Student Advocate tips for… in-person and recorded lectures

Seminar room in the Fry Building

Our Bristol Futures Student Advocates come from every faculty in the university, and are here to support you to grow your skills and become an even better student.

We asked them to share their top tips for lectures and seminars, whether online or in-person. Here’s what they said…

Turn up to in-person sessions!

It sounds stupidly obvious, but you really need to turn up. Past online lectures are digestible when watching online because they were designed to be delivered that way. In person lectures are designed to work the best when you turn up and sit through it — the recording isn’t the same! Also try not to miss any lectures, when you miss one it’s so likely for you to carry on the lazy habit and not show up to lectures ever again… Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

Firstly, go to your seminar even if you have not fully done the reading. Secondly, contribute to the discussions. It does not matter if your answer is wrong. And it is better to make the mistakes now and not later in the timed assessments. Finally, don’t stress about it! You will be just fine. Allison, 2nd year Law


Be (a little) prepared

Arrive at the lecture theatre early and use that waiting time to flick through the PowerPoint or whatever lecture material you got given. It usually takes less than 10 minutes, but it gives you a rough idea of the structure, where to pay more attention, and saves you from scribbling down notes when it will turn up on the next slide. Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

Try to list down all the relevant ILOs (Intended Learning Outcomes) and think of relevant subheadings for your notes prior to the lecture/seminar. This will help you to be more prepared in the in-person lecture/seminar. Very often, in-person lecture is more fast-paced than a recorded lecture. We as a student have to be more prepared so that we will not miss any key content during the lecture. Thinking about the ILOs beforehand can help you to take notes more effectively by screening out the irrelevant materials taught in the lecture. In such a way, we do not need to revisit the recording after the lecture. As a result, we can maximise the efficiency of our study. Emma, 3rd year Veterinary Science


Don’t copy everything

Most times lecturers provide the downloadable PowerPoint for each lecture. Use this to write any additional points that were said by the lecturer in the recording but not written on the slides. By doing this, you will save time and you reduce repetition. Anaya, 3rd year Law

If you just copy what the lecturer wrote down, you are not going to absorb and digest what the lecturer’s main point is. Even worse, you wouldn’t know if the lecturer makes a mistake. Instead, pay full attention to listening to what the lecturer is saying first. After a few sentences, think about what is the main point conveyed in what is written down on the board (or presented on the slide). And then, use your own words to jot down any key points. If you can’t catch them, need not to worry! Simply watch the recorded lecture later and pause as you go. If the lecture is not recorded, it would be nice if you can email the lecturer asking for clarification on such topics. They would be happy to help!

You will be panicked by the fact that while everyone in the hall is ferociously writing, while you are sitting there, only listening. But remember, you are also paying your full attention to the lecture, and you have done nothing less than your classmates did! Ryan, 2nd year Mathematics


Use questions for learning

As you watch the lecture clearly flag any concepts/areas that you don’t fully understand and formulate (and write down) specific questions that you think could get you the answers you need. This habit helps provide structure and direction to your reflection/revision process after the lecture, as you know exactly what you need to follow up on talking to the lecturer or extra research/reading. I have found this makes my learning more efficient (by saving you from repeatedly covering content you know/understand in order to locate what you are less clear on) and more effective (as your learning becomes targeted to any weak points).  Emily, 3rd year Biomedical Sciences


Watching a recorded lecture? Pretend it’s in-person

It’s very tempting to stop every 10s to make detailed notes just because you can do that — but that’s not most effective way: it takes forever to finish watching one recording and you are not really processing the information before writing it down (you’re more like… manually typing up the captions).

Pretend it’s an in person lecture and don’t give yourself the option to stop, at least not that often. That way, it forces you to do some preparation work and to think about the material before deciding if it’s worth writing down. The recordings are always going to be there so it’s not the end of the world if your notes is missing some fine details — you can always go back and have a look as long as you know where to look! Carol, 3rd year Plant/Bio Science

What are your own top tips for making the most of lectures? Do you prefer being there in person or watching a recording? Let us know in the comments below. 

Bristol Futures Student Advocates run peer support sessions for students in their faculty. Check out the Study Skills Blackboard page to see what’s coming up.



Letter to my undergraduate self: Souwoon Cho – ‘Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to explore your interests!’

Inspired by the Big Issue’s regular feature Letter to My Younger Self, we’re asking staff to think back to their own experiences as a student and tell us what advice they would give to their undergraduate selves.

This month we’re hearing from Souwoon Cho, Digital Education Developer in the Digital Education Office.


Souwoon Cho, the author of the blog

What and where did you study? 

I studied International Management and French at the University of Bath. This was a four-year course where I spent the third year on a work placement in the South of France. Needless to say – coming back to the UK for my final year was a shock to the system!

Did you experience culture shock when you started university? 

Yes and no. Although my elder siblings went to University, I was the only one to move into university accommodation and move “away” from home. So, I didn’t really know what to expect. I also grew up in the Welsh valleys in a Hong Kong Chinese household, so to some extent I knew it would be different. The biggest culture shock for me, was when I saw my flatmates cook rice in a saucepan then drain the rice from the water when it was cooked. I had never seen this before! And vice versa, it was the first time my housemates had seen a rice cooker, which is how I had always been taught how to cook rice!

What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? 

My biggest failure particularly early on in my degree was not taking enough breaks from studying. I would block off long periods of time to get my head down and revise or write an essay. Then when my housemates would invite me to go for a short walk, I would often decline. I got better at this in my final year, partially because I knew it was the last year of being a student with some of my closest friends. We got in a routine of heading to campus together and scheduling coffee and lunch breaks throughout the day. This made me much more productive and more positive about my studies in general.

What are you most proud of about your time at university? 

Although I loved learning French, I was terrified of speaking it. I always overthought what I said and was too afraid to make mistakes. The focus on second year was to find a work placement for the third year, which included writing the CV and cover letter in French and *gulp* having an interview in French too. I managed to secure an interview for one of the most sought-after work placements in my cohort, a meetings and marketing events coordinator role in a travel technology company in the South of France. It was my first interview over the phone, and I was home for the winter break. I remember having pieces of paper with French vocabulary stuck all over my walls as prompts – thank goodness video calls were not a thing back then!

The interview itself is still a blur to this day – but I was so pleased to receive a call from them 2 hours later offering me the placement. Although very challenging, I learnt so much and met some amazing people during that year.

What was the best bit of feedback you received? 

In my second year I had to write an essay exploring the cultural differences between three countries. I had to decide on a medium or topic to compare, for example news coverage or even coffee drinking culture. After looking at the topics students had covered before, none of them took my interest. I suddenly had a thought of comparing horoscopes in the UK, France, and Spain. As I went through, I found the topic really challenging as it became apparent that there was very little academic research on horoscopes. I had many periods of scrapping the idea altogether and starting again with the well-known topics. But after speaking to the unit director, I persevered and I’m so glad I did. I received one of the highest essay marks I had received throughout my degree. Most of these marks were because I explored a unique topic which the unit director had never read before. So, the risk was worth it!

What advice would you give to your undergraduate self?

My advice would be don’t just focus on the final assessment or exam. There were many times that instead of enjoying what I was learning, I would focus on a few topics so I could “strategically” revise for the exams. Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to explore your interests!


If you’re a staff member or postgraduate student and would like to write own letter to your undergraduate self, please get in touch:



Student perspective: Learning from your mistakes

Photo of Gloria, the author of this blog postby Gloria Bosi, Bristol Futures Advocate

Hello everyone, my name is Gloria, and I am back with another post (see Even STEM students need a creative outlet). This time, I wanted to discuss the importance of learning from our mistakes, both big and small.

One of the most difficult aspects of attending university is embracing the process of continuous change and growth. As we study to become professionals in our fields, we must be quick to accept our mistakes, adapt, and learn from them. When we are lucky, this requires little adjustment in our way of thinking. Other times, we may find that we have spent months consolidating our knowledge of a wrong idea or concept. We may learn something so significant, that it requires a profound change in the way we approach a problem or perceive a reality. Although this can be difficult, we must appreciate that it is part of the fun.

Having a strategy for learning from these mistakes can be quite useful. To help you with this, I wanted to share my process for ensuring that I do not keep falling for the same tricks. This can be summarized by the following steps:

1. Keeping a record for reference
I like to think of this as a sort of “diary of doom”, where I keep track of my most frequent mistakes. In reality, it is as simple as a bulleted list in the Notes app of my computer. This can be done in various other apps or websites, such as Quizlet. This list tends to grow when I am solving a problem sheet, for example. It this case, it is not sufficient to write down the number of the question I got wrong, but I must also supply a brief explanation as to why.

2. Identifying the source of the misunderstanding
Once you are able to look at the collection of your errors, you can try to identify some trends. Ask yourself:

  • Do these points have something in common?
  • Can they be traced back to a fundamental concept or idea that I missed

Pinpointing the source of the mistake can be time-consuming, but it is essential to stop it from recurring. To make this easier, you may need to scavenge through some of your old notes or resources.

3. Investing time to unlearn
After identifying the wrong idea that has been cementing itself in your brain, you want to get rid of it once and for all. Indeed, you must unlearn it. I find that this can be done in two steps:

i. Dissecting your mistake and breaking down all the reasons it was wrong. Convince yourself to reject the idea from this point forward.

ii. Recalling your mistake frequently as you study the subject. In fact, I find that reviewing my mistakes is almost as important as studying the subject itself. This is why keeping a record is so useful.

4. Linking back to the bigger picture
After unlearning the erroneous idea, it is time accept the correct one. Ask yourself:

  • How does this new idea fit within the rest of my existing knowledge?
  • In what ways has my understanding improved by rejecting my old idea?

In reality, this process is a lot less involved than it sounds. Most of the time, it is fairly easy to identify where we have gone wrong. The important thing, however, is what we do with this information. Every learner is different, so you should feel free to take this process and change it in whatever way suits you best. I hope it helps!

Thank you for reading! Leave a comment to let us know your strategy for learning from your mistakes.