Have students and teachers become lazy?

Frank Furedi, a professor of Sociology at the University of Kent has told Times Higher Education that students no longer hold a love of reading and that digital technology not only offers a more interactive and flexible approach to learning, but could in turn be the cause for students no longer ‘reading for a degree’.

Furedi continues to explain that reading texts during a degree helps to engage the imagination and involves interpreting skills that develop throughout the degree course. Removing this aspect of studying will only harm students ability to interpret the world around them and their development of this crucial skill.

Certain teachers or departments feel that the method of having students study and read entire academic textbooks should be brought back, and that some students are not even able to complete chapters for class preparation. However, are students’ behaviour connected to laziness or feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with their course?

Furthermore, students spend more time studying independently than with their teachers or tutors which leads to feeling dissatisfied with the university experience. A survey with results from more than 15,000 full-time undergraduate students in the UK revealed that students felt less satisfied when they had class sizes of more than 50 students and had fewer than 10 hours of contact a week. On average, undergraduate students have around 12 hours of contact with their teachers and 14 hours of independent studying each week.

Students who have at least 30 hours of contact a week feel 20 per cent more satisfied than those who have fewer than 10 hours. Undergraduates with less contact felt that they weren’t receiving good value for money and were more likely to have switched courses in hindsight.

Students who were asked what they wanted from their staff responded with professional experience and training in teaching as the highest of priorities, and less than one in five students stated that having a teacher with active research as an important characteristic.

Universities are being faced with budget cuts and teachers are receiving bigger work loads, more classes and stress with the demand of higher education. These issues affect the time which staff can allocate to their students and lessons, and affect how satisfied undergraduates feel about their degree course. Lastly, with students feeling unhappy with their university experience, and spending more time in independent study than in lectures, there is no wonder that they don’t feel like reading an entire academic book that week.