What a Class at Illinois Is Like

Before I came to college, one of the things I wondered about the most was how my learning experience would change. I couldn’t imagine moving from classes of 20-30 to 700, but the change was a lot more seamless than I thought. Another thing I didn’t understand was the difference between all the sections. For each class, did I need a lecture and a discussion? And some other classes I needed a lab?

Luckily, I figured out all that stuff so you don’t have to! Here are all the types of classes I’ve been to so far and what they’re like


A lecture is what I imagined college class to be like from the beginning. A large group of students in one room taking notes and sometimes answering questions. You can have lectures of many different sizes from 10-20 to 700 in Foellinger Auditorium.

I thought this would be a hard transition, but I find it really helpful to learn through a lecture. Although the teacher moves at their own pace, I like having the freedom to take notes however I want on that day. It’s also nice to have a lot of people in a class. Every day I’m able to sit by new people, ask questions about the material, and make new friends. Lecture halls can seem daunting at first, but it’s refreshing to learn in a new environment.


If you’ve ever looked at our Course Explorer, you’ll notice a lot of classes have lecture and discussion sections. Most classes have both. A discussion section is where you’ll get to work on material in a smaller setting, more akin to a high school class. The groups will be a lot smaller, and it will take place in more of a classroom setting. This is also where you’ll take quizzes.

I also like the discussion sections because the teaching assistants will help you work on everything. If there was a specific part of a lecture that you didn’t understand, they’ll explain it to you in more depth. Lecture and discussion is the perfect combo because lectures give you a lot of information and discussion helps you break it all down.


Lab isn’t something I’ve had a whole lot of experience with because I’m a journalism major, but I do have one class with a lab this semester. These are also like discussions where you’ll get to apply what you learned in class. In chemistry or biology that might mean doing labs that were similar to what you did in high school. Some can be different than that however; for example, in my meteorology class, we just apply what we learned on worksheets in groups.

Online Class

Online class is a big departure from anything I’ve done before. For the one online class I’m in, everything is online. The textbook, quizzes, discussions, and tests are all over the internet. It has been weeks, and I still haven’t met my teacher, which is super different for me. However, I really enjoy it. Online classes give you the opportunity to work at your own pace, which helps with my chronic procrastination. Allowing me to work ahead when I have the opportunity helps me stay on top of my work while still getting a good grasp of all the material.

I thought the transition from learning in high school to learning in college would be very difficult, but it ended up being easier for me than I could have imagined. All my professors and TA’s at Illinois have done a great job getting me all the information I need and helping me grasp and understand it. Although there are many different ways to experience classes at Illinois, all of mine have been great!


Class of 2023
I am a sophomore studying Advertising on a Pre-Law track. I’m from Park Ridge, Illinois, about 30 minutes outside of Chicago. I've loved getting involved on campus through my job at Campus Recreation and participating in Greek Life. UIUC is my second home, and I think it should be yours, too!

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