Are lectures pointless?

“Lectures are absolutely pointless.” That’s what most of us groan the morning after the night before. But recently, the lecturers’ strikes accelerated a brilliant possibility: recorded lectures we can watch when we want, in our own beds, and without getting up.

Of course, we could sit down when they release the recording… or we could watch it later. I reckon most students – often generalised as lazy creatures reliant on pot noodles for survival – would put them off indefinitely.

But let’s imagine we’re hardworking, motivated types who decide to watch the lecture online. Wonderful. The next obstacle is the Internet, a network of mystery and temptation home to many a binge-worthy series. I’ve just finished La Casa de Papel, AKA Money Heist. It’s fantastic. (Forget your exams, watch that instead.) When I open my browser there’s a decision. Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, the news… or Blackboard. Strikes or no strikes, I doubt I’ll ever watch a recorded lecture online. To be honest, I wouldn’t feel guilty about it because I’d always tell myself I would watch it later. I wouldn’t be missing the lecture, just saving it for later.

So perhaps live, physical lectures do have some kind of value. We’re given a time, and if we don’t go, that’s that, we’ve missed out, like someone who flakes on a Saturday night. Of course, there has to be something in a lecture to miss. We all know there’s no point in listening to someone parrot on from an A4 sheet that everyone could read in five minutes. People need passion. It’s why we jump at the chance to hear live music rather than listen to Spotify. It’s only if the lecture is actually full of passion that we will be missing out.

But let’s face it, not all lecturers are brimming with enthusiasm. Bizarrely, perhaps the real point of lectures is to guilt trip us into getting up and doing something with our day. It’s a sort of morning roll call to get us out of bed. Once we’re up, we can do all the useful things we enjoy, from seminars to the gym, or even light dusting in our rooms.

Sure, lectures could go online. But then they’ve taken away the necessary annoyance of uni life that makes us wake up and refrain from wasting away our lives from within the confines of our bedrooms.


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Chris Matthews

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October 2021
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