You won’t be able to simply show up and take notes for your entire university degree. As you progress, you will be expected to engage with the material in class discussions and make informed analyses, as well as present the material through public speaking and essay writing. Don’t worry – you won’t be expected to do any of this right off the bat. These are the kinds of skills that you will develop as you progress in your education! Just keep at it, and you’ll start to see improvement.

If you haven’t picked out your classes for next semester yet, do so! You can find out what courses are available by going to uleth.ca/bridge. Also, have you considered sticking around for a summer session? Check out my blog post on that subject: http://sites.ulethbridge.ca/james-forbes/2011/06/11/summer-session-whats-it-all-about/

For now,


About james-forbes

My name is James and I’m a History major at the U of L. Originally from BC, today I’m proud to call Lethbridge home. I enjoy travelling, listening to music, and doodling. I also enjoy reading, which can come in very handy as a student! There’s something incredibly special about the university experience, and I hope my blog can capture a snapshot of what it’s all about. This is my blog... This is our U.
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