A lecture worth our while

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If all that lectures are providing are PowerPoint presentations or overhead slides identical to that which students can get online from the comfort of their own home, should students really be blamed for skipping class?

Boring and redundant conducted lectures provide no incentive for students to attend class—if students do their readings and understand the material, they need to be guaranteed that attending class will not waste their time.

The website that Brian Maxwell, ArtSci ’08, set up at www.lecturetally.com provides an example of students finding a way to get what they need without going to class. Professors who post all of their slides and additional information have also been blamed for affecting attendance rates.

Although these are considerations, professors should be able to post their slides and still have a full lecture hall. If professors are finding that students are utilizing the technology that’s available to them and accessing class notes through services like Maxwell’s, they should be doing more to inspire better attendance. Students will continue to attend lectures if they are engaging, entertaining and informative beyond what could be obtained in the text or on a website.

In our increasingly competitive classrooms, where obtaining high marks for employment or further education post-graduation have taken over the sole purpose of a higher education, it’s not surprising that students who are able to do well without going to class are deciding not to go. For students to rethink why they are going to university, and appreciate a university education in and of itself, classes need to offer more than just a PowerPoint presentation lifted from the textbook.

Many professors teach courses because they have to, but it’s still part of their job. They may consider themselves as researchers or academics first and foremost, but they also have an obligation to find a coherent way to get the material across. If professors expect students to take responsibility for their education, they should be asking themselves, “What are we giving students in exchange for their commitment?”

Professors are not necessarily here because they are good at teaching—the University may want their research skills or publication attached to the school.

Perhaps the University should spend less on research and increase funding for hiring lecturers or others specifically trained to teach. Or, they could consider providing practical training to professors on how to teach undergraduate classes; a form of teachers college for professors.

Increasingly, students are thinking of university only as a mark on a transcript and the style of lectures is not helping the matter. Students need to start appreciating their education and taking advantage of the classes available, and it’s the duty of professors to make it worth their while.

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