Are lectures a waste of time?

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As freshers finally begin to settle into life here at St Andrews, we’re beginning to realise that there is, suddenly, a lot of work to be done. As much as we long for the return of the carefree Freshers’ Week, the hazy memory of those frenetically social days is beginning to fade and everyday life choices are beginning to crop up.

Will you be a faithful lecture attender or will you opt to stay in your flat and get the notes online or from a friend? For some skipping a lecture is out of the question, while for others it is a way of life. So, what’s the verdict? Is your attendance at lectures important?

Although any university lecturer would vehemently deny it, there does seem to be justification for just skipping the lecture and getting notes later on. According to a study done at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, there is no correlation between the number of lectures a student attends and how well that student performs on the final exam in that course.

At first, the majority of responses I got from other students suggested that they would believe this claim.

“Lectures are impersonal, often redundant, and take up time we could really use for more sleep,” mentioned one recently enrolled St Andrews student. “I’d rather just go to tutorials.”

Since the majority of lecturers post slides online after class, a student is conveniently able to get the same information he or she would get in class on his or her own time.

Tutorials, with fewer students and the ability to question and interact with an authority on the subject, seem much more deserving of dedicated attendance than lectures. Though the incentive to attend tutorials is external – miss more than three and you are out of the course – they are nonetheless worthwhile in their own respect, giving students the opportunity to discuss topics they are interested in with a group of attentive peers and receiving individualised attention for their views.

Students have also begun recording lectures to listen and watch later in case they miss anything. Although they are probably not re-watching entire lectures, recording can be a useful tool for jogging your memory later on. No doubt those who are recording lectures are also sharing them with friends.

The other day I overheard some students discussing the logistics of Skyping during a lecture so while one friend attended the class, the rest could be back in their flat watching along. Students are always be coming up with more creative ways to skip class, convinced that they are missing nothing by forgoing the experience of physical presence in the lecture hall.

There is still a contingency of students who believe lectures are an essential part of university life, however. Some reason that, considering the price of a St Andrews education, one cannot blithely eschew what is essentially your education here.

This raises a fair point: in order to get your – or rather, your family’s – money’s worth, shouldn’t you participate in everything that St Andrews has to offer? Others note that lecturers always have more to say than what is written on the slides, and that it’s important to hear their opinions.

Considering that St Andrews has a world-renowned faculty in many subjects, don’t some lecturers have any sort of wisdom to impart beyond the PowerPoint? After all, slides are only a skeletal outline of any given lecture.

Furthermore, not all lecturers use slides as a means of teaching. Not attending class and remaining up-todate on the material, would then require relying on a friend to take notes for you, which is both patently unfair and usually unreliable.

Attending lectures is also beneficial for time-management purposes. Going to a class at a certain time forces you to think about the structure of your day, and keeps you alert and on top of things.

This reason for lecture attendance holds true for many students, myself included. Through lack of foresight, I ended up with a 9am tutorial, and upon entering the first session expected to walk into a room filled with tired, recalcitrant students who – like me – were allotted the time by ill chance.

To my surprise, however, some of the other students had chosen that time slot on purpose in order to help kick start their day. Lectures, although at times monotonous, quite literally force you out of bed and into the day’s activities. They provide a setting for meeting like-minded students, thereby giving you the opportunity to converse with, question and perhaps even get inspired by the people in your course. Going to lectures involves a certain degree of discipline and forces you into probably well-needed social interaction.

Next time you’re lying in your onesie deciding if going to class is worth it today, think about all you stand to benefit from just a few hours of your time. Or just roll over.

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