This course is structured somewhat differently than most courses. You will attend the first few lectures. Here you will discuss a group project to investigate with your class around soil. You will come to one project and organise a day in the field. Here you will collect samples to form data. You will then have flexible time in the labs to analyse the samples around the hypothesis your class formed in the first few lectures. You will then pick or be given a more specific topic which you will have to write a report and perform a presentation.
The lectures are compulsory in the sense that if you don't attend and contribute to your group work your peers may mark you down. The peer mark is over half the grade. Due to the nature of the course the practicals are compulsory, along with the day trip to collect samples, and a day to complete the classes presentations.
The lecturer and the content is an eye opening experience into the realities of soil science. People will either love or loathe this type of structure (or lack there of) in the learning process. The lecturer is there every step of the way if you need help through such an open ended process.