Getting the Most out of Online Lectures

 Large lectures are sometimes delivered online as part of a programme involving a range of different learning environments. It may be you’ve not encountered online lectures before, or that you have questions about how to get the most from them. The following tips and suggestions have been compiled to assist you in preparing for and engaging with the online lectures on your course.

This guidance is focused on lectures that will be delivered synchronously (live) online through Blackboard Collaborate as part of the timetabled activities on your course. You may also be using asynchronous (pre-recorded) content as part of your studies, or be revisiting recordings from your live lectures. We have additional guidance and tips on how to use lecture recordings and online communication that you may find useful.

How can I prepare in advance?
  • As with a face-to-face lecture in a lecture theatre, you should always be prepared for the hour that lies ahead. Have you got stationery to hand? Ensure you’re fully equipped with all the necessary stationery (at the very minimum a pen and paper), a working internet connection, and any additional technology needed to watch the lecture.
  • Make sure you’re caught up on previous lectures - it may be tempting to skip ahead but doing so puts you at risk of missing vital information.
  • It’s better to use a laptop or tablet if possible, so that the screen is big enough for you to see detail without straining your eyes. If you don’t have access to either a computer or a tablet, speak with your department as soon as possible.
Timing is of the essence
  • For lectures delivered synchronously (with recordings released afterwards), try to attend at the scheduled live time if you can. That way, the lecture has your full attention and you’ll get the information you need. Also, you’ll be able to participate in any interactive content.
  • Create a timetable to keep you on track with all of your study commitments each week. You might find the 301 Time Management resources useful, where you can find tips and tricks to overcome procrastination, a weekly planner and more.
Your environment matters
  • Choose a workspace which is free from distractions as much as possible.
  • It’s important to form clear boundaries between your workspace and the space you relax in. If possible, don’t study in bed, and use a desk or table to set up a dedicated workspace.
  • You should be comfortable when watching the lectures (but not so comfortable that you fall asleep!). Keep the room at a reasonable temperature and ensure that the position you’re sat in isn’t causing any unnecessary strain on your body.
Working effectively
  • Approach the online lecture as you would any lecture and take notes as you normally would. Don’t rely on being able to watch the lecture back. There are specific note-taking strategies that you might want to try, such as the Cornell Method. Take a look at our note taking guidance and resources.
  • The best way to take notes is to summarise or paraphrase what the lecturer is saying, rather than writing things down word-for-word.
  • Revise the notes after the lecture to make sure you’ve understood the core concepts. If you feel like you’ve missed something, and are able to, you can revisit the lecture (a few days later), but there’s no need to watch the whole thing again.
  • Be prepared to concentrate on the lecture for its entirety. If you’re easily distracted by technology, you can take advantage of notification blockers on your phone, and extensions which block websites on your computer browser. It’s extremely normal to procrastinate, but don’t fear! Our video on Beating Procrastination may give you the boost needed to stay focused.

What if I get stuck?
  • As a first step, rewatch the relevant parts of the lecture (if possible) to see if there is anything you might have missed the first time through.
  • Your lecturers are likely to have office hours, or an email contact for you to arrange a suitable time to discuss anything from the lectures. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have questions.
  • Use discussion boards or other peer learning groups and activities. This is a good way to forge relationships with other students on your course, and allows you to bounce ideas off peers to strengthen your understanding.
You get out what you put in
  • Even in the online learning context, try to participate as much as you would normally do. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask the lecturer. Do they welcome questions as they go along? Will they make space for questions and answers at the end of the session? It may take a bit of time to get used to the style of online lectures, but try not to let this put you off asking questions. It’s most likely that the question you’re thinking about is in the heads of other students too!
  • The thought of using the microphone to ask questions to the lecturer can be daunting. However, Blackboard Collaborate has an in-built chat function to type out comments and questions, meaning you’re not obligated to use the microphone if you feel uncomfortable or there is background noise in your study space.
  • By using the chat function, you will also encourage other students to join in the conversation. This is a great way to network with your peers and have meaningful discussions about the module.
Useful Resources

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