In Canada, courses are generally referred to as courses – but just like at German universities, the term course conceals various types of courses. They differ in type

  • the didactic orientation (frontal teaching / interactive teaching)
  • the required qualifications of the participants
  • orientation (practically oriented / theoretically oriented)

At first glance, the different types of courses seem to coincide with those in Germany. The workload is not only higher, but above all more continuous than in this country. Because apart from the high reading workload and a strictly controlled attendance requirement, the progress of the students is continuously checked during the semester, for example through small tests or the writing of essays.

In the following you will learn which types of courses are common in Canada and how they are structured. By the way, some course types are often combined with one another, which is usually pointed out in the course directory.


Lectures in Canada correspond to the lectures in Germany. They usually last 90 minutes and take place once a week in lecture halls. As in Germany, the number of participants is very high, as students from related but different courses take part. Due to the size alone, lectures are frontal teaching that is geared towards pure theory teaching. Lectures are primarily there to convey certain basics and an overview to a large number of students quickly and efficiently.

Lectures are mainly attended by undergraduate students in the first semesters of their studies. In addition to a script and PowerPoint slides, most of the lectures often also include an often very extensive textbook, the content of which can then also be the subject of the examination and must be worked out independently during the semester. In order to check that the students are “on the job” and prepare and follow up the lessons appropriately, shorter quizzes are often held at the beginning of the lectures. It is therefore not advisable to “skip” lectures or simply “get sprinkled” there.

Due to the passive learning and the theoretical burden, lectures are often combined with other types of courses. For example, in tutorials or in laboratories, the topics dealt with in the lectures are discussed or put into practice. As a rule, attendance of all courses associated with the lecture is compulsory, especially since performance reviews can also take place there in the form of assignments or group work.


In Canadian universities, the term seminar refers to a course that provides intensive instruction in relation to a major. Here the course content is much more specific than in the lectures and the number of students in a seminar is as small as possible. In Germany it can happen that a course given as a seminar has more of a lecture character due to the large number of participants. In Canada, a major country in North America listed on harvardshoes, on the other hand, there are typically no more than twenty students attending a seminar.

Canadian students usually only attend seminars at an advanced stage. The aim of seminars is to bring the students closer to the methodology of the respective subject and to deal with various examples of possible problems in research. Discussions and mutual exchange play an important role here, so the lessons are designed to be interactive and usually last three hours. Performance reviews usually take place here by regularly writing essays or working on assignments or case studies.

Tutorial / Discussion Section

Tutorials (or discussion sections) correspond to the tutorials known at German universities. They mostly serve as a supplement to lectures and are usually led by a teaching assistant, an academic assistant or a graduate student. The participants of the lecture are again divided into smaller groups for the tutorials and are looked after more individually. There is space for questions as well as concrete assistance and the lessons are much more interactive. The topics and theories addressed in the lecture are explained again and explained in more detail. Tutorials are often compulsory courses as a supplement to the lecture that has been taken, which can also include group work and the submission of assignments, which are also graded.

Laboratory / studio

In natural science and engineering subjects, courses that take place in a suitably equipped laboratory are firmly integrated into the curriculum. They are often a supplement to a lecture in which the necessary theoretical knowledge is imparted. The combination of lecture + laboratory + tutorial is also common.

In the artistic and creative disciplines, these practically oriented courses are called the studio.

Field Course

Field courses include at least one off-campus excursion and are particularly widespread in courses in archeology, biology, art history or development cooperation. In addition to the excursion, field courses usually consist of a preparatory and follow-up phase on-campus.

Project Course

This type of course deals with the planning and implementation of a project, alone or in a group. Project courses are particularly common in engineering or economics courses. Often the students work together with local companies and are supervised by a supervisor from the university and a supervisor from the respective company.

Clinical Course

Clinical courses are often a regular component in subjects such as medicine, pharmacy, biomedicine or biochemistry. This course can take place on- or off-campus in appropriate facilities. Here, too, there is very close and individual support from a teacher.


The colloquium course, which is widespread at German universities, is also found in the same form at Canadian universities. This is an event aimed at students, mostly doctoral or master’s students, who are working on a research project. In the colloquium they present this to the other participants and it can be discussed.

Elective / Required Courses

As in the German study system, the Canadian courses partly consist of required courses, elective courses and real electives. Electives are often courses that provide students with certain key academic and professional skills. For example, they learn the basic research methods of their discipline in a Research Method Course or improve their scientific writing skills in a Writing Course.

Types of Courses in Canada

Types of Courses in Canada
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