Recorded lectures shouldn’t be a substitute

More class sections are needed


(Collegian file photo)

By Alanna Joachim, Collegian Columnist

It’s the first day of the new semester, and I’m heading into my art history class in Thompson Hall, just about five minutes before the lecture is scheduled to begin. Upon entering the classroom, it is obvious that I should have arrived earlier. By the time our professor is handing out the syllabus, the room is packed. People are standing in the back because they are unable to find a seat. The professor quickly goes over the syllabus, making sure to mention that the class has a full waitlist and that all the lectures are recorded and posted online, along with the slideshows.

At first, I thought this was a great way for the University to provide students with a way to catch up on what they missed in class if they were sick or had some other circumstance that prevented them from coming to class. However, at the next lecture, I could clearly see that there was a noticeable difference in the amount of people present. The room wasn’t empty by any means, but there were many open gaps that were not there that Monday. This was my first class where recordings of lectures were available to students, so I was surprised to see how drastic of a difference this addition made to the attendance of the class.

Many classes here at University of Massachusetts use the Echo360 System to record in-class lectures for students to watch them online later on Moodle. While at first glance this seemed to be a solid solution to help students that have been out sick, most students use these online lectures as an excuse to skip class, telling themselves that they will watch the lectures later. In addition, classes that provide online recordings often do not take attendance in lectures since they usually take place in huge lecture halls and are made up of hundreds of students. Of course, there will always be students who skip class, but recording the lectures almost provides students with justification or a guilt-free way to skip. Most will never actually get around to watching the lectures.

In one of my classes, physics 151, the University seems to be encouraging students to skip class. On the first week of the semester, all students in the class, of which there is only one lecture, received an email from our professor titled “Physics 151 Special Instructions” instructing half of the students to go to lecture on Wednesday and half to go on Friday, depending alphabetically on their last name. At first, I wondered why this why the case. However, when I entered the doors of Hasbrouck Labs that Wednesday it was clear that there were about twice as many students as the lecture hall could hold. Even with only about half the alphabet present that day, the room was filled completely.

On SPIRE, the maximum cap for the class is 305 students, but there are 400 students enrolled currently. I can estimate the lecture hall only holds about 200 students. On the first day, my professor briefly broached the subject of the obvious overflow of students in the class, but basically stated that we would all just have to make do. The use of the Echo360 System was stressed, as well as the availability of the slideshows on Moodle.

Sure, some students might see this as a perfect excuse to miss class, but it seems silly to be paying this much for an education and not even be present. Many students I know are discouraged by the overcrowding of the class and simply skip the class instead, not wanting to wait in line for 15 minutes to get into the auditorium. For quite a long time, UMass has only offered one section of physics 151 in the spring semester, as opposed to two sections in the fall. I have no idea why UMass wouldn’t simply create another section for Physics, especially when they clearly do not have a room big enough to accommodate 400 students. For other large general science classes, such as general biology and general chemistry, there are always at least a dozen sections of the class to choose from, and usually at least three different professors.

However, I do not think that providing online recordings of classes are the best way to solve the issue of overcrowding. These lecture recordings are simply giving students an easy out when it comes to going to class. In all my classes, I saw a huge drop in attendance at each lecture, as students became fed up with the crowding. Instead of encouraging students to skip class, UMass should make more of an effort to create more sections of each class, especially those that are general classes required by a variety of majors.

Alanna Joachim is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]