SFU Surrey: Empty Lecture Halls?
A somewhat troubling trend is beginning to emerge at Simon Fraser University's Surrey Campus. Over the past few weeks a growing number of the Tech 1 student population have been deciding not to show up to lecture classes. This statistic varies from class to class some of the more difficult courses being overcrowded, while others have less than a third of the enrolled students in attendance. However overall there is a very noticeable downward spiral in the student’s attendance at these lectures.
With no end in sight, many professors are beginning to express their concerns over the lack of students and how their absence may affect their grades in the weeks to come. Most are devising innovative ways to encourage students to attend lectures regularly. One such is rewarding students who come to the lectures, in essence a bribe of a few percentage points for participation, and punishing students who do not attend such as adding a question to a quiz only someone in the lecture would know.
In the short term this has staved off the drop of absentees and even raised the total attendance rates in lectures, but this grace period will only last so long before interest again begins to wane. Some drastic revamping is required to the lecture structure if we wish to see attendance rates rise back to regular levels. When speaking with students who do not regularly attend lecture one message continuously keeps coming up. The number one reason people do not attend lectures is that they find most of the course material so redundant and the presentation so dry, that they could easily learn all the necessary information within ten minutes at the beginning of the lab block anyway. So as they see it why even come to lecture at all?
Another potential factor would probably be that approximately 70%, or so, of the TECH1 courses do not have conventional final exams. This means that any positive points for studying are nullified beyond personal knowledge to apply to your final projects, which can easily be accomplished for most students through “feel,” and quickly picked up during a lab. As someone who does attend lecture regularly I can see and empathize with both sides of this argument quite well. I see the benefits of learning all the “boring” basics before applying it in lab to build a repository of knowledge to call upon when I encounter an unforeseen problem. But the other students have a point too and although I wouldn’t do it I frequently find myself thinking about skipping lectures too, or letting my focus wander to my laptop...Purely for educational purposes of course. In any event this is defiantly something to keep an eye on as it is not about to end anytime soon.