A recent survey has shown that students have been spending fewer than 2 hours a day in lectures – despite paying over £9,000 for their degrees.
This comes as a study conducted by Education Consultancy Agency HE found that 27% of students have considered quitting their degree.
In the survey of more than 29,000 students, it was found that undergraduates spend less time studying both independently as well as in class.
In 2016, it was found that 52% of students spent more than 11 hours studying independently. This year, the average percentage dropped to 44% – the lowest since the survey began in 2015.
Courses with the least amount of contact hours tend to be arts and humanities, with students expected to do more independent studying. While science based courses, such as engineering and medicine, tend to have longer teaching hours.
The average time-tabled contact hours for UK students have increased in the past years, to an average of 13.7 hours, according to the 2018 Student Academic Experience Survey. However, the number of hours actually attended by students are decreasing.
And yet, contact time is still one of the barometers in which students assess their experiences in university – students who are in courses with higher work loads are less likely to say they would have chosen another course, compared to students whose courses are lighter – according to a research by Which? and the Higher Education Policy Institute.
The study also found that while a full time student should get by studying 1,200 hours a year, on average, students are falling short of the guideline by 300 hours.
The decreasing amount of hours students have spent attending lectures and studying may be due to the way the lectures have been structured. Film Sub-editor and final year law student, Elisabetta Pulcini, said “lecturers could experiment with different styles of teaching, instead of always ending up with a two-hour power point slideshow. This may allow for more interest in lectures.”
A study by Harvard University, on measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning, in response to being actively engaged in the classroom, found that physics students perform better if taught via active learning strategies than lectures alone. Students who were taught traditionally were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students who learn actively. Eric Mazur, physicist at Harvard University expressed his thoughts on the study stating, “this work unambiguously debunks the illusion of learning from lectures”.
Jonathan Neves, author of the UK Engagement Survey 2019 expressed his thoughts on the drop in the number of hours committed to independent learning by students. He stated that independent studying, away from classrooms, “had links to a wide range of skills which help students develop in a rounded way.”
A student at King’s College London told the Guardian that “I graduated with a 2:1 in history, I never attended lectures because I believe most of the learning comes from outside the class”
While the study by Harvard University does not imply that students should continue being less active in lectures, co-author McCarty hopes the study will encourage the embracing of active learning.
Dr Nick Efford, lecturer at the school of computing at the University of Leeds expresses that staff could “recognise the value in making lectures more interactive, in order to make the most of that valuable contact time with students”.
Last modified: 29th November 2019