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Feb 21 2016
by Beth Abbott

8 Things That Only Happen in Large Lecture Classes

By Beth Abbott - Feb 21 2016

Large lecture classes. Sometimes they're the dreaded menace that you stress about all week, and sometimes they're your best friend. I had smaller classes the first semester (no more than 100 students), so I thought that Art History would be a piece of cake this semester. But it turns out that a 220 person lecture class is an entirely different animal. Here are the 7 things that only happen in a ridiculously large lecture class:

1. The majority of the class surfs the internet instead of taking notes.

Since a nap isn't an option, everybody who doesn't feel like paying attention in class fools around on the internet.  The most popular activities seem to be catching up on politics and taking quizzes on BuzzFeed.

2. People text in class.

The one good thing about this large of a class: the TA's can't keep track of what everyone is doing all the time. So you're pretty much free to text, but if the ringer goes off, get ready to endure humiliation.  Last week in lecture, somebody's phone blared the Star Wars theme, and the professor called him out.  So text away, as long as you keep an eye out for a nosy TA and put your phone on silent.

3. The professor will occasionally ask a question and actually expect someone to answer.

When this happens, everyone looks at the teacher like they're crazy, and then they stare down at the floor until someone is uncomfortable enough with the silence to muster up an answer. I've seen this awkward silence go on for more than a full minute at a time.

4. The professor will occasionally look around the room at least a few times per class to catch students not taking notes.

When not taking notes, you have to look up at least once every fifteen minutes or so to make sure you don't get caught by the professor. Sometimes, when they're feeling extra crabby, they like to embarrass those who aren't paying attention. Trust me when I say it is not fun, because a few weeks ago, when my professor caught someone viewing a Youtube video featuring half-naked athletes, she sent the link to her computer and played on the projector.  I think it's needless to say that the student in question fled the scene.

5. When the professor loses their cool factor by tightening the reins.

It's the worst feeling in the world when the professor who you thought was going to be totally cool is actually not. The worst kind of thing they can do is assign more than 100 pages of reading—we have lives outside the classroom besides doing readings for homework, you know.

6. When the room is extra crowded, it becomes insufferably stuffy.

220 students + being packed into the room like sardines = CLAUSTROPHOBIA.

7. There is a variety of reactions when people take an in-class exam.

There are always those people who are prepared and tackle the exams with enthusiasm, those who suddenly blanked and are freaking out as a result, and the ones who just have no idea what is going on. It's a good distraction to look around if you're done or stuck on a question to see how other people are reacting.

8. And when the class is finally over, you bolt out of there as fast as you can.

75 minutes is just too long (and if you have a 3 hour lab, may the force be with you).

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Beth Abbott - Barnard College

Beth Abbott is a freshman at Barnard College majoring in History. She writes historical/science fiction, and enjoys traveling, reading, photography, and watching ice hockey in her free time. You can check her out on Facebook.

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