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Do you prefer concise or long lectures?

  1. Apr 3, 2012 #1
    I've observed that lectures, whether for history or physics, last between for at least 45 minutes, often going beyond the 60-minute mark. I highly value the help gained when learning from a good instructor but sometimes, I fail to understand why college lectures are so long.

    Even for subjects I have an interest in, I find myself wanting to just close the video and maybe watch it on another day, because I think there might be more to be gained from watching it fully. The reality is that I rarely ever go back to the lecture! Of course, that is a personal issue that I should take care of. However, if I were to be in a real lecture, it would not be possible for me to leave the room on a whim at a given moment, for it would be disrespectful and a disturbance not only to the instructor but also to other students.

    To sum up, the ideal length of a lecture for me would be in the range of 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the topic being covered. Frankly, I don't think I would be able to concentrate any longer. Besides, I feel that the bulk of the work should be done independently but that's just me. As I said above, I value the insights the lecturer but I do not think long lectures are necessary.

    What are your respective opinions on this subject? Further, how do the "tutorial sessions" with a TA work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2012 #2
    I think lectures are largely a waste of time. I prefer self-learning in conjunction with asking questions to the professor after class. My biggest pet peeve about lectures is how professors try to reward students (arbitrarily) for coming to lectures by detailing test questions, giving pop quizzes, taking attendance grades, etc. As long as I have the proper prerequisites and a good book, I traditionally learn this way, attending class only to acquire the freebies given by the professor I talked about earlier.

    Here is my opinion about lectures: If the material is easy enough to learn in an hour of watered down discussion, you can probably learn it in half the time by just reading the book (if it's so easy). Otherwise, the difficulty is such that it is impossible to grasp the concepts in just an hour of watered down, confusing discussion. In that case, you are just wasting your time -- sitting in to hear a guy talk about things you don't understand. You then go home and read the book, sifting through the denser material and learning it. So lectures, to me, are a lose-lose. They're either ineffective or inefficient.
  4. Apr 3, 2012 #3


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    In my experience it depends on the lecturer and the subject.

    Sometimes it is boring as watching paint dry and other times its invaluable even if the discussion that goes on doesn't relate to examinable material but still is very useful in the grand scheme of things.

    One thing I have noticed is that lecturers make every effort to cover everything and cover the lowest denominator for the course (raising the bar if they can) since they are obligated to for a variety of reasons.

    This gets complicated if you have foreign students (practically although there are meant to be some kind of english standardized tests for getting into uni though 'theoretically') and also if it's an interdisciplinary subject or a non-major subject (like an elective). For these cases things are often different than when you are taking an upper level specialist class in your major and in this case expectations change (of the student and lecturer).

    It also helps if the lecturer is prepared and experienced as well in my own observations.

    The thing is though is that depending on the student you can have the most dedicated self-studying student who really doesn't need to be at most of the lectures otherwise to get an indicator of where to go which might mean literally 15 minutes a week. The other end is the person that is reliant on the lecturer or is struggling and needs a heads up from the lecturer.

    You'll find that because the different backgrounds, one student may be different simply because of their upbringing, how they were educated, what their studying routine consisted on as well as other personality attributes.

    The person that is used to studying on their own or being independent in that manner is probably going to get a lot more bored than the person who is used to the kind of socialized and guided learning environment. It doesn't mean that one is smarter than the other or better than the other just that the experiences, perspective and attitude (with other personality traits) should have a strong impact on what the student gets out of the lecture and how they feel about the whole process to begin with.

    Hang in there though: when you get to major subjects I'm sure it'll be more suitable for what the lecturer covers and doesn't cover in the time they have allocated.
  5. Apr 3, 2012 #4
    Hmh... The shortest lecture I've ever had was 2 hours. The standard time has been 3 hours so far, and the longest 4 hours. Most often there's a short break every hour though, so maybe it should count as 2 1hr lectures, 3 1hr lectures and 4 1hr lectures...?
    But I have to say that I like the 3hr lectures the best. Not because longer is better per se, but because more material can be covered in depth. 4 hours is kind of painful though.
  6. Apr 3, 2012 #5
    Anything beyond 1 hour and I struggle to concentrate. I cease to think about the material and just go into "court stenographer" mode, where everything the instructor says goes through my ears to my hand and onto paper without stopping at my brain first.

    To combat this, I sometimes leave the classroom for maybe 5 minutes to give myself a break, and that helps sometimes.

    But yeah... 1 hour is about my limit for actual critical thinking on a topic without a break.
  7. Apr 3, 2012 #6
    4 hours in one sitting? that seems crazy... I'm used to 2 x 45 minutes with a 15 min break in between, which works fine for me. Since it takes me about an hour to get to university, anything shorter than that makes the travel time to lecture time ratio look bad.
  8. Apr 3, 2012 #7
    I do homework during lectures. Sometimes, when a subject is particularly hard, I listen.
  9. Apr 3, 2012 #8

    I like Serena

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    With a good lecturer it is no problem at all to attend a lecture of any length.

    When a lecturer is boring and only copies lecture notes to the board, I make a choice.
    Either I do homework and work through the material myself, or I do not attend at all.

    We used to have a number of simultaneous TA tutorial sessions.
    I used to attend each one in turn, until I found the TA that I found most interesting to listen to.
    Most people didn't, because they assumed that they were supposed to stick to the TA they were assigned to.
    I preferred to learn as much as possible in any way possible, not taking rules that were not even written down too seriously.
  10. Apr 3, 2012 #9
    I think 50 minute lectures are a pretty good length, but I did go to a high school with 90 minute classes... It varies I guess. Half of my lectures this semester are fun. I still go to the other ones to see what kind of material I should study.
  11. Apr 3, 2012 #10
    I have developed an anti-lecture attitude since I have started my first year in Electrical Engineering, and I have mostly become an autodidact. The problem is, universities in my region have an absence system, which means that coming to lectures is mandatory, otherwise the lecturer will sign you absent in the absence list. If by the end of the semester you have accumulated a total number of absences more than allowed, you would be denied from entering the final exam.

    The main problem with the lecture system, is that it doesn't encourage students to find information by themselves, they rather become too dependent on a lecturer's notes. Most of them develop a concept that, without a lecturer summarizing information for me, they wouldn't be able to understand the material. They develop a habit that lead them to focus on what kind of questions they expect to be tested on in the exam, rather than focusing on how they can improve their understanding of a given material. They become A+ grade pursuers rather than understanding pursuers. That's how most of the students, I know, behave. They become narrow-minded and refuse to read more on the material outside the class from another source, because they see lectures are enough and they don't want to exhaust themselves more.

    One of the reasons I have developed an anti-lecture attitude, is because of the difficulties in going to and back from the university. Moving around in the city I live in, is an energy drainer. Although the university is only 20-25Km away from my house, most of the time it takes 45 minutes to reach it and the same thing when I go back home. Sometimes, it takes a full hour to do so. By the time you reach it, you would be exhausted and have some kind of brain fog feeling. Sitting in class for an hour and a half would make things even worse. What's even more stupid, is how some professors like to set a standard in differentiating between students based on how many classes they attend, saying that a hard-working student, is the one that comes to every class on time, and never miss a class even if he's ill.

    It's even getting more tedious when you go to university on 7:00am and go back on 5;00 PM, which is happening to me every Sunday this semester. By the time I reach home, I don't have any real desire to open up a book or read something, because my brain is completely foggy by that time, and I become completely exhausted especially when you take the weather condition in the city, which is sunny and hot. I only agree on the idea of going to labs in the university, because the equipments we use in electrical engineering labs are expensive for me as a student to afford. However, I have some of these equipments in my home lab, but in small and limited capacities, such as Multimeter and PC Oscilloscope.

    Anyway, so far since I become dependent on myself in grasping a full course, my mental capacity has been enhanced and my perceptions have expanded. I even try to find areas I have weaknesses in, and try to improve them, even if they're not related to a course I'm taking in a given semester, such as weaknesses in how to handle some differential equations. However, with the mandatory attendance system, I'm still suffering and finding myself exhausted most of time to really have the desire to search for information. On weekends, you find me on my peak of energy. At that time, I can learn a lot just sitting with a book and a computer in my house. You find me capable of solving a lot of problems, working on actual circuits (breadboards), and doing other hobbies such as programming.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  12. Apr 3, 2012 #11
    Anything more than 1.5 hr is too long for me.
  13. Apr 3, 2012 #12
    I'm on a small course (materials science) with fewer than 30 students in most lectures, so most of the lecturers know most of the students. I've always found lecturers useful, and really regret missing one if I can avoid it.

    Saying this, 50 mintue lectures are ideal. Sitting through 2 hours of microstucture control methods is fairly painful and I rarely retain more than a small amount of the info
  14. Apr 3, 2012 #13
    Most of the science courses last from 1 hour 20 minutes to 2 hours + 4 hour labs. But I mostly retain a lot of the material discussed in the lecture so I don't consider them a waste of time. Most of the lecture consists of the lecturer talking and then some interactivity with the questions asked and applications. Helps us understand errors, etc...
  15. Apr 3, 2012 #14


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    50 minutes of being talked at...that's about all I can comfortably sit through.
  16. Apr 4, 2012 #15
    no what? sometimes the book's trash and you need a teacher to give you instructions, write out examples and ask questions to. maybe in freshman calc, yeah, you can do this, but in something like graduate quantum, I don't think so. 99% of people can't. That's why we have teachers. If you can, you don't need to be going to school.
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