Lectures – are they really worth the time?

October 10th, 2007
By Jon H
Lectures – are they really worth the time?

Lectures come in all shapes and forms, and they differ from lecturer to lecturer; university to university and even country to country. They can be ‘produced’ through a professor ‘lecturing to students’ and students sitting and taking notes, through interaction between everyone, through to a guest lecturer providing valuable information in your subject field.

Do they matter?

I used to believe, back a few years, when studying for my undergraduate degree that it didn’t really matter whether I attended a lecture or not. I would wake up late, just watch tv, or be finishing an essay that had to be handed in that day, when an important lecture was being delivered on the ‘product life cycle’. Many times I would go to the first few lectures and be bored with the content (or indeed the lecturer) and decide that the pub/bar closest to where I was, would be the ideal location to spend the hour or so that should’ve been taking notes. More so, if the lecture was a morning one (9am) or a late evening one (around 7pm finish – yep you will get them), then I tended to stay away and have a few extra hours, or want to go to watch the football instead of attending lecture. The subject didn’t matter, whether economics, finance or marketing I missed quite a few.

It only dawned on me when I was starting my second year of undergrad how important the lectures were to my development. Trying to ‘bridge’ different slides within the supposed lecture notes was near to impossible, even though I used to borrow a friends, I sometimes (hell, most of the times) didn’t understand a concept or notion.

Are lecturers/professors knowledgeable?

Lecturers and professors have usually been teaching in their specific category for a number of years and have published more than a few articles and papers on their subject area – conducting much primary research. They’ve also more than likely read quite extensively on their topic, on research related to their topic, and worked with other academics in your university/college. Lecturing a broad range of students will mean the research that a lecturer/professor has to conduct for a particular lecture will be different, and dependant on the level of course they’re delivering to – meaning that most lecturers will teach undergrads, postgrads and PhD students, whether part-time or full-time – leading to them becoming more knowledgeable on the subject.

The above isn’t true towards some subjects and some lecturers, as I myself have nodded off when an absolutely boring lecture meant I had to take a snooze (really, switched off after 5 minutes!). This particular time was typical of many mundane lectures, where the person delivering it had presented the exact same material many, many times before, and wasn’t really bothered about what was contained (or really didn’t know how to change it. Hence, I didn’t go to another one of his classes!

I can just print the notes from the intranet/book chapter, or get them from a friend can’t I?

Sometimes this is pretty difficult when you’re studying at an FE (Further Education) College that supports degree courses (most are backed by a leading University), as they may not store completed lecture notes and supporting material the intranet. Cheeky and clever at the same time, and by not uploading the full lecture notes means that it is advisable to go to the lectures to gain all the information and material provided.

Getting lecture notes from a friend can be a help, but everyone doesn’t learn just one particular way. Some people have photographic memories, some people can read something and remember it, but many (like me) have to listen and write down information to ensure it ‘goes in’ to our memories. Heck, sometimes I used to type and re-type my lecture notes 4 times to fully understand a concept that I wrote (I’ll be looking at memory and exams later in the year). Also, your friend’s writing may confuse you when you’re going through the information; what happens if there is a crucial point of the lecture, yet you don’t know because your friend forgot to write that particular part down and instead placed an asterisk to remind themself – you’ll end up thinking “hmm, what do they mean by that?”, you’ll probably forget to ask and never find out!

Book chapters are really good sources as they contain a huge amount of information and incite; they have many references to theorists and lots of information that is relevant to the tropic of the lecture, but be careful not to ignore the information from a lecture and read a book chapter instead, as these should be read in addition to the information you have heard and (hopefully) learned in the hour or two lecture you attended.

Should you attend all of your lectures? No, you’ll be ok to miss a few, but remember lecturers are the ones who actually mark your essays and set your exam questions – you’d be silly not to attend most of your lectures!

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