8 Tips for Making the Most of a Large Lecture Class
It’s easy to disappear into the anonymity of a large lecture class—either by choosing to ditch class or because of the disconnect that can easily creep into even active and engaged students’ experiences. Whichever the case, sometimes 300 seats and a single lecturing voice can present a serious challenge to the classroom experience.
Let’s assume you want to make the most of the time, money, and opportunity represented by your tuition and having signed up for the class. In that case, here are eight important tips for making the most of a large lecture class.
The Reading is a Must
Do the reading. Or, at least, do enough so that it complements the lecture. A good lecturer will not simply repeat what was already assigned in the reading, but will go deeper and more creatively into the subject.
If you haven’t come prepared with a background understanding of the subject, you will be missing out on the chance to get the most out of your class.
Use the Syllabus, Luke
Most of the time, all the essential learning goals, assignments, and subjects to be covered will be laid out in the syllabus. It is particularly easy to lose track of deadlines or assignments in a large lecture class, so use your syllabus to make sure you’re looking after what needs to be done.
But the syllabus can also help you figure out what is going to be most interesting for you, and what will make the largest impact on your final grades. If you’re going to miss some classes, you can use the syllabus to decide which days will be the most essential so you still catch key subjects.
The syllabus will also help you to not get too far behind. Do not get behind on work in a large class—it can often be very difficult to catch back up!
Choose Seating Wisely
If you want to be engaged in the class (and therefore make the most of the experience), sit somewhere in the front third of the lecture hall. You don’t have to be in the front row, but sit close enough that the lecturer can see your face. Another seating strategy for classes where you don’t know anyone is to sit two or three seats in from the aisle.
Often someone will come a sit next to you, and you can get to know people in your class.
Seriously Take Notes
Even if the professor makes the notes available, it is still worth taking notes. Depending on the kind of learner you are, this can help boost your memory enormously, making a good grade more likely and certainly meaning you’ll get more from the class.
Go and talk with your professor. Introduce yourself in the first couple of weeks, and let them know you are enjoying the course. When exams or assignments approach, go ask for help.
In a class of 100 or more, it probably won’t be possible for the professor to spend all that much additional time with individual students, but by putting yourself out there you are more likely to have the professor know who you are, which can be helpful in asking for advice later on.
Raise Your Hand and Contribute
If you have something to contribute to the class, whether a question or in response to a professor’s questioning, go ahead and raise your hand. It can be difficult to speak in front of so many people, but it’s worth being noticed as one of the people who are willing to speak up.
Keep your comments brief but engaged, and you will find yourself both getting more out of the class itself as well as starting an interaction with the professor.
Take Advantage of Extras
Often a professor will alert a class to interesting continued readings, campus events, or departmental opportunities.
If these strike you as interesting or worthwhile, then be sure to not only take advantage of these suggestions, but also to get in touch with your professor to thank them for the recommendation.
Practice Proper Laptop Etiquette
Almost everyone with a laptop open will eventually get on Facebook or scroll through the rest of the internet. This is understandable, but can also be very annoying to the folks around you. If you’re going to spend class time hours surfing the web, the polite thing (both for your professor and your fellow classmates) is to sit far to one side of the lecture hall, and/or near the back.
If, on the other hand, you plan to be an active and engaged student and to use your laptop as an educational tool instead of a toy, pay attention to the way you’re using it, and whether online shopping and sports news is actually how you meant to spend class time. It’s easy to slip up, so pay attention to how and why you’re getting online.
A good lecturer can make a large classroom environment feel as welcoming and worthwhile as a smaller course. It’s possible to get an enormous amount of insight from this setup, and to also go above and beyond as a student to get even larger benefits than just the learning involved in the spoken lectures.
Good luck with those classes!