How can I deal with a class that moves EXTREMELY fast?

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  • #1
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I'm taking an E/M II class this semester and this class is well known for how fast the class moves. It's lightning fast.

The professor literally crams 2 hours worth of materials in 50 minutes. The information flow rate is insane just like drinking from a proverbial firehose. Sometime she'd like to skip 5-6 steps of derivations because she assumes that "it's too trivial" to show that explicitly. She thinks the students can derive the whole process on the fly in their heads.

There is always a 15-20 minutes quiz in the class and I'm slow to get things done compared to my peers. It is like forever for me to download and make sense of the flowing information in my brain and stay calm. I really can't focus on the work when I'm too excited.I think I'm hitting the intellectual wall.

But after all ,I realize it's not her fault. It's my job to adapt to the speed and learn how to solve complex thing in a limited time.I have to take charge of that stoically because there is always something that is out of my control.
How can I learn to be a faster learner and stay calm in such situation?
 
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  • #2
Joshy
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Probably your best option: Invest more time outside of the class. Read the chapters; practice and get stuck before you attend the class. Usually the formulas are derived in the book and if it's not then you've got to work it. Contact the professor or teaching assistants if there are any for more help (office hours). If the professor answers questions during class try to raise your hand, but don't jump to that with limited effort.

Last resort but don't do it too late if you must: I was in a class myself where things were just not working out despite my best efforts. I dropped the class although I continued to audit it. It was horrible and a huge setback (introduction to analog circuits as an electrical engineering student), but reflecting back I did myself a ginormous favour. I could tell I made the right decision when I took more advanced classes later on with other classmates who did finished the class on time; the same thing was true when I could confidently answer interview questions and solve the problems at work. There were a few people who could maintain the pace, but for the handful who couldn't and continued anyways... they were shaky on the fundamentals and unfortunately it propagated throughout the remainder of their undergraduate career. That'll be the worst.
 
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  • #3
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Probably your best option: Invest more time outside of the class. Read the chapters; practice and get stuck before you attend the class. Usually the formulas are derived in the book and if it's not then you've got to work it. Contact the professor or teaching assistants if there are any for more help (office hours). If the professor answers questions during class try to raise your hand, but don't jump to that with limited effort.
I have no other options but to deal with it because if I drop this class I'll have to spend one more year in the school. It's worse than getting a C for me. I think this is a good opportunity to review and improve my study and work habits.

I'll make this class my top priority and I'll use every available resources I have and do what I can to keep up with the pace and survive the midterm (thank god , another professor will teach the final part of the course and he teaches at much more followable pace).

Thank you for taking the time and effort in writing this advice,Josh :biggrin:
 
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  • #4
Choppy
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I may be just seconding a lot of what Joshy already said, but...
  • Consider how you're preparing for the lectures. Read ahead. If you have an idea of what you'll be covering for the lecture, go in having at least read the material that you'll be covering. That way you won't be seeing stuff for the first time, and you'll be able to concentrate on the trickier stuff. Ideally you can get to a point where you've already worked practice problems too (although I realize there is only so much time in the day).
  • Consider what you're doing in the lectures and how you're taking notes. Often professors will be following the chapter of a notebook. If she's going too fast, at least write down the relevant topics and references so you can review them later. If you miss something, don't be afraid to go ask after the lecture for some additional reference material.
  • Also, you're a student in 2020! You can get a tablet that records the lectures (though I realize it might be expensive) and you can even set it so that you can pace the audio with your notes so you can go back and listen to exactly what your professor said in sections that you might have missed. (Do speak to the professor about making a recording for personal use though - in some places there may be rules against that.)
  • With a common class like E&M, there are lots of resources online. If you're struggling with the lectures, sometimes you can just identify the main topics and then go through them on your own watching videos and working through online examples that are well explained. And if you get stuck - there's always Physics Forums!
  • Speak to the professor. If this is the first time teaching, she might not realize she's going through the material too quickly. Or she might have some tips for how to better keep up.
  • Ask questions. Chances are you're not the only one who is getting lost. In the absence of feedback, professors will just keep going at their own pace. But if you ask questions, they are often willing to slow down and go over specific steps more carefully.
  • Review the math. Particularly with a subject like E&M, it's often the details of the calculus that trips students up. Sometimes professors will skip through that or assume that you know it because most programs will have it covered in a prerequisite course. But making sure you're solid on that front never hurts.
 
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  • #5
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First of all, no, it is not necessarily your fault. Professors should not move faster than their class can cope. But beyond that, as others said, it helps to invest some time away from the class. I had a couple professors like that, especially one who taught us statics. Dude lectured like he was coked up, he even asked us to solve problems on the fly and complained when we couldn't give the answer after, like, 15 seconds which was barely enough time to even type things into our calculators. This is just the professor being nasty. If nothing works you can always just bail on the lectures and just try to learn them at your pace from a book or whatever. Well, unless you can't for some other reason...
 
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Professors should not move faster than their class can cope.
I don't completely disagree, but on the other hand, a professor should be able to expect that students in a follow-on class (EM II in the case of the OP), should be reasonably proficient in their grasp of the material in the preceding class.
 
  • #7
Dr. Courtney
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I often recommend students avoid challenging classes in shortened summer semesters.

If you're earning 3-4 semester hours of college credit in a physics class that is normally taught over a 15-16 week semester, guess what?

It's going to move a lot faster if all the same material is squeezed into a 6, 8, or 10 week summer term. After all, you get the same credit on your transcript, it would be dishonest if the course did not include all the same material.

If you're not up for it as a student, you should take the course during a normal 15-16 week semester. Simple.
 
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  • #8
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The professor literally crams 2 hours worth of materials in 50 minutes.
Lets' examine this statement.

If she is really going 2.4x faster than she should, she'll finish the material with 58% of the term left. Is that her plan? If, on the other hand, she's finishing the material at the end of the term, she's going as fast as she needs to go. You might argue that there is too much material being taught, but that's a separate point.

Which is it?
 
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  • #9
Joshy
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FinalOutcome.png


I seriously did not believe this professor and I was unhappy about the outcome at the time. They were right and I was wrong.

The most important thing for you to do is to understand and absorb that material. Make that #1. So make sure that if you cannot keep up with that pace with your best efforts, then really think about your options. 1-2 years is a small price to pay in the big picture especially for a class like EM, which I believe is fundamental for many STEM majors.

Best of luck!
 
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  • #10
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The course's midterm exam is over. I realize I'm going to get a not very high marks due to poor sleep and exhaustion. This also leads me to unfortunately misderived a maxwell-ampere law.
I will accept the outcomes but I will try to learn and reflect from it.

I'm planning an intensive study to refine my understanding and problem solving skills. I hope I can do it.
 
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  • #11
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The professor literally crams 2 hours worth of materials in 50 minutes.
The course's midterm exam is over.
If the professor goes as fast as you say, she should be more than finished with the material.

It's not clear what the screenshot is suppose to show.
 
  • #12
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If the professor goes as fast as you say, she should be more than finished with the material.
Not necessarily. Maybe she covers the same breadth of subjects but in greater depth and introduces more advanced concepts, thus increasing the volume covered. I have had some professors who did that.
 
  • #13
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That would be a complaint not that she is going too fast, but a complaint that she is teaching too much.
 
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That would be a complaint not that she is going too fast, but a complaint that she is teaching too much.
When you teach too much in a short amount of time. So going too fast. I'm sure OP's problem isn't that the class will be over too soon. It's clearly the fast pace at which information is dispensed.
 
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  • #15
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Let's go back to the start of the thread.

he professor literally crams 2 hours worth of materials in 50 minutes.
Not figuratively. Literally. So my reaction was

Lets' examine this statement.

If she is really going 2.4x faster than she should, she'll finish the material with 58% of the term left. Is that her plan? If, on the other hand, she's finishing the material at the end of the term, she's going as fast as she needs to go. You might argue that there is too much material being taught, but that's a separate point.

Which is it?
There was no response, but after the midterm, the professor is still covering material. Now, it is possible that the professor is covering material too deeply, and somehow the student who is seeing this for the first time, knows this, But a) it's rare, b) the OP has had plenty of time to clarify that's what he meant, and c) in the past he's complained of just the opposite.

I would argue that without a clear picture of what's going on, it's impossible to give good advice, so it's important for the OP to give as as accurate a description as possible. Otherwise he's going to get generic advice. Eat your vegetables. Floss often. Look both ways before your cross.
 
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Let's go back to the start of the thread.



Not figuratively. Literally. So my reaction was



There was no response, but after the midterm, the professor is still covering material. Now, it is possible that the professor is covering material too deeply, and somehow the student who is seeing this for the first time, knows this, But a) it's rare, b) the OP has had plenty of time to clarify that's what he meant, and c) in the past he's complained of just the opposite.

I would argue that without a clear picture of what's going on, it's impossible to give good advice, so it's important for the OP to give as as accurate a description as possible. Otherwise he's going to get generic advice. Eat your vegetables. Floss often. Look both ways before your cross.
The problem seems clear enough to me. The professor delivers a ton of material that feels like it should be splayed out over more time in a shorter time. Maybe the course covers the same material a longer course would cover. It does not matter. Idk why we are arguing over this. The problem clearly is that OP can't keep up with the pace of the class. People have given advice. The best advice has been to talk to the professor about it, and also to consider studying more at home. It is pointless to argue further about why exactly the class moves too fast.
 
  • #17
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The problem seems clear enough to me. The professor delivers a ton of material that feels like it should be splayed out over more time in a shorter time.
Amazing that you can tell this without being in the class.
 
  • #18
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Amazing that you can tell this without being in the class.
It's what op said.
 
  • #19
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It's what op said.
Yes, and as I have said repeatedly, if that were the case, the professor should be done with the material now. You are guessing that it's because the professor is covering the material in too much depth, despite the fact that the OP says the exact opposite.

Idk why we are arguing over this.
Because you insist on drawing a conclusion that is unsupported by the OP's posting.
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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Against my better judgement, I'm going to jump in.

First of all, we are not privy to the syllabus. Whether it is slow or fast, the syllabus dictates the material that must be covered in the class.

Secondly, I'm a stickler to the syllabus that I'm using to teach my classes. I emphasize the learning objectives (set by the school) in the syllabus, and how each topic I presented are fulfilling the learning objectives. In my class survey, it is not unusual for a few students to say that I moved too fast, other students to say that the pace is just right, and the rest to say that I moved too slow. This is from the same class. And I will emphasize that this variation in comments is not uncommon after one has taught for a while.

Lastly, this is what the OP said in the first post (emphasis mine): "There is always a 15-20 minutes quiz in the class and I'm slow to get things done compared to my peers." So is the instructor really fast, or is the OP just slow? Look at Point 2 above.

Zz.
 
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  • #21
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Yes, and as I have said repeatedly, if that were the case, the professor should be done with the material now. You are guessing that it's because the professor is covering the material in too much depth, despite the fact that the OP says the exact opposite.



Because you insist on drawing a conclusion that is unsupported by the OP's posting.
Unless someone wants to be unnecessarily argumentative, the take away from the post by the op is that the lecturer moves through subjects too fast. Too fast is subjective. Maybe someone else would find the pace to be fine. It doesn't necessarily mean in any way that the professor would finish the material earlier, especially when you don't know what the material covered is. It doesn't matter why or how or how long it takes the professor to cover the material or any of that stuff, since anyone who isn't trying to be argumentative for no reason understands the problem the op has: they can't handle information being presented as fast as it is.

I'm not gonna make any more posts on this subject since it's kinda pointless as long as we're not helping the op. We can sit here and debate the deeper meaning of "too fast" until the sun dies and it's gonna be about as helpful as nitpicking the meaning of a movie being "good" would be to someone asking you if a certain movie you saw was good.
 
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  • #22
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"fast" means "finishing in less time". That's what it means. If I run a race with ZapperZ and finishes in less time, we say he is faster than me. The OP not only said that the professor was going too fats, but quantified it: a factor 2.4 too fast. If that were true, the class would be over by the midterm. It's not.

Then @AndreasC made the argument that "fast" didn't really mean "fast" but instead "too much". That might otherwise be a reasonable interpretation, except as I have pointed out, the OP has complained about exactly the opposite.

As Zz points out, there's a syllabus. The question of fast vs. slow (and of depth) should be answered with respect to the syllabus. If the syllabus says 3 section per day and the professor covers 2, she is actually going too slowly, even if the student would be more comfortable with 1.

Now, what is the OP's problem?
  • It might be that the teacher is going too fast. There isn't really any evidence for this, and some evidence ("relative to my peers" and the fact that there is still material left to cover) against this.
  • The OP might be underprepared. This is a common difficulty, but so far, the OP has not said anything in this thread to favor this. In other threads, he admits to getting by by cramming at the end of the course and then also complains about lack of retention. If that is the problem here, it would be good for him to own up to it so we could discuss that vs. generic "eat your vegetables" advice.
 
  • #23
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"fast" means "finishing in less time".
I thought it had to do with the rate something happens. That way I am not confused when someone with a slower WiFi connection finishes downloading a small PDF faster than it takes me to download a 3 hour movie. But your mileage may vary.

My service provider would agree with you though, when I told them my WiFi is too slow they told me the issue is not that it's slow but that the stuff I download is too big, so they refused to upgrade my plan...
 

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