Quick Guide: Types of College Courses

You’re going to have a lot of new experiences in college. And one thing that might surprise you is the many different kinds of college courses offered. You may be part of a large lecture class, find yourself doing research or get hands-on education in a lab. Here’s an overview of college course types.


This is a large class held in a lecture hall, a theater-like room that may seat hundreds of students. The professor talks for the entire class while students take notes. Lecture classes are common in first-year courses. Students in these classes may also attend a related discussion class.


Discussion classes (sometimes called sections) are often a required part of lecture classes. Discussions are usually smaller groups of students led by a graduate student. You’ll do additional work, talk about the lecture and have a chance to ask questions.


Labs are usually part of a science lecture class. Students use what they’ve learned in class to complete an assignment, such as creating a computer program or doing a physics experiment.


Students who take hands-on classes such as art, theater, music, design or photography will find themselves in a class environment in which they do what they are studying. A drawing class, for example, may be divided into two parts: a lesson class and a drawing studio.

Independent Study

For an independent-study class, a student and a professor design a study program for the student that is separate from regular courses. Independent study often requires a research project or a lot of reading on a central theme as well as a series of papers or one major paper.