Friday, March 5, 2010

The Students Guide to Lectures

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And so O'Week comes to a close. I don't know about how anyone else's week was, but I put all my partying into one night of pure insanity on the DUSA pubcrawl with The Muso, Mentor, and LadyYoung, and a busload of young students, followed by the mayhem of Eureka, an hour long queue wait to get back into Eureka after catching up with a friend somewhere else, and a whole lot of crazy dancing. Aside from running to heaps of people I haven't seen in ages (some months, some years), it was a great way to celebrate my birthday, even if there were way too many 18yr olds making me feel like an old lady at 23. Even got to trial-run the wobbly-boot walk home, as I now live within walking distance of the CBD, and there was no being hit by cars or trains (this may have had more to do with The Muso than my own ability by that time…). Alas alack, O'Week is now over (unless you count Sunday night at Lamby's, which I know a lot of people do), and come Monday, it's time to hit the books once again. To give you a bit of a head start, or just a reminder, I've complied a few tips for handling those all important lectures.

Mobile Phones – Turn your phone off before or as the lecture starts. If you can't bear the thought of turning your phone off, at least put it on silent/vibrate. While you may have some sweet new ringtone, you can be pretty sure that no one is going to appreciate learning about it in the middle of a lecture. If you're expecting an important call (your grandpa is having heart surgery, your sister is about to go into labour), sit near the door so you can beat a hasty retreat to answer, otherwise let it go to message bank and call them back. Answering a phone during class will result in your being destroyed by the lecturer. Really. Text messaging during lectures is generally frowned upon, but often overlooked, as it's not disturbing anyone else, just try to be subtle about it, and don't do it during lab or tutorial classes.

Lecture Kit – Having the right stuff to take lecture notes can make life so much easier. Make sure you have plenty of lined paper. I use a spiral bound notebook, which has perforated and hole punched pages. This means that you don't have to worry about carrying around more than one book if you have multiple lectures/tutorials in a row, or losing loose leaves of paper, and can pull pages out and add them to a subject folders easily. I also carry at least three different coloured pens, usually black, blue and red, plus something super bright, like green or purple. Makes it easy to highlight important notes, keeps headings separate, and generally makes your page look interesting. It also helps if one runs out mid-lecture as you have a backup. I seriously dislike using whiteout, preferring to cross things out rather than wasting time applying it and waiting for the stuff to dry, but that's a personal preference. If you're in a subject that might require sketching diagrams or pictures, it's helpful to have a pencil or two, or a mechanical pencil to save sharpening every 5 minutes.

Pre-Reading & Printed Notes – Before heading to class, try to at least glance at any recommended pre-reading. If it's been set, the lecturer will deliver the lecture assuming that you have read it, and things may not make any sense if you don't. You might just give it a once over, or you might take down a heap of detailed notes and jot down your opinions and ideas on it, but at least be familiar with what the topic of the lecture is. A lot of lecturers make good use of technology and will provide an electronic PDF copy of the lecture presentation on your student portal (DSO for Deakin Students). DO print these, and bring them along, as the will have most of the key information, and it is easier to see what your own notes are relating to later down the track. DO NOT fall into the trap of thinking that because you have the lecture slides you can get away with not going to class. Lecturers often change slides last minute, or will give you additional information not on the slides. Like answers for exams.

Taking Notes – Don't try to write everything down. Your hand WILL fall off by the end of the first week. At first you will want to write down a lot, from what is on the lecture slides to every word that pours from the lecturer's mouth. The problem is, a lot of the time it's not actually relevant, and you end up with four or five pages of messy notes and a major hand cramp. Instead, try to listen to what is being said while following the presentation, and write down the main points. Use your coloured pens. Keep an eye out for things in the presentation that are formatted differently, as they will more than likely be important. I had one lecturer who would border an important slide with red, and nine times out of 10, that slide would be integral in answering an exam question. As a general rule, it is a good idea to copy dates, diagrams and equations, and to do so carefully. It will take a while for you to figure out what is important to write down, and what you can gloss over, but practice makes perfect.

Label Everything - Make sure you top every page with the date, the subject and the lecture title. If you have guest lecturers, make sure you write down their name too. There is nothing worse than going through pile of paper a week before exams, and having no idea what subject a particular page belonged to. I know we all mean to keep everything neat and tidy in first week, but by study week, things can be an absolute shambles, and making sure you can quickly find the right notes by a quick heading scan will make your life a lot easier in the long run.

For the Techies – Laptops are becoming a lot more popular in lectures, be it purely for note taking, or as part of an interactive online learning environment. However, lecture theatres are notoriously difficult to find power points in, so make sure that you either have a battery that will last the distance, or find a socket early on and stick to it. Make sure to put it on mute (Messenger chimes during a lecture fall into the same category as answering a mobile phone), have pen and paper handy just in case (you may be a wizard in paint, but it will take you half as long to draw and label a diagram by hand), and try not to whoop too loudly when you finally finish that game of Hearts with 4 suits.

Lecture vs. Tutorial – Lectures and tutes are not the same thing. One you are being spoken to by an expert, the other is a conversation between peers. Some lecturers will be fine with questions being asked during the class, especially if it is just clarification, and other students may even thank you for being the brave one to voice what everyone was confused about, but try to keep it short. Wasting 5 minutes on something trivial wastes everyone's time. Try to save most questions, opinions and personal experiences until after the lecture, when you can approach the lecturer one-on-one, or for tutorials, where discussions of the lecture content or anything even vaguely related to lecture content are actively encouraged. 

A @ The Glamourous Grad Student has written some great advice pieces in the past for those just starting out at uni, my favourites being Etiquette tips for the charming college gal, More etiquette tips for the charming college gal, and
Grad Student Musings: Advice for the undergrads
. She has fairly hit the nail on the head in my opinion, and is a great read to boot!


Have you got any advice for cute little JAFFYS for their first week of university lectures? How about funny O'Week stories? Perhaps we have all had too good a time, and have holey memories!

Oh, and my brother is now officially a uni student. Finally!


Signing off for an early night,

Neysa xoxo

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