Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Lecture time!

I recently enjoyed the opportunity to attend a university lecture for the first time since 2006. This was the last time I was a university student and things have certain moved on since! I remember endless sessions where the lecturer would deliver a presentation and students would spend the lecture hurriedly scribbling notes on a writing pad. Interrupting the lecture to ask a question was a rare occurrence and as a result it was easy to ‘drift off’ and allow your thoughts to wander.

Attending a lecture as an observer rather than a student was an interesting experience. I wasn’t distracted by the need to absorb content and was therefore able to focus on elements such as structure, delivery, interaction etc. There were approximately 40 people in the room, excluding myself and the lecturer. It was far more informal than I remembered lectures to be, with more of a seminar vibe in the air. Questions and interruptions were frequent and encouraged, and as a result, students proactively engaged with the content of the session. I am new to working within the HE sector and I don’t know if this way of delivering lecturers is now the norm in all institutions, but it seems to certainly work well for our students.

A lot of students had their mobile devices to hand – tablets as well as phones. I have recently left he FE sector, and in the college the use of personal devices during sessions was discouraged unless it was part of a BYOD initiative. It differed from group to group, but some FE lecturers preferred students to not be distracted by such devices during the main part of the session. I can understand this in compulsory education and FE. Is it the same in HE? Perhaps. I don’t know yet. At first, I presumed the devices were being used to browse social media or send text messages, but when I sneaked peaks at a few screens, I could see students were mirroring the actions on the big screen at the front of the auditorium. Instead of watching the lecturer demonstrate a website, they were following along on their devices and learning kinaesthetically too. One student even used his phone to photograph the printed resources the lecturer used, and later visited the library referring to these photos as the starting point for his research.

A few students used laptops to make notes, but in general, handwritten was the most common form of note taking. Incorporating modern technology into lectures is interesting and can be advantageous, but it is comforting to know scribbled notes are still the order of the day! I will soon be delivering lectures myself, assisting students with research techniques and assignment preparation, so it is important for me to know the format of lectures in my institution.

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