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Schools Are university lectures worth attending?

  1. Nov 12, 2007 #1
    I have been debating this since I started university. Are lectures worth going to?

    The fact is, when learning math and physics I find it hard to grasp anything as it is being said. The only reason I show up is because of the well done physics demonstrations. But really... I'm a book guy. I learn much more from texts. In class I just mindlessly copy notes which half the time I don't even use, except as a guide as to what be read. I read actively!

    I spend $10 a day getting there, lose ~2hrs on transport, and ontop of that all the hours of attending the lectures. My "good boy" mentality, instilled to me since kindergarden, is that I attend all my classes.

    I am really beggining to question that. Instead of losing 6 hours a day or so, I could use this time to read and do much more practice questions. Besides I prefer a more thourough analysis of the topic than can ever be presented in class.

    Is it wise to skip all my lectures from now on? I shudder at the very thought. Is there some subconciouis process going on during lectures or some phonic proccess that makes me remember material? I must admit, although rarely, when the prof makes a dramatic statement it sticks with me. Yet another side of me says lectures are protected by the professors who have their wallets to save. Very similar to the American Medican Association...
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2007 #2
    Usually, although I sympathize with the "commuter student" problem since that's pretty much the same boat I'm in. It's a pain in the ass, and in many cases it's often true that most of the time is spent going over things that you either already understand or have no hope of understanding until you've spent a substantial amount of time out of class. But this is the only way to really know what's going on in the course and what material the instructor is emphasizing. You may or may not be able to learn the material as well on your own, but if you don't show up to class your grades will probably suffer.

    In rare cases where the difficulty level of a class is way below your experience level, you can sometimes get away with skipping as often as you like. But this is usually not the case. And if it is, you might want to look into alternatives to taking the class.
  4. Nov 12, 2007 #3
    But I have problem sets and readings, so I know where to be. Why would my grades suffer? With all this extra time I would have time for more problems and master the material which may not even be emphasized thus holding a complete understanding.
  5. Nov 12, 2007 #4


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    I rarely ever go.

    I have a 3 student class, and I skipped two weeks in a row. So there's really one 2 students. I go now, but honestly, I just solve problems in class. The lecture is so useless.

    I definitely skip more than I attend!

    I show up to only useful lectures. I'll even show up when the material isn't even imporant, as in not on the exam, if the prof. is entertaining and is useful. Most of the time though, the lectures aren't useful and are boring as hell. I spend my time in class either solving problems or imagining myself smashing my face off various items in the room.

    That's me right there.
  6. Nov 12, 2007 #5
    Yeah, and that's the same argument I often make to myself. If you participate in study groups with people that are better at attending class regularly, it would offset the problems from not attending lecture yourself. Likewise if you have a class where the instructor posts a PowerPoint for every lecture or similar.
  7. Nov 12, 2007 #6
    I go to all my lectures, usually, but I generally don't learn anything. In my physics lecture, I haven't listened to anything the prof has said for a few weeks... If there were set dates for the tests and a slightly less chaotic homework schedule, I would consider not attending. However, I just make the best of my time and do linear algebra homework during the lectures.

    I would skip my statics class as well, but there are only 7 people in it, and the prof doesn't give us the homework assignment in advance... so I pretty much have to go.

    So I guess I would say that I don't learn much during lectures, but I still go to them.
  8. Nov 12, 2007 #7
    It becomes tricky. It's good to have the habit to go to class, because it is easy to form the habit of not going to class. A friend of mine had that attitude and did really well until the spring semester. He was taking Group Theory and felt confident that he could study the course himself and do well. I did the homework with him and he knew the material rather well, or at least, it appear that way. He ended up with a 42 on the first test. No curve needed since the average was 70 something. After that he felt he had to go to class, but he simply didn't have the habit anymore and would end up forgetting about it or not be motivated to go. Needless to say, he took it in the fall.

    It's a slippery slope, so if you decide to skip, be careful. If by October a class is still easy, you can probably skip and just go on exams. I wouldn't do so before then though.
  9. Nov 12, 2007 #8
    How are the GPAs for those of you who miss lectures, for the record?

    Really lectures are more and more useless the more I thnink about it. Except chemistry... god love that prof.
  10. Nov 13, 2007 #9
    I attend most all my lectures unless I by some chance have poorly used my time prior and need to finish something impending. This is mostly from my view that I go to college to learn and not screw around. I am not a very good listener in class though and I tend to not learn much in class, but usually profs will mention things in class that are not contained in the books and then test you on what they may have casually mentioned in the class. In all honesty though, unless the prof is like assigning homework in class, you can probably skip and be ok.
  11. Nov 13, 2007 #10


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    I'm an A student and I miss most of my lectures.
  12. Nov 13, 2007 #11
    This semester I took so many classes that I don't have time to attend sometimes. I just do work. One thing about that is that the teachers seem to mind somewhat. Although they say that they would not hold it against me if I don't go, they believe that the lectures are important (of course). I sort of believe when comes time to give me a grade they (some of them) will think twice about an A because of it eventhough for the most part I do A work. They will probably think to themselves either I am grading too easy if this person doesn't go to class and get an A or this person doesn't really deserve one. I am not taking as many classes next semester as I am this semester so next semester I am going to go to all the classes as well as tex all my notes (I don't have time for something like this this semester).
  13. Nov 13, 2007 #12


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    [Ideally, I would like to think that] You should be able to get something out of lectures that you can't get from just the textbook or just doing the assigned problems. While it may be that your grade is determined by your performance on homework and exams, a [good] lecture would try to give you additional information [historical background, problem-solving strategies, intuition, interactive discussion with others] that is not necessarily tested or testable.

    Certainly, you may have numerous [over-]commitments that you may have to give up going some lectures... decided by your choice of balancing your time and effort constraints.

    If you did A work in my class but didn't attend lectures, I would give you the A but would disappointed that you didn't try to learn more from me [and let me try to teach you more]. If two students are borderline at the same level, but only one attended classes regularly, I would more likely distinguish the two by giving the regular-attendee the higher grade.
  14. Nov 13, 2007 #13
    Even if there is something small to be gained from lectures that one cannot gain from the text is it really worth it? Is it worth losing over half your day over? You come home tired overburdened with assignments.

    The fact is I'm at school to learn, not to impress or flatter my teachers. I really like my teachers, they are very helpful and can sometimes make entertaining lectures. But I don't get evaluated for attendance. I get marks for what I know, and this determines how far I will get in school. Why does it have to be so personal with profs, who in reality don't give a damn about you.

    From what I know there are 2 types of students. Those that rely heavily on lecture notes to study the material... these are the kind that use the text more as a reference. The other kind are those that use the text as the main source of information, and refer to the lectures once in a while. I use the text, so I have little need for lectures. Honeslty, the only ones I see defending lectures are the arrogant ones who are likely protecting their money. I shouldn't be looked down upon because I decide to spend more time on my studies isntead of looking a quick lecture note to pass the test.
  15. Nov 13, 2007 #14


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    As I said, you have to assign your own weighting and work from there.

    There are many profs who do give a damn.

    Protecting whose money?
    The faculty member will still get paid because the course is run, students are evaluated, and grades are assigned. Certainly, if there is a big problem with attendance, then some changes by the faculty member [or the department] will probably have to be done. (Maybe the course is too easy... too hard... or irrelevant.. or something else.)

    In my class, unless attendance is explicitly required [possibly by university or departmental requirements] and is clearly stated on the syllabus, you don't get penalized for lack of attendance. However, all you can be evaluated on is the work you submit on homework and exams. So, if you do enough work to earn the A, you get the A. You are probably not entitled to any borderline consideration because you don't provide anything else to be graded on for this class. (You are also not entitled to ask me to go back over something during class-time that you missed by skipping lecture... although you are [as all students are] welcome to visit office hours for some assistance [but not a repeat of the lecture].)
  16. Nov 13, 2007 #15
    I'd also note that upper division courses tend to show much less duplication between text and lecture, likewise if you have a professor that's been teaching for many years vs. a grad student or other relatively inexperienced instructor.

    Trying to predict when it's safe to skip a lecture or two to spend extra time on homework is perfectly normal, but this is just paranoia...:confused:
  17. Nov 13, 2007 #16
    It depends on what class. Some you can manage skipping some you can't. One thing to keep in mind is if there ever arises a situation where you need the Prof's good graces like an extension on an assignment for some reason, or an extra credit assignment, or even just extra help on one issue or another, If you skip every class I can't see the Prof being very willing to help you.

    That being said, I usually skip one class a week for most of classes I take. Sometimes for legitimate reasons like doing school work, other times because I'm just not a morning person. In the end though, If you can keep your grades up and not go to class, more power too you, but don't expect wonderful recommendations form professors who don't know our name because they only saw you at midterm and final, or never if they were not the proctors.
  18. Nov 14, 2007 #17
    My suggestion (if you have some kind of syllabus already) would be to try and read ahead of lectures. If you have a rough understanding of a topic before you go in you might find that lectures help you consolidate your knowledge, or that being able to keep up with what is being said means you pick up on subtle points or insights your lecturers make that may not even be in their notes. And if you find no benefit at all from attending a lecture on a topic you've already looked at yourself, then you know you're not missing much if you don't go :tongue:

    The other thing about going to lectures is that the person delivering them writes your exam... so it's worthile doing at least enough to pick up on his notation, phraseology etc. You wouldn't want to get polar and azimuthal angles confused in an exam because your lecturer used a different convention to your textbook!
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