College Lectures – Worth their weight in college fees?

Aaron Gallagher looks at lectures as a learning method and asks whether students are really getting their moneys worth with this medium of teaching.

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”


What is the most effective teaching method? Some students are inductive learners i.e they like to work from small fragments and build upwards to paint a carefully poised picture. Others may be deductive, where they have to get an overall understanding and incorporate the wider context and implications of a problem.

Both work. But should we get a choice in the manner in which we learn?

Having experienced lectures for the best part of four weeks, I feel that they are awfully wasteful and do not seem to cater to the needs of students.

In theory, a relaxed and conversational approach to teaching appears wonderful, but in reality are we getting what we pay for?

In my first month as a college student, I found myself sitting in lectures completely lost. Looking to my right and to my left, I found students desperately copying down notes in a frenzy of panic. Often the slides went by too fast and more often than not, we found ourselves giving up in a fit of failed attempts.

While many people that I have spoken to find lectures to be stimulating and engaging, catering perfectly to the way that they learn, for me, and many others I have spoken to, lectures are a waste of a student’s precious time.

At the beginning of one of my first lectures, the lecturer saw us all scribbling down every little speck of information from the board, and told us to relax. He then went on to give us a friendly piece of advice, “Only take down the things that I say, that you feel are important. The information that you won’t find in your text book.”

This mode of thinking I can agree with. But even still, I feel it a complete waste of an hour to go in and listen to the lecture speak about a topic, only to have to go home and read about it again in a text-book.

And so we must ask ourselves the question: what are we getting out of our lectures? Do we grasp a greater understanding of a subject through the lecturer explaining it in simple terms, allowing for questions and reflections from students?

I am told that in college one must think independently, understand the context of our learning and question what we are presented with as fact.

Again I agree with this on paper, but in reality we are all at college to sit our exams and get our degrees, so the information still must be learned, not merely interpreted.

It often seems more economical and beneficial to just skip the whole process of a lecture and simply get to the assigned readings. In other words, to cut out the middle-man and get right to the heart of why we are in college – to learn and to absorb information.

I am not attempting to state as an unquestionable fact that lectures have absolutely no use.

Many lecturers that I have experienced have given me much to think about, by recounting their own experiences in relation to a topic. That’s what they’re there for in the end, to help us to understand.

But the heart of my argument and what caused me to write this piece, is that considering the inflated fees that we, and often our parents pay for our college education, shouldn’t we be questioning the methods that are used to teach us?

After all, each one of us learn differently, and to subject all students to the same method, is not an effective way to teach, nor learn.

Aaron Gallagher

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