We've all done it. We wake up before an early morning lecture, realize how delightfully comfy our bed is, think about how mind-numbingly boring the lecture will be, promise ourselves we'll spend several hours reviewing the class material, and pull the duvet back over our heads. There are many reasons that students skip lectures – some are valid and others not. But as our education becomes increasingly digitized more students are wondering what purpose lectures serve, especially when notes and slides are uploaded to student portals and lecture recordings are available on YouTube. So what exactly is a lecture? Why should you attend your lectures? And when you do attend your lectures, how can you maximize your learning potential? Read on for four very good reasons to attend your lectures and one guideline for skipping.
1. Lectures are the basis for all your assessment
One of the reasons that many students skip lectures is because they feel that they are a waste of time. But lectures can actually save you time and will serve as a map for your assignments and exams. A good lecturer will sign-post your way with key terms, definitions, examples, and short-cuts. Pay attention to how your lecturer presents information and take good (not copious) notes. Does the professor get excited about a certain subject? Does he or she tell you when something will or won't be on the tests? Does you lecturer repeat terms or ideas frequently? All these things can guide your studies and save time when it comes to revision and assignments.
2. Lectures teach concentration
You've probably heard that there are several ways of learning, and while reading or doing might be the preferred methods for many students, listening is another important way of learning material. One reason students think lectures are boring is because they require concentration, but learning to concentrate and learning through concentration are very valuable skills that will serve you in your studies and your career. If it's hard to focus on lectures, take notes but don't just copy the slides or (worse yet) try to take down verbatim what the lecturer says. If your lecturer posts slides before class, print or download them and use them as an outline. If not, establish a note-taking system that works for you. You can use colors to highlight specific ideas. Abbreviations or symbols that represent complex scientific and technical concepts and initials for the names of historical figures help de-clutter your notes.
3. Lectures are more than slides
But remember that lectures are more than just the sum of their slides. One of the biggest reasons to attend lectures is that the lecturer will present information that is neither outlined on the slides nor covered in course material - anything from important facts or tips to changes in the dates of the assignments or exams. And lectures aren't just about the person standing in front of the class. If you don't attend class, you won't have the chance to ask questions (or hear the questions other students ask,) and you won't be able to interact with others in your course. Lecturers and professors may be the 'experts,' but you'll be surprised at how much you can learn from your classmates.
4. Lectures give you opportunities
So, go to your lectures and ask questions. Speak up if you don't understand something, participate in discussions, and don't be afraid to talk to your professor, your TA, or the other students after class. And pay attention to more than just the class material. Did your lecturer mention a website, event, or company in passing that sparked your interest? Make a note and follow up on it after class – you're taking this course because the subject interests you and chances are that there are aspects of the field you've never considered. The concert your music appreciation lecturer mentioned could inspire your next composition. That start-up your business professor used as an example might be looking for interns. Or the novella your literature TA used as a slide illustration might form the basis of your senior thesis. And if nothing else, attending lectures and asking questions can help you form a relationship with your professors – especially important when you need a good reference for scholarships, grad school, or even a job.
5. Lectures are valuable, so if you must skip do it for a good reason
Yes, lectures can be valuable, and there are many good reasons to attend, but one of the most important aspects of a university education is learning to learn. It's equally important that take responsibility for your education, and there will definitely be times when missing a lecture is both responsible and necessary. If you decide that something is more pressing, make sure that you follow up on the lecture that you missed. Get the lecture notes from your student portal or a classmate. Contact your professor or TA and, first, apologize for missing the lecture and second, ask if there was any vital material that you missed. You might also want to stop by your lecturer's office hours to collect any hand-outs or ask questions you may have. Remember, you are accountable for what you learn and your education is only as good or as bad as you make it.
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