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Does attending lectures make much of a difference?

  1. Aug 17, 2012 #1
    I got a 3.9 (out of 4) in first year engineering without going to a single lecture. Can I get a 4.0 easily if I go to all my lectures in 2nd year and beyond?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2012 #2
    It depends on too many factors.

    Generally, though, not going to a lecture may even improve your grade, since you can use that time to self-learn, which can be more effective than a lecture.
  4. Aug 18, 2012 #3
    Hmm, well 1st year is simply to get everyone up to the same level. A lot of (or at least some) material covered in 1st year is covered in high school. All it would require is to run over some math and review the concepts.

    2nd year (at least from what I've heard) is when the learning curve is at it's steepest. What I would recommend is to go to your 2nd year lectures at least for the 1st month and then evaluate and see if the lecture is a carbon copy of the textbook or if it covers new material.

    Either way you should go because you never know when the professor might drop a hint about the next exam...
  5. Aug 18, 2012 #4
    That depends on you and your professors styles. Unless you use that time extremely well I can't imagine it'll hurt to go to lectures. If you are well disciplined and the professor does not rely on his own notes you should be fine. The only problem is when things are changed and announced in class and you have no idea. Test dates, quizzes, extra credit, etc. I have a friend who's a compulsive skipper and has missed tests before.

    There's also a social aspect, if you dont go to class you won't know your classmates or professors. This is a problem when you look at the amount of labs and team projects you do in engineering.
  6. Aug 18, 2012 #5
    If the class is interesting, and I actually work through the material in the book before the lecture, then it usually is very rewarding to go to a lecture. If I did not have time to read up, then I usually skip the lecture to give myself more time to read and work on my own.

    In general I believe some preperation is required to take advantage of lectures.
  7. Aug 18, 2012 #6
    Words of wisdom. For this reason I have still attended lectures of a professor even when I was gaining no insight in the classroom at all (he was that bad). Learning is all up to you, but if there's a minute chance that you may get a hint on what will be on an exam, don't miss that opportunity.
  8. Aug 18, 2012 #7
    I disagree with this passionately. Understanding should be on the first place, grades should only come as a consequence.
  9. Aug 18, 2012 #8
    ... which is why I included "learning is all up to you" in the statement.

    Some professors just don't transmit any understanding in a classroom. If you're going to lectures just to get the subject spoonfed to you, I think you're doing it wrong. In most cases I've gotten a better understanding through my own study, not from listening to lecturers (though it isn't always time effective).

    But maybe that's just me, as I spent 2 years at a distance-learning university with a "here's the list of textbooks, see you on the final" approach. A professor I know who went to the same university confessed to me he thought regular classes made students lazy, and that his time there gave him a self-study discipline he wouldn't have acquired elsewhere.
  10. Aug 18, 2012 #9
    For the most part a lot of the material I saw was brand new to me. Some of the calculus was obviously review, as was a bit of the chemistry and physics. The thing is, I did distance learning in high school so I am a very disciplined self-learner. I did however find that at times, some of the engineering material was difficult for me to understand initially and It would take a while to wrap my head around it. I am thinking lectures may make the entire process less time consuming. I am planning to scan the book before the lecture, attend the lecture, and read the book after. I think this could work better overall and possibly take about the same amount as reading it once for understanding.
  11. Aug 21, 2012 #10
    was the point of this thread to brag about getting a 4.0 without going to lecture?
  12. Aug 21, 2012 #11
    I went to about 60% of lectures this year and got a 3.7 GPA.

    Mileage varies I guess.
  13. Aug 21, 2012 #12
    No I am legitimately wondering if lectures make much of a difference and that if attending them will help me achieve higher grades.
  14. Aug 22, 2012 #13
    Here's an idea. Go to the lecture and sample it. You can always try to sit in a back seat and work on some homework if you aren't getting that much out of the lecture.

    It does depend on the class. In some classes, the lectures depart significantly from the textbook or there may be no textbook. So, being able to learn from lectures is kind of a good skill.

    I'm generally not the biggest fan of lectures. They have always seemed a rather poor, albeit, perhaps not inherently evil, way to convey information, notwithstanding their popularity.


    The absurdity of the lecture, to me, is that it's often as if you are having a one-sided conversation. I have had to lecture because that's what was expected of me. Granted, I tried to get the students involved (which I see most of people trying to do to some extent, especially at lower levels). Of course, as a lowly grad-student, I am hardly in a position to engage in any wild experimentation with my teaching. However, I always felt silly doing it. I literally felt as if I met a friend for lunch and conversation, but refused to let the friend talk back. It's not a conversation. It's just so messed up. The ultimate failure of feedback, the most essential component of learning. Compare that to tutoring, for example. A good tutor can perform what seem like educational miracles by comparison. Students who get tutors are sometimes shocked at the difference. We can't afford to have a 1-1 teacher student ratio, but is it really necessary for that to happen for the same quality of education to be delivered to the students? Or at least something approximating it? Often, these resources are in place, but the students don't take advantage of them.

    Of course, it makes a lot more sense when you are lecturing to graduate students because then you have the sense that you are talking to the big boys, and it's not quite as difficult to get across to them. Still, even in that setting, where it isn't quite as silly a way of teaching, I wonder if there isn't a better way to spend the time.

    Baez has remarked that the most productive time during math conferences are those little conversations people have in between the talks. But, somehow, the talks give you something to sell to get people to fund your conference. So, people waste a lot of time going to lecture after lecture, in defiance of all common sense and logic. This is all a little on the silly side, I have to say.

    Short periods of lecturing are more effective than long ones.
  15. Aug 22, 2012 #14
    Just to offer a different perspective, I really enjoy lectures. I find that reading the material, working through it myself, and then having it explaining in a lecture format is very helpful to me. Also, one advantage of lectures I've found is that its much easier to find information on the topic. Professors may drop a key/buzz word or a very interesting problem/solution and from there the individual research can go much further. Also, I am a fan of longer lectures (~2 hours). The shorter ones sometimes feel like just an introduction, whereas a long lecture can feel much more in depth and analytical. Just a counter thought!
  16. Aug 22, 2012 #15
    The problem with a long lecture is that only people with an exceptional will-power can concentrate for very long. Studies have shown that most students can't really focus for more than half an hour.

    Lectures actually work better for me than for most people because I know how to listen actively. If the lecture fits my learning style, I can absorb the entire contents of a lecture and put it in my long term memory by constantly summarizing what has been said up to that point in my mind. However, it requires a lot of will-power to do this, and I can't always pull it off. We can't assume that students will have the skills to pull this off, in general, and. I find it very hard to take notes if I try to do this. Also, if things are done that aren't very conceptual, I will find it hard to remember them, and in that case, it's better to go for more of the usual note-taking approach. Finally, this kind of active listening is only possible when you are really on top of the material. In a situation like a basic math class, that will hardly be the case for all but the very top students. Another situation is those conferences I mentioned where people have diverse backgrounds that they are bringing to the table, and it's not at all clear, without getting feedback from them, who is going to be able to understand what, and how to lecture in such a way that everyone gets the most bang for their buck.

    It's not true that a long lecture is necessarily more in-depth. You can cover the same ideas if you split it up into more parts. And people will be able to learn it much more effectively when this is done.
  17. Aug 22, 2012 #16
    I always thought I was the only one who dozes off during lecture with my short attention span, good to know the guy working towards a PhD did the same thing..gives me hope that I will survive the years to come :)
  18. Aug 23, 2012 #17


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    Something to consider: Good luck getting recommendation letters when you've never spoken to your professors because you never attend lectures.
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