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Self learning more efficient than attending lectures?

  1. Dec 7, 2009 #1
    I've noticed that I learn at an exponentially greater rate my own way than I do by attending lectures in university is this the same for everyone? I'm in a first year course and besides the labs which are compulsory my subjects are biology, chemistry, physics and maths and I have a big book for each subject. Every single thing covered in the course is in the book so by reading the books I end up knowing everything they cover in the course so I'm wondering what the point of physical lectures are in this day and age when we can learn just about anything by having internet access. Don't get me wrong now I'm not saying they should do away with lectures I like going into college and sitting in lectures because it reinforces my knowledge but self learning is way more effective in my opinion its surprising not everyone prefers this method of learning.

    What do you all think? Will lectures eventually be replaced by course outlines which students can use to teach themselves? Tutorials are a different matter though although I can find videos covering questions and problems on youtube for the basics I'd say when I get into more specialized courses in my second year I'll need to be able to interact with teachers who know the material.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2009 #2


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    I usually also find that lectures are not very effective. Maybe this would be different if I were in a different situation though.

    Actually I think most of the point of lectures is to keep everybody at a consistent pace, and, at the lower levels anyway, so that students who refuse to read the textbook at least receive some input.
  4. Dec 7, 2009 #3
    Some people can learn much more efficiently on their own, others can't. The lectures are around to offer everyone an opportunity to learn and get their questions answered. Some lectures are designed to reinforce what you learned at home on your own, not to teach it to you from scratch. Most of my professors would assign a section during a lecture and then review it and answer questions the following class. Some more difficult subjects are taught entirely in the lecture because the concepts are too hard for most people to grasp on their own. Either way, I don't think they will ever do away with lectures all together. However, there may be some change in formatting for some classes as we figure out what works best for each subject.
  5. Dec 7, 2009 #4
    I personally love going to lectures. I always make sure to read the section we're covering beforehand, and as said before, I feel that it is an effective way to keep everyone on track and answer questions from the reading. On our first day of classes our professor told us, "you will not be learn the material by coming to lecture alone, but you will learn it perfectly if you read the section and THEN come to lecture."
  6. Dec 7, 2009 #5
    From my experience by combining reading, watching online lectures and practicing problems I can gain a deep understanding of whats covered in my first year course by myself at a quicker pace than the course is going. I think its fairly easy for me at the moment because first year courses cover the basics and info on the basics is so ubiquitous on the internet I have no trouble finding multiple sources to cross reference. I've noticed as the years go by the courses get more and more specialized so by year 4 I'll probably have trouble finding info on the course material online. Then again with universities like MIT making their course material publicly available I can find just about anything.
  7. Dec 7, 2009 #6
    I remember my first QM class -- we used Griffiths text and I read through the problems the summer before the class and did ever problem in the book prior up through chapter 5 which was all the material covered in the first semester.

    The problem was is that while I was able to do all of the problems I didn't really understand the subject. This is what the lectures did for me. In the class we went over all of the minor subtleties that arise and hearing the lectures just made it make a lot more sense.
  8. Dec 7, 2009 #7
    I think it has alot to do with different factors:

    1. The material you are trying to learn
    2. The quality of your texts
    3. The quality of your lecturer
    4. The size of the class

    Certain topics, I feel just dont need to be lectured. My first degree was in Sociology and Psychology, and I can say that the for vast majority of my courses I did not need a lecture. Not that the subject matter was easy, rather you HAD to read the text to really immerse yourself in the material. The ideas werent hard to understand, but there was alot to learn.

    Now that Im back in school as a junior in physics and math, I find that lectures have become more important.

    But I have also learned that to get the most out of my lectures, I also need to prepare very differently than I did before. For example, for lower div math and physics, just attending lecture and doing my homework was usually enough to get me through Calc and first/second year physics. Now, doing upper div math like analysis and abstract algebra, just attending lecture is not enough. To get a solid hold on the material, I need to keep up with the homework every week (before I could just study a couple of days before a midterm and be fine), and to really master it, I need pre-read the topics presented in class, pay attention is class and then go home and study what I just learned.
  9. Dec 7, 2009 #8
    This mainly depends on the individual, obviously, but I nonetheless opine that the Moore Method is a better way of learning certain parts of mathematics than is the lecture method.

    Here is an explanation.
    http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_6_99.html [Broken]

    As Devlin points out, it probably wouldn't work in broad survey courses, which is what most introductory courses are, but I can claim that my understanding is better in those mathematical topics that I learned using the Moore Method than it is in topics learned by being lectured to. This is an attitude widely-shared by many of us whe were fortunate enough to be taught this way: I cannot laud it enough.

    But, since this method isn't widely used, then it will probably be of little use to you, unless you transfer to a school (like U Texas at Austin) that uses it a lot.

    I'm not trying to be facetious nor am I trying to hijack this thread: I prefer self-study to attending lectures, and I empathize with your statements about lectures.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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