Introduction to UBC classes

Course formats

Although UBC has shifted to online delivery, most UBC undergraduate courses continue to amount to three hours of class time per week. Courses are offered in various formats.


Most courses are offered as lectures. Lectures are 50 - 80 minutes each and may consist of 30 to 200 students. When you are unsure of classroom etiquette, you can always ask your professor through email or during office hours.

Web-oriented courses

Due to COVID-19, all 2020 Winter Term 1 in-person courses are now delivered online as Web Oriented courses. A Web Oriented course will be shown in place of a lecture on the Course Schedule. You may also have to select a workshop, discussion, tutorial, or lab component for certain courses.

Distance Education courses

Distance learning courses offer high-quality, flexible options for students who prefer learning online, want scheduling flexibility, or are unable to come to campus. These courses, offered entirely online, span over 30 different subject areas. Find more information about distance education courses.


Typically held weekly, tutorials are common for lecture courses, providing an opportunity for smaller group discussions or learning. All students are expected to participate in tutorials. In some cases, grades are given for attendance and active participation.


Many science, math, and engineering courses have laboratory (lab) work, which involves practical projects done in small groups under the direction of a Teaching Assistant (TA). You must pass the lab in order to pass the course.


Seminar courses offer smaller classes that are less formal than lectures. They encourage discussions and sometimes involve presentation work. Students are graded on presentations and participation.

Student evaluation

On the first day of class, your instructor will present a course outline or syllabus that you will follow throughout the term. It will provide important details on class readings, exams, assignments, and their due dates. 

At university, you are expected to take charge of your own learning and success, so be sure to contact your professor for the syllabus if you missed the first lecture. You will also be responsible for any course material you may miss during the term. 

There are three main methods of student evaluation at UBC.

Class participation

In many courses, you will be expected to discuss your opinions, ideas, and perspectives related to the coursework, readings, and assignments. You may even be graded on your participation. 

The goal of class participation aligns with the broad academic skills of critical thinking, connecting and creating ideas, and defending perspectives or arguments. Memorizing lecture notes and course materials is important but often not sufficient for the best results.


Instructors may assign term papers, essays, problem sets, or other assignments like group projects, oral presentations, or lab projects.


Most courses have two major exams: midterms and final exams. Your courses may have one midterm halfway through the term or several midterms throughout one term. Final exams occur at the end of each term during exam periods in December and April.

Exams will test your knowledge using varying formats, such as short/long answers, essay questions, true or false, and multiple choice.

Final exams

You need to be available for exams during the entire exam period. Exam schedules are posted to your Student Services Centre (SSC) or the Exam Schedule in mid-October (Term 1) and mid-February (Term 2). Do not make arrangements for end-of-term travel until you see your exam schedule.

Exam clashes and hardships

When the exam schedule comes out, check to make sure you don’t have any exam clashes or hardships.

Missing an exam

If you need to miss an exam, or have missed an exam due to a legitimate reason, check to see whether you’re eligible for an academic concession and learn what to do.


Most undergraduate classes are taught by professors. Some courses will have Teaching Assistants (TAs). Be sure to speak to your professor or TA if:

  • You cannot submit your assignment on time

  • You don’t understand a concept that was covered in class

  • You are feeling overwhelmed by your courseload due to circumstances outside of the course

  • You need more information about an essay, project, or other assignment

Office hours

Most instructors hold office hours which are times you can drop by to discuss course materials, assignments, questions, and other concerns. You can also schedule appointments with professors and TAs.


Each professor is different but student-faculty relationships are different at university than they might be in secondary school or in other countries:

  • Relationships are informal and you may hear students call some instructors by their first name 
  • Students may respectfully challenge and question their instructors in class or in office hours
  • It’s considered inappropriate for instructors to date their students

Plagiarism and citation

Plagiarism is the act of submitting the intellectual property of another person as your own. It is one of the most serious of academic offences. Penalties for plagiarism may range from a failing grade in a course to suspension from the University. Know how to avoid plagiarism.

Example acts of plagiarism

  • Copying all or a part of another person’s work and presenting it as your own
  • Purchasing a paper from someone (or a website) and presenting it as your own 
  • Re-submit your work from one course to fulfill a requirement in another course


Intellectual property includes ideas, arguments, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or results of research.  When you use excerpts from someone else’s work in your essay, paper, or presentation, you must acknowledge the original author in a footnote or another accepted manner of citation. The UBC Library can help you with proper citation.

University Regulations

It is your responsibility to be aware of University regulations. See the complete listing of academic regulations that apply to every student at UBC.

Academic resources during online learning

UBC offers a variety of academic services and resources to help you succeed throughout this time and beyond.