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Education

SHOCKING: Lecture Attendance Low

19 October 2018

A Lecture Attendance Report conducted in 2017 has revealed that a large proportion of undergraduate Arts (69 per cent) and Science (63 per cent) students are not attending their lectures.

These results were attached in the appendix of the Academic Programs Committee’s meeting minutes of May 2018.

Other popular notions, such as the idea that lecture recordings encourage students to skip them altogether, were proven unconvincing. Though this may already be anecdotal knowledge, the percentage of students accessing lectures either in person or online only amounts to 45 per cent of enrolled students for Arts subjects and 60 per cent of enrolled students for Science subjects.

In short, students aren’t skipping lectures because they’re recorded—they’re simply not attending at all.

Aspects students found more important included the quality of subjects and the range of other commitments they are juggling in their decision-making on whether to attend a lecture or not.

Georgina Frazer, who was a third-year Bachelor of Science student in 2017, admits to skipping lectures during her degree simply because she didn’t feel connected to the other students in attendance, due to large class sizes, and a desire to pursue her other passions such as horse riding during the day time. Now that she is specialising in a Master of Veterinary Studies where she’s surrounded by likeminded peers, she makes more of an effort to show up to her classes.

“I go to classes now because I have tons of friends in them. Vet is a small cohort where you actually know people whereas back in Science I knew, like, two people so I didn’t have the social motivation to go.”

The Lecture Attendance Report was conducted across 79 undergraduate Bachelor of Arts and Science subjects across all year levels over the course of a semester in 2017.

In order to determine why certain classes have lower attendance than others, headcounts were taken in lectures across various weeks of the semester to determine how many people were physically in attendance.

Lecture Capture statistics were also extracted to determine the view and download count for lectures. Finally, focus group discussions were also conducted with 61 students so they could give more insight on why students were attending or missing certain lectures.

Within the focus group discussions, students across both Arts and Science reflected that the most important factors influencing whether or not they attended a lecture were the content of the lecture, its delivery and its relevance to them.

On the flip side, reasons why they did not attend lectures included the quality of the lecture, as well as external factors like clashing work commitments or extended travel time.

This has not prevented some lecturers who may dislike the recording system from acting in ways students perceive as “gaming the system” through tactics such as not using the microphone or giving extra exam tips only after the recording ends.

Some lecture-styled classes, such as some within the Melbourne Law School (MLS), are not recorded at all.

Currently, there is a petition by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) for the MLS to record these classes in order to improve “accessibility, equity and learning resources” for students.

When requested for comment, a spokesperson from the University stated:

“After extensive consultation with staff and students, Melbourne Law School came to the conclusion against making recordings available generally. This view was reached in the interests of providing students with the best quality legal education and the best teaching experience overall. Students with special consideration reasons are able to access recordings in compulsory subjects.”

Though the scope of the Lecture Attendance Report does not include the Melbourne Law School, it does reveal that a relationship between the availability of lecture recordings and the quality of education provided has not been substantiated.

The report suggests that individual lecturers and faculties should look towards addressing core issues in order to improve lecture attendance. This may include creating engaging and relevant teaching material, and helping students work around external barriers to attendance in order to encourage them to get the most out of their degree.


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