When I first got my acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota I was, of course, really excited, but I also had a lot of questions in my head, one of them being: "What are classes like at the University of Minnesota?". We know that usually high school classes differ from country to country, but also the difference between high school and college classes is quite substantial. In order to make this blog shorter and easier to understand, I am going to divide a college class in 3 parts: the lecture part, the discussion part and the lab part. (The last one being more common in science classes)
Lectures are usually pretty much the same regardless of the major of study. They consist of a professor and an audience (which can range from as little as 25 people, to as many as 100 people for most introductory courses such as Calculus 1, Physics 1, Intro to Psychology, Microeconomics etc.) These lectures usually last 50mins and require you to be attentive and listening, and occasionally ask your professors questions about parts you didn’t understand. Most classes have a lecture component.
Discussions on the other hand consist of a teaching assistant (TA) and a group of 20 students. The aim of these discussions, as the name suggests, is to discuss the material from lecture and homework. Depending on the subject you may be asked to work in groups to solve a worksheet, and to do it individually and then discuss it with your group members. (In the US education system there is a strong emphasis on group work and learning how to work in teams). Also, most classes have a discussion section.
Labs are the less common sections, and mostly prevalent in scientific courses where the use of instruments and equipment is more important in understanding certain concepts such as: chemical reactions, laws of physics etc. These labs require you to write scientific lab reports similar to those written by scientists in the real world. Of course, you will be given example labs to read before you attempt to write one and if you still don’t feel confident, the TA’s will be happy to help.
I hope this gives you a good idea of how classes are here at the U!