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Is going to lecture a huge waste of time?

  1. Oct 5, 2011 #1
    I notice that more and more med students in my class have figured out by now that they don't need to attend lectures anymore to get good grades. Attendance can be sparse. Every lecture is recorded and can be watched online anyway. So what's the point of lectures? Almost all material covered is in some textbook or can be found with a quick google search anyway. Are lectures an obsolete artifact within higher education? I mean I guess lectures were useful back in the day before information wasn't as easily copied and disseminated. It's 2011 though, almost every single concept taught in a university can be studied by somebody with a library card and internet access at home. What's the point of going to lecture then? I really only find lectures useful only if they go over problem sets/examples rather than going over concepts. Every concept is already discussed in a text book.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2011 #2
    I am old school. I don't like watching lectures online or presence of any modern technology in the lectures (cell phones, power point slides etc). I prefer lectures where they go over fundamentals/concepts but don't like when it's all about going through examples.
  4. Oct 5, 2011 #3
    I like asking questions, so even if the lecture is recorded or the professor copies examples and statements from the text verbatim, I'll still go to class.
  5. Oct 5, 2011 #4
    They have class message boards now where you can post questions. Or just email.
  6. Oct 5, 2011 #5
    Absolutely no substitute for a real answer from a professor.
  7. Oct 5, 2011 #6


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    Imo, the main point for a lecture is that it is rather easy to actually go to it and listen to the prof for a fixed, planned amount of time. And since there is nothing else you could sensibly do in the lecture, and the material is presented comparatively slowly, you actually can easily commit your entire concentration to the material and understand it fully.

    This point would be moot if everyone had perfect self-control, and would never, say, postpone a planned session of textbook study, or go quickly over a boring bit of material in a textbook. But most people don't have that amount of self-control (I certainly didn't). I always visited all my lectures, and got away very well with it.
  8. Oct 5, 2011 #7
    to be honest I never got very much out of lectures, I just went so that I could blindly make notes that I would hopefully make sense of later. Also my attention would easily be broken after maybe 20 minutes. I've always thought that watching videos of lectures is much more easy to focus on than when you are actually there in person, but at my uni there were no such videos.
  9. Oct 5, 2011 #8
    The best part is that they give you an outline/notes for each lecture before hand. I have notes already, videos online, and a textbook. I don't really see the need to go to class. I think I may sleep in tomorrow. Not being tired while trying to study is more important in my opinion than waking up early and losing sleep to attend a superfluous lecture that I probably won't get much out of anyway.
  10. Oct 5, 2011 #9
    yeah. my other motivating factor (apart from making lecture notes) was the ridiculous amount of student debt I was racking up for the privilege of attending them.
  11. Oct 5, 2011 #10
    I get really, really bored in lectures. I just hate to have someone talking at me about stuff, even if its something I really like, like physics. I get way more out of sitting down and really reading the book, and then talking to my peers about it if something isn't clear. I also get much more out of doing problems and struggling with it on my own. Of course, I go to professors in their office hours if I need help or I just want to talk about something I found interesting, but I hate being in lectures.

    Now if it happens that there are lectures with information that can't be obtained in any book, then fine I will put in the effort to listen. I expect this to happen in my graduate studies and at conferences. I won't be happy about it though...

    This may have a lot to do with how I've always done things. I didn't do well in high school because I hated to listen to the teacher and do stuff I thought was useless or that I didn't care to do. I like all subjects (or most at least), and I can usually always find something interesting in everything. I hate being forced to do it, and I also hate having some kind of negative 'incentive' hanging over my head (like tests, grades, etc.). Whenever I wanted to learn something, I just read about it, tried it, read some more about it, tried some more, and eventually I understood it and/or got really good at it. This is how I learned programming, it's how I learned mathematics, and it's how I learn physics and other maths now. I see myself as a very independent person intellectually, because the entire reason that I do all this stuff is because I like to figure things out. If someone is just telling me stuff, it doesn't interest me much.

    There's another important point I'd like to make; when listening to a lecture, you can't say WAIT WAIT, could you please elaborate on what you were just referring to because I forgot, or ask them to repeat. This is highly annoying to others (I know because I get annoyed at people who are constantly asking questions in lecture), and usually not very efficient for that one person either. This is in contrast to a book, where you can flip back to where you forgot a formula, or you lacked some perception that you got later on into how this one equation might work. Just an example. With a book, it's all at your own pace. In a lecture, the professor has to try and guess what you're thinking and how/when you'll understand it, but you can't do that for all 10/40/300 people in the crowd.
  12. Oct 5, 2011 #11


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    It is pointless to make such generalization. I've been to lectures where I was bored to death and learned nothing, and I've been to lectures where I've been inspired and excited by the subject matter from the passion and skill of the lecturer. I can say, without any doubt, that the way I deal with a physics problems and how I tackle through them have been strongly influenced by some of the best instructors that I've encountered.

  13. Oct 5, 2011 #12
    I guess that nowadays there's no real need to go to lectures. Everything can be done through self-studying anyways. But I do think that lectures have some benifits, and that's why I went to almost all of them. That is

    - You can ask questions during lectures. You can't do that in a video presentation. Furthermore, you can see how the lecturer deals with the question: how does he think about it and stuff? Seeing how a professor understands the material is very useful in understanding the material yourself. However, you need to read the material beforehand if you want to ask useful questions. Most people don't do this, but it really doesh help a lot.

    - Lectures force you to deal with the material. If there weren't lectures and homework, then most students would procrastinate and only open their books when exams are coming. Going to lecture forces you to at least hear the material once.

    - Seeing a person live in class who is enthousiastic about the material, makes you enthousiastic yourself. Seeing how a professor gets really "high" because he loves what he teaches can be a really nice experience for you. (on the other hand: professors in a bad mood might ruin the fun for you)
  14. Oct 5, 2011 #13


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    A live, in-person lecture is capable of offering interactivity. A recorded lecture that is watched later does not give that same interactivity.

    An internet forum for the class in which the students ask and answer questions with eachother is not the same as including the professor. Including the professor is best managed live. Formal information and guidance is done in the lecture. Personal and professional guidance is best done in the professors office during office hours.
  15. Oct 5, 2011 #14
    Meh, personally if I were a med student I would rather not have to pay $100,000 k+ just to have a class be 'interactive' when I could learn most of the material on my own by buying a textbook, watching some free youtube vids, or by posting questions on forums with experts such as one like PF.
  16. Oct 5, 2011 #15
    I like lectures, because if I have a question I can get it answered RIGHT then. I also like how you meet new people within your classes.
  17. Oct 5, 2011 #16


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    Maybe, it's time for universities to consider alternative teaching methods.

    Perhaps, an undergraduate degree could become a defined 4 year reading syllabus with regular assignments and periodic examinations that prove the student is progressing through the material. Labs could be offered in a similar manner as they are now, but perhaps less cookie-cutter and with more opportunity for the students to explore their own ideas. Professors would then assume more of a mentoring roll - holding longer office hours and tutorial sessions rather than large-scale lectures.

    Of course, whenever you have these kinds of ideas, it's wise to go and check if anyone has tried it before and how successful they were.
  18. Oct 5, 2011 #17


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    The value of attending a lecture depends on the lecture. Many in this thread paint a rosy picture. Has not anyone had lectures where
    -the lecturer does not show up
    -the lecturer is "new"
    -the lecturer does not speak the language the lecture is being given in
    -the lecture refuses to acknowledge the existence of several consonants of the language
    -there are 500 students in the lecture
    -"No questions will be asked or answered"
    -All questions are answered with non-answers
    -lots of pointless questions are answered

    Even where the lecture is basically good there are sometimes more pressing matters that prevent attendance. There is also the question of if lecture is the best use on a so called contact hour, but often the lecturer is or administrator is the one making that choice.
  19. Oct 5, 2011 #18


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    I think there are a ton of hidden costs when it comes to never actually meeting with people on a regular basis (so, extending beyond just not going to physical lectures). In the scientific fields, how much can one really call his or herself a scientist if they never interact with professors, attend office hours, chat with other students, etc etc. I think MOST of what I learned came from getting help from others and talking to professors. Of course, 100% of the extracurricular activities and opportunities took their roots in talking to professors during lecture and after. I mean, professors are human; how much interest are they going to show when it comes to helping someone really make it as a scientist if they see the person 3 times a semester. Textbooks and internet forums can't really sit down and talk to you about what the peer-review process is like or how graduate school works and what have you.

    I wonder how this translates to non-scientific fields.
  20. Oct 5, 2011 #19


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    The act of rewriting notes from a lecture (in my own words) is a huge part of my learning strategy. If forces a more conceptual understanding of the material and illuminates my weak areas. In mathematics (as well as physics, I'm sure), it is very important for one to understand how things are related and why you're doing what you're doing.
  21. Oct 5, 2011 #20
    I think a lot of it depends on the lecturers. Even though I go to all my lectures there are some I think I could do just as well in by staying home and self studying. Often times at lecture I find myself blindly copying down notes and not comprehending whats happening anyway. The only lecture I don't go to is a statistics course where I can't quite make out what my lecturer is saying to begin with and everything including lecture notes and worked example problems are posted online.

    On a somewhat related note, I have a lecturer this semester who took down a seating arrangement so he could take attendance every day. I think a small portion of our grade is attendance so its easy points, but it kinda pissed me off. Makes me feel like I'm in middle school again.
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