It’s a frosty December morning and your alarm sounds for you to leave your cosy bed for that dreaded 9am lecture. But with the temptation to just roll over and go back to sleep, and the ease of picking up the notes later… Just how much do we ‘need’ to go to lectures?
Rest assured, this article does not consist of reflections on how to make the best use of your lectures – and if you look online, the kind of advice you’ll be getting will be of a similar ilk to “take a cushion.” So why do students skive? A study at Lincoln University has found that the top reasons given by students for absenteeism at lectures were competing assessment pressures (24% of reasons given), poor quality lecturing (23%), the time of the lecture (16%) and poor quality of the lecture content (9%), though interestingly none of these students mentioned ‘a hangover’ as their reasoning behind skipping a lecture…
Many students still do well in their degrees despite not attending lectures, and with the use of other forms of more engaging teaching such as seminars and tutorials – and the rise in fees set to leave students demanding more value for money – it could be argued that the lack of student participation leaves lectures as ineffective and redundant. It seems, however, that universities have not yet developed an alternative teaching method for the large majority of courses. Nodding off in the back row remains commonplace and critics point out that the one-way nature of lecture time causes many students to skive, instead getting notes from their friends, or even our well known chum ‘WebCT’.
Lectures do have a utility which has ensured their survival – they are a quick and economical way of introducing a large group of students to a particular topic. Also, lectures that are delivered by talented and passionate speakers do have the potential to be motivating. Undoubtedly certain lectures seem more memorable and engaging, and many lecturers do succeed in making often unwieldy topics into more approachable and digestible fare for some of their hungover and tired students. For example, second year English students have recently witnessed staff members attempting to ‘sex up’ their lectures by including music relating tenuously to the content of the lecture as students who arrive on time enter. One Politics lecturer last year combated low attendance with an ad-hoc game of bingo.
Despite attending less than half of their lectures, a friend last year (remaining nameless!) still managed to pass first year with a 2:1 – it is entirely conceivable for somebody to succeed with a very low turnout rate. However, while there are a myriad of excuses available – “I respond better to seminars”, “I can get the notes from WebCT”, “I can’t remember what I did last night” – when you consider the amount of fees being paid for this education and work out the monetary value of each lecture, it seems like quite the waste of money. Ultimately, while skiving lectures effectively can lead to an extra blissful hour in bed, that excuse isn’t going to wash when you’re put on the spot in a seminar, or when you find yourself begging your more dedicated ‘lecture-friends’ for their notes.