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Self-studying vs Class lectures

  1. Jun 25, 2015 #1
    Which one do you think that is more efficient?

    I think that lecturers, from the fact of being humans, commit more mistakes than books when they give information because they can forget to transmit important details. Books are written carefully in order to be easy to understand, what's said was thought conscientiously. Writing notes of lectures corrupt the information even more because it is passed through our own filters, and we cannot register all of it.

    Thanks for you answers!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2015 #2
    At the same time, evey textbook has errors in it, and you can't ask a textbook a question if you're confused about its explanation. I've always learned better from lectures.
  4. Jun 25, 2015 #3
    The point of lectures is that the lecturer has excellent command of the topic.
    This means he can point out information that might not be in the book or isn't explicitly stressed.
    This can save you a lot of time as sometimes you would notice it on the 2nd or 3rd time going through the information.

    The rest is handled by axmls.
  5. Jun 25, 2015 #4
    You can always seek on the internet and consult several books about the same topic to solve doubts. And with forums like this one, it's possible to be supported directly by people. Not going to classes not excludes the possibility to contact the course's tutor to ask for help with doubts. What about that? xD

    This is quite a good argument. But it's somehow solved by the course's description document, where topics treated in class are listed.
  6. Jun 25, 2015 #5
    Another thing to note: a lecturer knows the proper pace at which the course should be taught. For me, I have a tendency to go too fast when self studying. And finally, again for me personally, it's much easier to learn when I know I'll be tested on all the material--especially the boring (but necessary) parts.
  7. Jun 25, 2015 #6
    But is it as time efficient? I would argue not. Also, if you aren't going to trust a lecturer who likely has a PhD, how are you going to trust a tutor who might not even have a bachelor's degree.

    A course description usually includes topics in only the broadest sense... It's essentially only the chapter headings from any book on the topic. There are many important details that the author may leave out that the lecturer might touch on. I've never had a course whose book covered EVERYTHING that the lecture covered.
  8. Jun 25, 2015 #7
    Sorry, I've used the words 'tutor' and 'lecturer' as if both were the same thing. With 'tutor' I meant to say 'lecturer'.

    You're right, it's not everything on it, though almost.

    What differences would you point out between video lectures and presential lectures? The main point is that the lecture loss his interactivity.
  9. Jun 25, 2015 #8
    I don't think there is much difference actually. Other than the (important) ability to ask questions or make comments in real time. I'm the type of student who likes to ask tangential questions during lecture which I would have difficulty doing with a video lecture. Also, some of the best lecturers I've had with ask questions to the students during lecture that really challenge us to think. Most video lectures I've seen don't do this.

    Are you trying to argue that one can get the same quality of education from their living room via books and videos compared to a university education?
  10. Jun 25, 2015 #9
    I just don't see it obvious. I tend to think that self-learning can be more powerful developing self-discipline and improving the learning method and gaining reading speed. Many students read less books because of the notes they take, in favor of not having a real deep understanding of the material.
  11. Jun 25, 2015 #10


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    JorisL is absolutely right. Especially in the case of lectures with under 50 people where the instructor encourages asking questions (most of mine have and some get incredibly excited about particular questions. I always try to make my questions directly related to the current discussion (which sometimes can lead to the discussion of other related things) because unrelated questions are best asked in office hours. Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of attending lectures of an expert in the field. I have attended lectures with professors who basically introduced some of the notions being discussed in class, especially in special topics courses.

    You are supposed to be doing both things you mentioned. I always consult a variety of books when I am taking a course. For one of the courses I took, the professor wrote the book (which is a wonderful book) so it was great having him there to elaborate.
  12. Jun 25, 2015 #11
    The usual advice I hear is to read the relevant chapters in the textbook, then go to the lecture to clear up any misconceptions you may have had reading it. It never hurts to be exposed to material in a variety of ways.
  13. Jun 25, 2015 #12
    Personally, I never saw the point of lectures. At the end of my education, I only went to the lectures to show the professor I'm interested. But I never could pay much attention. I'm just not a lecture-type of person. I learned almost solely from the lecture notes and from asking questions to the prof in office hours. At the end it worked very well for me, but that's a very personal thing.
  14. Jun 25, 2015 #13
    If time permits, study the material ahead of time (textbook, practice problems). Go to the lecture. Take very good notes in the lecture and ask lots of questions. After the lecture, as soon as possible recopy your class notes - making them neat and organized. At this point, you might need to get into an intellectual wrestling match with your class notes. The idea is to make sure that you can understand every point of the lecture. If you don't, go get help. Then, do practice problems / homework problems / timed problems / etc. until you have mastered the concepts.

    We don't always have time to do all of this, but if time permits, I think this is the best way to study math, engineering, and physics.
  15. Jun 25, 2015 #14
    I would agree with everything except for this part. That just seems like a massive waste of time... though I've never actually tried it.
  16. Jun 25, 2015 #15


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    Different students learn in different ways, so I don't think there's any way to say that one method is objectively better than the other.

    And really, are there that many people who exclusively use one approach?

    I think most successful students will try to get through the material in a variety of ways. They will read up on the material, attend lectures, look up things they don't understand online, go to office hours for help and additional discussion, form study groups, watch You Tube lectures... all under the constraints of a hectic, but generally well-managed schedule.

    Some students learn a lot better just by reading and don't get much from lectures, but when the lecturer really is outstanding, just about anyone can get something out of the lecture. Conversely, there are some pretty bad lecturers out there and even if you generally do best by listening and asking questions, when confronted with a poor lecturer you need to figure out how to learn the material despite the poor teaching.

    As a student you have to find what approach to learning works best for you. Worrying about much meyond that, is likely a waste of time.
  17. Jun 26, 2015 #16


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    I don't think I've ever found a textbook that didn't have errors in it.

    I think you're asking the wrong question. A better question would be: "What combination of textbooks and lecturers is ideal?"

    I learn most efficiently when I utilize both of these tools.

    I disagree. A topic list for a course doesn't explicitly spell out every single topic that will be covered. For example, a topic list might state 'numerical approximations' but it is not likely to explicitly list Newton's Method, Simpson's Rule, Trapezoidal Rule, Euler Method, Runge-Kutta Method, etc.

    The table of contents in the textbook for a given course may not be a good listing of subjects either. Sometimes sections or whole chapters will get skipped over in a course. Other times a professor may provide additional material to cover a topic that is not covered in the textbook.
  18. Jun 26, 2015 #17
    Like I said, "If time permits...." For some classes that I took, this is where a lot of learning happened. For most classes, I simply didn't have time to do this. But anytime I did do it, I found it enormously beneficial.
  19. Jun 26, 2015 #18


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    One reason, among few of them, I go to a lecture is to force myself to work out problems. When I self-study I often found myself get absorbed in the text only and rarely try to take a peek at the problems, if I take lecture, the profs will usually allow me to take exam only after I solved certain amount of problems. I believe in the saying "practice makes perfect", often when you try to solve certain problem you will realize that certain part of your understanding from self-study need to be slightly revised. But most of the times I got most of my knowledge from self-studying, if you can spend some of your spare times to work out problems and know with high certainty that your solution is correct, you probably won't need too many lectures.
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