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Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Philosophy of Education: Excuse Me, Lecture!

How many of us have skipped a lecture because we could listen to the podcast or read someone else’s notes later? These methods are not adequate substitutes for lecture, so we should not use them as an excuse to miss lecture when we can attend class. We often do this to minimize time spent on classes we dislike, but fail to realize that this strategy ultimately makes the class require more work, not less.

Podcasts or others’ notes prevent users from interacting with the professor and other students, which makes understanding the lecture more difficult. For example, at lecture, if we do not understand something, we can ask the professor during or after class for clarification, which is impossible through a podcast or notes.  In addition, the podcast and most notes do not pick up what students say during lecture, such as questions or answers to the professor’s questions, which are often helpful, if not necessary, for understanding.

Despite these costs, sometimes we miss lecture because we do not feel like going. Many times, our lack of motivation is due to our lack of interest in the class. We think that listening to the podcasts or reading others’ notes instead will take less effort but still allow us to pass.

However, we do not realize that these methods do not save time. The podcast is as long as the lecture, which defeats our purpose. While reading someone’s notes once takes much less time than the lecture, almost none of us will understand the material after reading notes once. To learn as much from someone’s notes as we would from writing them ourselves during lecture, we have to read them many times, which likely will take longer than going to lecture.

Many times when we make the excuse to ourselves that missing lecture is okay because we will listen to the podcast or get notes, we lack the self-discipline to carefully listen to or read all of it. As a result, we fall behind in the class, which makes understanding the rest of the class harder as classes build on themselves.

As we need to pass the class, we now must study harder for a class we have no interest in. By trying to minimize the effort we put into a class, we accomplish the exact opposite, compounding our frustration. Instead of struggling to catch up while the class continues to move forward, it is much less work to keep pace with the class by going to lecture, even for a class we have no interest in. While skipping class is easier at the moment, we will have to repay that debt with interest later.

Discipline about keeping up is easier with the attitude that we must go to lecture at the scheduled time. If we have this attitude, we cannot procrastinate as we would miss the class. If we plan to listen to the podcast or read others’ notes, however, we can easily put that off until tomorrow, then the next day, and so on.

In addition, learning is much easier in a lecture hall designed to create a conducive environment. In the lecture hall, a live human speaks to us, which we find harder to ignore than a recording or written notes. In addition, live classmates taking notes surround us, which help us focus as well. Finally, we have less access to distractions such as Facebook and phones in a lecture hall compared to listening to a podcast or reading notes at home.

However, sometimes we must unexpectedly miss lecture. Before making the decision to not go, ask yourself, “Why am I not going? Is it a real emergency, that is, is it something I would miss a party with my friends for? Or do I just feel lazy right now?”

If it is a real emergency and we must miss lecture, podcasts and notes are a great tool to catch up. Despite their inadequacies compared to lecture, they are useful when going to lecture is impossible. However, don’t expect to gain the same understanding this way as from the lecture. Most importantly, don’t let missing lecture become a habit.

Use podcasts and others’ notes as a tool to help yourself, but do not let them act as a catalyst to you hurting yourself. The only way to do that is to be honest with yourself about your intentions and motivations.

To share your experiences with skipping lecture, contact WILLIAM CONNER at wrconner@ucdavis.edu.

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