Students relying on online notes 'just kidding themselves'

Having notes available online recognises that students have a life outside of the classroom, writes Marie Coady

'Have you ever tried looking at someone else’s flashcards? It’s like navigating a maze in someone else’s head'.  Photograph: Getty Images

'Have you ever tried looking at someone else’s flashcards? It’s like navigating a maze in someone else’s head'. Photograph: Getty Images

 

At the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection recently, Irish students’ over-dependency on online notes was criticised by Dr Greg Foley, an associate dean for teaching and learning at Dublin City University.  The Irish Times quotes him as saying the “highly distracting smartphone culture in which they live” has led students to stop attending actual lectures, instead relying on material uploaded by their lecturers to scrape through. He claims, “…the subject becomes the online notes and nothing more.”

I’m sure that certain individuals decide that they’ll be able to skip class and catch up afterwards. My fellow NUI Galway students would be familiar with the refrain “Sure it’s all up on Blackboard” [the online learning system used by NUI Galway and other universities]. But any student with a bit of cop-on knows PowerPoint slides are no substitute for dragging yourself into the lecture hall at 9am, no matter how tempting a lie-in might be.

Any decent lecturer only uses their notes as a jumping-off point. Without hauling your backside into the building you’ll miss out on the analysis, clarification, hints and telling comments that give you an advantage when it comes to assignments and exams.

Plus those bluntly-worded slides are a headache to study.

Have you ever tried looking at someone else’s flashcards?

It’s like navigating a maze in someone else’s head.

Sometimes, that’s what reading a PowerPoint on a lecture you missed is like. Often, I’ll have no idea what a slide means, or I will misinterpret it, that is, until I get to class and the lecturer elaborates.

I get why some students stop attending. Though the vast majority of my lecturers are incredibly engaging, I have had some modules where lecturers recited slides verbatim. It’s frustrating, and makes you wonder why you bothered struggling in through wind and rain when it wouldn’t have made a difference if you stayed at home. That’s time dedicated students could be devoting to study and assignments, or, if you’re me, watching owls do sassy things on Vine.

The steady drip of notes does fuel a sense of laziness in some students, but for most, it’s a godsend. In secondary school any student who dealt with extra-curricular duties, illness or the demands of part-time work was often at a disadvantage when it came to keeping up with the rest of the class.

It would have saved many of us a lot of heartache if more teachers had embraced technology, instead of having to pester friends on what was covered in missed classes.

Having notes available online recognises that students have a life outside of the classroom.

It also discourages those type-A loonies that are so paranoid about missing out that they sneak in when they’re sick, spreading their germs. I should know, I’m one of them.

It’s also great being able to listen to my lecturers, instead of spending the hour frantically scribbling down every line from the projector. It’s easier to get a sense of what they’re actually teaching, and I can draw on that when trying to remember things in the exam, instead of staring blankly at disjointed scribbles on a refill pad the night before.

To be frank, the only person who’s losing out by not going to class is the student. They’re the ones who’ll be out of pocket for if it all goes wrong.

What’s the point of paying for a third-level education if you’re not going to attend lectures? There are plenty of online courses available if you want to stay at home. Lectures can be a bit of craic, at the very least; having a partner in crime you can snicker with at the back of the hall, listening to half-baked rants in philosophy, bewildering but funny technical mishaps… now THAT’S the college experience you can’t get off the internet.

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