Attending your university classes is an important, necessary part of your education. During your university classes you’ll be taught new material, learn practical skills, receive guidance for upcoming essays and exams, deepen your knowledge by engaging in discussion and exercises, and have an opportunity to troubleshoot any areas you’re struggling with.
But not all university classes are created equal which means they may not always feel like the best use of your time. In this blog post I’m going to dive into 5 common problems with university classes and what you can do to solve them so you can squeeze every last drop of value out of the time you spend in them.
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5 common problems with university classes (and how to solve them)
1. Other students aren’t engaging
If you’re the only student answering or asking questions in your university classes, you can start to feel a bit like Hermione Granger. At my school, and I’m sure this was the same for a lot of other students, it wasn’t seen as ‘cool’ to put your hand up or offer answers. To be seen to actually try in class was to risk being called *shock horror*, the worst thing a student could be, a nerd!
Let’s add that experience to the large pile of reasons why I’m glad I’m not in school anymore! But this feeling and behaviour still exists in many universities and colleges where everyone’s an adult. I’ve been in university classes where I was the ONLY student to put my hand up and answer questions. After a while I started to feel silly and like I should just put my hand down and stop drawing attention to myself.
But then I realised, hang on a minute, every minute of this class is costing me money, and every minute I spend here is a minute I’m not spending somewhere else doing something else. So, why would I sit in silence and damage my education just because I don’t want people to think I’m a nerd?!
University or college is a big investment and I know you want to squeeze every last drop of value out of this investment. So, if others aren’t engaging in your university classes – screw ‘em! And if you’re not feeling that confident about engaging, give yourself a gentle kick up the butt reminder that no one but you cares if you get the answer wrong, AND mistakes are necessary for learning.
2. Your university classes move too fast and you can’t keep up
Your tutor might speak too fast sometimes. In a tutorial where participation is encouraged, it’s possible to ask them to repeat something. But in a lecture, that might not be appropriate.
If you’re struggling to keep up in your university classes, mark where you missed a point and/or leave some space in your notes. Then, after class, fill in the gaps with the help of the handouts, another student’s notes or by asking your tutor.
3. You’re stuck and don’t understand an idea
Again, if you’re in a tutorial or a more interactive class, ask your tutor a question to improve your understanding. If you’re in a lecture or a class where your tutor is delivering content without the chance to ask questions, make a note of where you’re stuck and any questions you have and then talk to your tutor after class. You might also be able to grasp the concept after class by discussing it with a fellow student, or by searching for an alternative explanation on YouTube or Google.
Also, completing any prep work for your university classes should help you get familiar with the material so there’s either less chance of you getting stuck in class, or so you can identify your stuck points and do something about it earlier.
4. Your university classes aren't interesting or useful
First, we need to reality-check this one because, unfortunately, not everything in your studies (or life) will be super interesting. But, if you genuinely think your university classes aren’t helpful or valuable, what could you do about it?
As independent learners, we have to take responsibility for our education which sometimes means asking for what we need. When you have an assignment or exam coming up that’s related to the class topic, it’s helpful for your tutor to spend some time covering these and giving some guidance. But if they don’t do this then ask them.
What I started doing during my degree (and you can do too if you notice this problem) is emailing my tutor a week or so before the class. I would ask them if they could add a slot in the agenda to talk specifically about the upcoming essay or exam. The worst thing that can happen is they say no – in which case you could book in a session or phone call with your tutor instead or arrive early/stay late to ask any essay or exam related questions you have.
Also, don’t feel you have to take one no as final. Keep asking for some essay/exam-specific time in class and ask your fellow students to do the same. Tell your tutor what you would love to see in the next class and they should take this into consideration.
5. You struggle to maintain concentration
The best way to keep focused during your university classes is to engage. Answering questions, asking questions and noting down key ideas should help fight off the urge to snooze. When I start to drift off or zone out in class I change my environment. Take a layer off if you’re too hot, drink some water, sit up straighter, and make sure your phone’s away to stop this being a source of distraction.
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