“Am I writing to myself?” That’s what I used to wonder when I first started teaching Spanish online a year ago. My learning management system, message boards, and group emails were impersonal and unresponsive—more like writing in my diary than sharing information with my students. I never knew for certain who read and understood my announcements or received an (electronic) handout or assignment directions. In the traditional, on-campus classroom, I’m a very interactive, hands-on kind of instructor, so I also went from knowing each and every one of my students by name and even a little bit about them to having nothing more than a roster with 115 names and majors. I just wasn’t satisfied, so I did something that others in the field had encouraged me not to do; I created a Facebook group for the class, and I’m not going back.
Are you dissatisfied with the attendance at your lectures?Do you wonder what your students are thinking when they skip your lectures? If you answered “yes” to either question, you’ll be interested in what 47 undergraduates said in response to a recent email survey on their attitudes toward attending lectures. This article addresses the results of that survey, including (1) the students’ general attitudes about lecture attendance; (2) the importance of various factors they consider in deciding whether to attend; (3) the thinking process they use to make those decisions; and (4) their recommendations for ensuring high attendance rates.
Lecturing has been one of my passions ever since I first entered the workforce 35 years ago. Wherever I was employed I’d volunteer to deliver lectures every chance I had: to fellow employees, to new hires, to visitors, to students, at conferences – and now that I’m self-employed I also do it for a living (though I still can’t resist volunteering to lecture for free if it’s in a good cause). I’ve delivered hundreds of talks on VLSI technology, Technical Leadership, Internet adoption, Information Overload, Social Media, the History of Computing, Innovation, Quality Assurance, Science… and it turns out that they were all memorable lectures: people stop me in the street to say they’d heard me 15 years ago and it’s the only lecture they remember from the course or event in question.
When you take ideas to places of extremity, they become distorted. “It is not part of my job to make you learn,” Philosophy Professor Keith M. Parsons writes in his syllabus to first-year students. “At university, learning is your job—and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you.”