Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A course is a unit of teaching that typically lasts one academic term, is led by one or more instructors (teachers or professors), has a fixed roster of students, and gives each student a grade and academic credit.
The original meaning—a course of instruction, the unit of instruction embodied by a course—is also used, so textbooks may be entitled, e.g., A Course in Modern Physics.
In Australia, however, the term "course" refers to the entire programme of studies required to complete a university degree, and the word "unit" would be used to refer to an academic course in the North American sense. In between the two, in South Africa, it is common for the word 'course' officially to refer to the collection of all courses (in the American sense, which are often called 'modules') over a year or semester, though the American usage is common parlance.

Types of courses

Courses are made up of individual sessions, typically on a fixed weekly schedule.There are different formats of course in universities:
  • the lecture course, where the instructor gives lectures with minimal interaction;
  • the seminar, where students prepare and present their original written work for discussion and critique;
  • the colloquium or reading course, where the instructor assigns readings for each session which are then discussed by the members;
  • the tutorial course, where one or a small number of students work on a topic and meet with the instructor weekly for discussion and guidance.
  • the laboratory course, where most work takes place in a laboratory.
Many courses combine these formats. Lecture courses often include weekly discussion sections with smaller groups of students led by the principal instructor, another instructor, or teaching assistant. Laboratory courses often combine lectures, discussion sections, and laboratory sessions.
Students are expected to do various kinds of work for a course:
  • Attending course sessions.
  • Reading and studying course readings assigned in the course syllabus.
  • Discussing material they have read.
  • Writing short and long papers based on assigned reading and their own library research.
  • Completing homework or problem sets.
  • Completing laboratory exercises.
  • Taking quizzes and examinations.
The exact work required depends on the discipline, the course, and the particular instructor. Unlike most European university courses, grades are generally determined by all of these kinds of work, not only the final examination.