Attending a large college lecture class of several hundred students is very unlike the high school class of twenty to forty students, or even the class of one in homeschooling. Unlike the single desks and seats that you are used to at high school or back home, you are seated along unending rows of benches and writing tops that wobble when your neighbors erase something in the worst-maintained colleges.
The air-conditioning may be too cold, or the radiator may not be working after three terms of dormancy. Where once you could do without your reading glasses and yet sit right at the back of the tiny classroom, now you peer into a white screen, not knowing to listen or to copy the unending rows of words and diagrams.
A large college lecture class may not be the best way you learn. Neither will it provide all that you need to learn. It does, however, give you the framework for the course you are taking, so you need to attend every one of them, and garner as much knowledge as you can from them.
1. Be prepared for class.
Sleep early the night before a morning lecture, or take a short nap before the afternoon lecture, especially when it is just after lunch. Where possible, look up the references and lesson notes that accompany the course lecture outline given. You can then gauge what you are not familiar with and craft questions that you might want to ask the lecturer.
2. Be physically and mentally present during the lecture.
Whenever possible, sit right in front, in the first row. You are less tempted to look elsewhere except at the lecturer and his presentations. You are also less likely to doze off or be left without a handout that are usually passed from the front rows. If you need to, take a cup of coffee or black tea before the lecture, and bring in a few hard sweets to suck during the lecture.
3. Be prepared to listen.
Listen as if you are the only person the lecturer is teaching. He is more likely to entertain your questions on a one-on-one basis or tend to your emails if you are serious about his lecture. Listen with care. If you have a problem taking notes, ask the lecturer if he would allow you to make a record of his presentation. Even if you are recording the session, make sure that you are taking notes along the way. You might even find lectures posted by the lecturer on the Internet or the college intranet.
4. Be an active listener.
Active listening does not mean just copying every word that is coughed out by the lecturer or memorizing what is said. It means being able to interpret what is being said and understand it in the right context. It means being able to identify what you are not sure of, and asking the lecturer questions to verify what is being said. It means being able to synthesize new ideas and information you are hearing with what you already know, and strengthening what is already in you.
5. Learn to take notes.
Note-taking does not mean writing word for word what is being said. It means being able to pick out the important ideas being presented and recording it in a legible form you can decipher subsequently. It means the ability to link all that is being said to key common ideas. It means learning or owning a set of abbreviations to help you write down the words you hear. Active note-taking includes skills such as outlining, mind-mapping, and any other skills that help you make sense of what is being presented to you. Note-taking is an important life skill worth investing time to pick up.
6. Ask and answer questions.
Lectures are not meant to be a one way delivery. That being said, lectures, however, differ from tutorials in the sense that the lecturer has the right of way in how he wants to conduct them. Most experienced lecturers will feel comfortable enough to pause and allow a question here and there that would not disrupt the flow of thoughts. They will know how to steer the conversations towards their key intent. Some lecturers love some interaction from the audience and would ask questions along the way. You do not need
7. Revise your notes.
Notes are taken to help you learn. They should not be white elephants that you accumulate over the course and subsequently take to the recycling center. If you cannot make head or tail of what you have taken notes for, it means you have wasted the lecture. It also means that you truly do not understand the lecture. That being the case, you should seek out the help of the professor or your tutor to make sure that you understand the lecture.
8. A note for those with Special Needs.
Make it known to your college administrators that you have special needs. You have the right to all the help you can get to succeed at college since you have indeed ventured so far.
Take a large college lecture class as a different mode of learning, a way of learning in a large community, and enjoy it every step of the way. When you learn to be bold in a large group and focus on the important, you have learnt, and it is this learning style that will put you in good standing in a world where the mass is the focus.