Professors: Post your lecture slides

Sloan Wyatt

Access to lecture material is an essential tool for clarification and cross-reference. Uploading lecture material post-class prevents anxiety about missing key aspects of the lecture because the professor went too fast or because the student could not write notes fast enough. While some professors already post material slideshows or outlines, UT should encourage all professors to follow suit. 

One of my journalism professors, Tracy Dahlby, avoids posting his slides. He argues that posting lecture materials creates a passive learner and can create a sense of false security and dependency, discouraging students in the class to take notes. 

By withholding the slideshows, Dahlby has eliminated this safety net. “Digital technology, as great as it is, can be our greatest enemy,” Dahlby said. “Students are best served by learning to take good notes in real time.”  

However, students accustomed to using laptops during lecture may not be able to keep up with the professor while taking handwritten notes. This proves a problem when students look back on their notes to study and don’t have all the information needed for the test. Having online lecture slides to reference would provide the necessary background information missed in lecture. 

Another concern many professors have about publishing lecture slides is that it will discourage attendance. Ideally, presentation slides should not outline the entire lecture. The topics and examples presented on the lecture slides serve as a reminder for professors when they are teaching and for students later when studying. If a student truly wants to succeed in the class, they will still show up because the lecture slides are not a substitute for the lecture. Posting lecture slides will only benefit proactive students who study class material on their own time and in addition to their class notes. 

George Pollak, a College of Natural Science neuroscience professor, uploads a short video after every lecture and still maintains a decent attendance because the uploaded material is not a substitute for his lecture, but rather an additional resource. He adopted his flipped classroom format from watching other professors’ lectures. “What impressed me was the idea that the lecture would be filmed so that students could review — at their leisure — each of the points made in lecture, rather than having to write each point down in a flurry so as not to miss the next point,” Pollak said. His format includes a short movie of highlights from each lecture with narration added to the slides. 

Professors, such as Dahlby, who are still hesitant to release material should still consider releasing an outline of the material covered during class. Outlines still require students to take notes but also create a framework of reference for students who have attended class and taken notes. 

Radio-television-film associate professor Wenhong Chen posts all of her slides from her Introduction to Media and Entertainment Industries class to Canvas. “I feel that students’ job in the classroom is not to take notes,” Chen said. “Their job is to listen and react.” Chen believes that posting slides enhance students’ learning because it allows them to focus on staying engaged. She utilizes this practice with all of her classes. 

Professors should make their lecture material accessible to students post-class. It does not have to be a full slideshow or video — every professor can find what fits their class best. Regardless, all UT professors should consider optimizing students’ learning experience outside of the classroom, and provide lecture slides or outlines. 

Wyatt is a journalism freshman from Atlanta, Georgia.