Module 5 - University Life

University Life


Your first study period at university is an exciting, but especially busy time when you will learn about all of the support services, systems, and processes attached to James Cook University. In the first few months, you will also have to navigate large, new physical and online environments and make new friends in your course of study. Students who are proactive participants in university life are more likely to stay and succeed, so be brave, embrace your new life, and get involved.

How will this module help me?

  • Find out more about your JCU campuses
  • Learn about the free, professional support services available
  • Understand the different types of classes you will attend
  • Discover all the extra-curricular activities you can join in with

How long will this module take?

30 minutes

Your Campuses

James Cook University has two main Australian campuses in Cairns and Townsville, as well as study centres in Brisbane, Mackay, Mt Isa, and Thursday Island. Even if you are studying online, you may be required to attend one of the main campuses as part of your course, so it is important to know a little bit about them. To find out more about each of the JCU campuses, including facilities, eateries, accommodation, and maps, head to the Campuses and Maps website.

There are a range of transportation options available to get you to and from university. Buses run regularly to the JCU Townsville and JCU Cairns campuses, and your Student ID card may entitle you to concessions on public transport. There are also some great sustainable options for travelling to and from university, including cycling, walking, and car-pooling. The Townsville and Cairns campuses have a range of paid and free car parking options, and it is important to understand the various zones and payment systems before coming out on campus. To find our more information, go to the JCU Transport and Parking website.

Virtual Tour - JCU Cairns, Nguma-bada campus, Smithfield

Virtual Tour - JCU Townsville, Bebegu Yumba campus, Douglas

Student Support Services Directory

Student Support Services

We have a mantra at JCU that smart students seek support, so we encourage students to adopt proactive, help-seeking behaviours in order to succeed. This is especially important in first year, when you are aiming to become an independent, self-directed learner who manages their own study responsibilities. JCU offers a wealth of free, professional support services, which are detailed in the JCU Student Support Services Directory. The staff who work at these services are highly-trained, experienced professionals, including psychologists, occupational therapists, teachers, career counsellors, librarians etc, so you will receive high-quality advice and support tailored to your individual needs.

The support services are all available via phone or Zoom, if you would prefer to be contacted in the comfort of your own home. Lastly, aim to ‘study smarter, not harder’ and access these services early to fast track your success and minimise any unnecessary stress.

University Classes

Universities have a few different types of classes according to the aims of the subject, and you will usually do a combination of two or more per subject.


The purpose of a lecture is to transmit key subject content, which is usually presented by a lecturer – an academic specialist in your field of study. Lectures are usually held in large theatres with all enrolled students in attendance, and are not repeated. These lectures are usually one to two hours in duration, and are for active listening, thinking and note-taking, rather than questions. Lecturers can be delivered via videoconference (i.e. you are in a Cairns lecture theatre watching a live presentation streamed from a Townsville lecture theatre), or via Collaborate where everyone is online.

Top Tips

Here are some l’etiquette guidelines about dos and don’ts for lectures:

  • Coming and going – if you arrive late for a lecture, quietly enter the theatre and find a seat. If you need to leave early, you can inform the lecturer prior to the commencement of the class as a courtesy, and then quietly leave the theatre when the time comes. It is also acceptable to leave early without prior notice.
  • Recording rules – some academics record their lecture theatre classes and some do not, so it is best to check with your teacher about their practices in Week 1. If they are delivering the lecture online via Collaborate, they are often recorded and available afterwards for you to view. If you are in a face-to-face lecture on campus and want to record the lecture (audio or video), it is best of ask permission from your lecturer before the class commences.
  • Technology temptations – turn your mobile phone off or switch it to silent and put it in your bag during classes so that you don’t disturb the audience or your presenter. If you are using your laptop for note-taking, it is best to close all web browsers, email, social media apps etc, and only have a word processing document open to avoid distractions.
  • Healthy habits – read any lecture materials that are posted ahead of the scheduled class, so you have a good frame of reference for the information you are receiving from the presenter. If you are easily distracted, it is often better to sit up the front where you have less people in front of you to divert your attention from the lecturer. It is also bad form to talk to fellow students during lectures as it will distract others.


The purpose of a tutorial (or tute) is for a focused group discussion about subject content for the week, which is usually facilitated by a sessional tutor, who may be a PhD student with advanced knowledge in your field of study. They are usually one to two hours per subject, and are typically held in small classrooms with some of the students in your subject (10-30 people). There may be five (or more) repeated tutorial options for your subject each week, but you will only enrol in one class and attend that tute for the whole study period. External students will usually have their tutorials delivered via Collaborate.

Tutorials are for talking – so bring all your questions along that you would like to discuss and get answers to, as well as any pre-prepared tutorial activities. It is important to note that you may be graded on your tutorial participation (not just attendance), which could be worth 10% of your overall mark for the subject. Your sessional tutor may also be the marker of your subject assignments, and will often know you better than your lecturers due to the small class sizes for tutes.


These classes are designed for you to demonstrate practical skills in a scientific or computer laboratory, or an art studio. Like tutorials, workshops/labs are held in small classrooms for one to two hours each week. You will need to complete any preparation activities in advance and participate in guided demonstrations or undertake experiments, which you will usually be graded on. These classes may require you to wear protective clothing (lab coats, closed shoes) or bring some instruments/equipment that you have purchased, so it is good to budget funds for these expenses.

Field Trips

The purpose of field trips is to learn how to collect and apply data/information in relation to theory and produce reports as part of real-world learning. Your lecturer will usually facilitate these field trips, which are often located in remote sites, such as museums, JCU research centres, industry sites, and local/regional nature reserves. They can range in duration from one to five days and are a compulsory part of your course. Like laboratory classes, there is often costs attached to these mandatory field trips, such as bus fares, hire/purchase of technical equipment, accommodation, and food expenses.


These learning experiences are extended, hands-on practical experiences that take place in professional settings, and are not part of every course at JCU. Supervision is provided by professional staff on site in clinical, industry or community settings, which can be in a local or a remote region for one to six weeks at a time. Students are required to undertake preparation activities for their placement and perform duties as required to develop important graduate skills. Students must also cover the costs of any accommodation, meals, transport, clothing, etc. associated with these compulsory activities as part of their course. You can find out more information at the JCU Student Placements and Projects website.

Events, Sports and Recreation

Making new friends and connections at university is important to help you feel a sense of belonging, adjust to university life, and succeed in your studies. You can get to know your fellow students through a wide range events and student groups on campus. Go to the following websites to find out more:

Take the Quiz

Test your knowledge of University Life by taking the quiz.

Take the Quiz
In the Student Support Services Directory, which area is listed as your number one point of contact, if you need help?
Which of these university classes is focused on a group discussion about subject content?
Do some classes have costs attached to them?
Making new friends at university is important for your adjustment to uni life and your academic success.