Explanation of German course structures
Different Types of University Courses
Normally taught in one two-hour session per week, the Hauptseminar is the typical seminar for graduate students in Germany. Depending on the topics, in-class discussion, oral reports and short lectures might characterize the sessions. Student numbers vary between 15 to 60 students per class.
Proseminar / Grundkurs / Mittelseminar
Especially designed for undergraduate students, the Proseminar serves as introductory course into various fields and methods of scholarly work. Oral reports, in-class discussion and short lectures characterize class sessions. Student numbers might vary between 15 to 35 people per class.
Courses of this type normally deal with more specific interests than both seminar-types and therefore serve graduates and undergraduates alike. German students do not have to write a paper and therefore consider this course to be "easier" than a Proseminar or Hauptseminar. However, in-class participation and assignments are just as important as in seminars on both levels!
Designed for the profit of students on all levels, this course type is supposed to provide students with background knowledge but may also explore specific topics. German students consider the "Vorlesung" to be the easiest course and do not earn credit for it ( "all" they have to do is "listen" and take notes). As a non-native speaker, however, you should be aware of the fact that incessantly listening and taking notes for 45 minutes can be quite challenging and is therefore a respectable achievement. Most "lectures" are taught in two one-hour sessions per week. Student numbers may vary from 15 to 200 students or more per class.
While only the Hauptseminar and the Proseminar require a research paper from German students, students in the Middlebury Program, graduate or undergraduate, are expected to participate in each course as a German student would and to complete each course by either a written exam (Vorlesung) or research paper in accord with the level of their studies.
This opportunity is unique in that it allows students to choose courses from the whole curriculum and to experience the different course formats.