UNIV10001: An introduction to University (Raphael)
So you’re sitting at home, half way through Year 12 (well done by the way) and reading this blog to see what awaits you in the light at the end of the tunnel which is next year. But what’s a tutorial, you may ask? Why are we talking about so many letters like “LMS” and “H2A”? What is it that I even have to look forward to, how does Uni work??? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Welcome to UNIV10001: Intro to University (ie. UNI101, but Melbourne insists on putting an extra two 0s between the 101) where I will do my best to explain how things work here at the University of Melbourne! Note that things vary between subjects and courses, but you’ll get the general gist.
One sunny Monday after you finish VCE, you get an email from VTAC (who process all University applications) saying you got your first preference of UniMelb, and shortly after that you’ll get an email from the University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis (a bit of a celebrity around campus) congratulating you and instructing you on how to enrol.
You then get a unimelb account with an email address, and can login to “my.unimelb”, the place you go to manage your enrolment, check your timetable, read notices and find out your results when you finish a subject.
You will also be using the LMS (Learning Management System) a lot! Every subject has a page, and your lecturers and tutors can upload resources, post announcements and results, and hold quizzes. You will also (for most subjects) get lecture notes from all your subjects and access to recordings of every lecture so you can rewatch them and catch up on anything you missed.
When do you study?
At UniMelb, the academic year is essentially divided into two halves; semester one and semester two. These two 12-week terms are when you do (basically) all your study. That means full-time students study less than half of the year! Check out specific dates at the University Dates website.
There’s also a smaller eight-week period at the start of the year called summer semester, where you can do subjects in a more intensive manner before semester one starts, either to complete a prerequisite, repeat a failed subject or get your degree done quicker. There are also other intensive subjects that you can take that go for shorter periods of time, like a week-long field trip for example.
How does your week look?
During these weeks of semester, you’ll follow a timetable as to which classes you take. The best part, at least in comparison to school, is that you are in absolute control of when in the day you study! A few weeks before the start of semester, you log on to my.unimelb to enrol in subjects for the semester and fill out your timetable by picking from a number of different class times. Everyone is online at once when timetable registration opens, so it can be a chaotic few minutes of virtual fighting to get into your preferred classes.
Some of the types of classes you will have are:
Lectures: Take place in a large hall full of students where you are taught, as one big group all at once, the content of the subject you are all taking. This is delivered by a “lecturer” who stands out the front of the hall and talks, sometimes with the aid of demonstrations. There is a PowerPoint on projector screens during the lecture which is referred to extensively, and you can download the slides from the LMS, print them out and take notes on them if you’d like. Since it’s such a big class, there is limited opportunity for asking individual questions, but this – like the general delivery of the class – varies significantly between lecturers. There’s also often the opportunity to ask questions after lectures. Lectures from most subjects are recorded which lets you catch up or watch them later. In Science, you’ll usually have three one-hour lectures per week, but there can be a smaller amount of longer lectures in other subjects.
Tutorials: These are smaller classes of around 20 students which are taught by a “tutor” who works though discussion, questions or other content related to the course. Sometimes there are “readings”, texts which you need to read before class, or problem sheets which you can download and attempt before the tutorial. These classes are on a much smaller scale to lectures, and are much more flexible, allowing you to work with others, have discussions about the subject and make friends. You can also get more one-on-one attention from the tutor, who can get to know you more than the lecturer can. Tutorials are found mainly in arts subjects but in science some subjects have problem solving tutorials where you complete worksheets. You will usually have one tutorial per week.
Practicals: In Science, practicals (or labs) are when you get to put into practice what you have learned in lectures. There are some impressive labs which you work in, pairing up with other students to follow the steps of some hands-on activities, with a “demonstrator” who you can see for clarification about the procedure. You will usually have one practical per week, and they’re often not on every week.
The main idea is that your day isn’t 9-3:30 anymore; you get to move your classes around however you like. You can have a long lunch break to catch up with friends in the city, put all your classes close together so that you can have one or more days off, or put all your classes in the afternoon so you can sleep in! The choices are yours.
What do you study?
Melbourne’s undergraduate (meaning your first higher education degree) program is different from a lot of other Unis; called the “Melbourne Model” or “Melbourne Curriculum”, it is structured in such a way that you choose a broad study area for your course (e.g.. arts, science, commerce) and then choose a more specific “major” area of study inside that (e.g.. Chemistry, Italian, Accounting). The courses are structured so that you can wait until almost your final year before deciding on your major, and keep your options open with the subjects you choose. In Arts, you can choose more than one major, and in music things work a little differently again, so check the specifics of your degree. You will get help on how to choose subjects from the “Stop 1” student centre course advice staff, who you can drop in to see anytime.
Most subjects are worth 12.5 “credit points” at UniMelb. In order to graduate, you have to earn an amount of credit; Bachelor of Science is 300 points for example. You normally take 4 subjects per semester (50 points) which is 100 points per year, making a three year degree.
Most results are reported as percentages in the “my grades” section of each subject on the LMS, but are converted to a range grade as well. The grades you’ll hear people talking about are H1 (80-100%), H2A (75-80%), H2B (70-75%) and H3 (60-70%). A pass is 50% and up, and you have to pass your subject overall to get credit points for it! There are also often hurdle tasks that you have to complete as you progress which contribute to your final grade, like worksheets or practice questions.
As I’ve talked about before, there’s plenty of fun stuff that you get as a Uni student. This includes joining clubs and attending all kinds of student-only events, borrowing from University libraries (of which there are many), downloading heaps of free software with a student licence, getting student discounts on everything from public transport to The Age to Apple Music, using your free 1GB per week of Wi-fi anywhere on campus and contributing to publications like the Farrago student magazine or this blog! UMSU (The University of Melbourne Student Union, pronounced um-sue) organises many free services for students like Clubs & Societies, the Rowden White “fun” library where you can borrow novels, magazines and DVDs, and student media, including the Fodder radio station and Farrago. There’s so much out there other than classes that will fill your week, you’ll never be bored on campus.
So I hope I’ve given you a bit to look forward to, or at least a better image of what you’re looking forward to at Uni! Good luck for the rest of year 12, remember that you’re not alone and we’ve all been through it, so just keep pushing on! And enjoy it; you only get to be in year 12 – at the head of your school – once. Look to the future, but live in the present! See you next year!