This week marks the last week of classes for me. The semester is winding down and exams are a couple of weeks away. With the end in sight, I’m going to talk about the academic experience in Germany. I waited to write about the academics here at Mannheim because I didn’t want to jump to conclusions too soon. Here are the observations I’ve gathered throughout the semester.
First, I was struck by how complicated the registration and bureaucracy of enrolling in the university was. As I previously stated in an earlier blog, the steps to register for classes were confusing and unnecessary. This process really threw me off at the start, because I was expecting that all the paperwork I did before leaving was sufficient. Simply, it wasn’t. The university likes and requires forms and documents before anything can get done. Things are always done by the rules and need to be followed with the official steps. It’s not an annoyance most of the time but it does take some getting used to.
Classes at the university or at least in the business school are divided between lectures, exercises, and tutorials. Lectures are pretty straightforward. The professor of the course talks over a powerpoint for two hours. During this time there is little interaction between the professor and the students. The whole class revolves on taking notes or following the powerpoint. Lectures are very large classes, around 300 students. Exercises are taught by master students and are smaller. An exercise class is around 80 students, so like a normal introductory business course at Drexel. The exercise is where material from the lecture is covered with problems. The class is all about working through problems and really understanding the formulas of the models taught in the lecture. Despite the size, there is still no interaction between students and the professor. Sometimes the professor asks a question but it takes a bit of effort to get an answer out of the student body. In my experience the exercise classes are the ones with the least amount of value. On the other hand the tutorial is where most of the work gets done. Tutorials are small classes of around 20 students being taught by a teaching assistant. The tutorial is all about working through problems that will be seen in the exam. Also usually at the start of class my TA would go over the main points of the lecture and remind us of the notations and formulas. The tutorial is where I got most of my learning in. The class was small enough that there was interaction between the TA and the students. Questions were asked and answered. The thing to keep in mind is that each tutorial has a different TA, so it’s hit or miss in terms of experience. I was fortunate enough to have a good TA, which helped me understand the topics. I would say that the course structure is different in Mannheim. Sure Drexel occasionally breaks up their classes with lectures and recitations, but usually it’s one class being taught by a professor. After a semester I much prefer the Drexel structure because having three different teachers for the same course becomes confusing since each one of them teaches the material in a different way. (picture of the economics building at the uni)