Is missing lectures harming my studies?


Like most undergraduates, my university resolution was simple: attend all lectures. And I did – at least for the first few weeks.

But as the days passed I discovered a woeful truth: I had expected too much from lectures, and too little was delivered.

Imagine my disappointment after spending the summer excited about the prospect of what they’d be like. I expected enthusiastic speakers whose hunger for Chaucer could be seen in their uncontrollably moving hands. Instead, lecturers read off their notes, blazing through piles of information in the most monotone and disengaging voice.

Khadija Begum, 19, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University, also skips her lectures. “In the time I save by not attending lectures I go down to the library or I catch up on sleep,” she says. “As a result, I am a lot less tired than my friends and I know a bit more than they do too.”

Sahajanand Sinha, 22, a master’s student at King’s College London, had a similar experience as an undergraduate. “I graduated with a 2:1 in history, I never attended lectures because I believe most of the learning comes from outside the class,” she says.

The cost of attending lectures is independent study, and I’d rather study at my own pace and in my own way than waste an hour listening to a boring lecture.

However, Dr Nick Efford, a lecturer at the school of computing, University of Leeds, argues that stay-at-home students miss out on the interactive element of lectures:

“Students who choose to watch the video instead of attending the lecture miss out on the opportunity to ask questions then and there, or participate in discussion,” he says.

“I will sometimes ask students to think about an issue and compare their thoughts with a neighbour before I gather the opinions of the whole class and we discuss them. I sometimes use lectures to go through coursework solutions and answer the inevitable questions that arise. You can’t really get involved in any of that when watching a video.”

Efford adds that the onus is on lecturers to ensure their classes are more useful to students than video can be: “Many staff recognise the value in making lectures more interactive, in order to make the most of that valuable contact time with students. A danger of video technology is that it might entrench that traditional ‘chalk and talk’ lecture style when we should arguably all be doing more to step away from it.”

  • What do you think? Is attending lectures at university worth the effort, or would you rather catch up at a time that suits you, via video or audio recording? Let us know in the comments section below, or via Twitter @gdnstudents.