Home » Gedi2018-Grad 5114 » Shhh…! Students Are Sleeping!

Shhh…! Students Are Sleeping!

As a student, I am conscious and excited the first half an hour (maximum :D) of the lecture classes. After that, my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of the past or future plans. Although I am staring at the professor, my mind is somewhere else. At the same time when I look around, I see at least three to four of students are sleeping.  Does this happen to you?

I know digital technologies cannot be incorporated into all type of classes and we need to have some sort of lectures in my major, Civil engineering. But the most important point that we should keep in our mind as future professors or instructors is to know “Lectures are good for information transfer. In fact, lectures, while effective at covering material, are terrible for information transfer from the student’s point of view. 1” Covering materials are required, but there I no guarantee that students have learned anything. The instructor must be aware of the relationship between the length of the average lecture and the average human being’s attention span1. Otherwise, the students –like me- start thinking about irrelevant topics or fall asleep. How can we keep students more actively involved in the class?

How about using the learner-centered process such as active learning? Do you think students will fall asleep during the active-learning activities?

Nowadays, Active learning is changed to one of those academic buzzwords “whose meaning has been dulled from overuse. 2” The main concept of active learning defines as a learner-centered process, such as using digital technologies, in which students become more actively involved in pedagogies that feature teamwork and problem-solving. However, many researchers assert that using digital technologies as a tool for active learning will be more distractive than a gateway to learning.  I somewhat agree with this assertion. I am TA for a class of ~100 students, and there is no voice when I enter the class every Tuesdays and Thursdays because everyone is silently busy with their laptops and cellphones. This is a tragic scene! They do not use the unique opportunity to “exchange ideas and thoughts and develop the ability to communicate with a variety of people. 3” the professor, who advocates the destructive effect of digital technologies on student learning, come to class every session and ask the students to silent and stow away their cellphones, tablets, and laptops during class meetings. Then an hour lecture starts, and after 15 minutes, most of the students fall asleep.

Thus, It seems both digital technologies and teacher-oriented system featuring lectures are negatively impacting the learning experience for students and educators to some degree.

John Warner3 well said: that instructors must see themselves as “more of a catalyst for learning, rather than a conduit of information. 3” So, they must aim for balance by combining lecture and active learning together to produce as rich a learning environment.




1- (http://www.chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines/2012/02/13/four-things-lecture-is-good-for/)

2- (https://www.chronicle.com/article/Setting-Students-Minds-on/126592)

3- (https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/01/24/578437957/laptops-and-phones-in-the-classroom-yea-nay-or-a-third-way

9 Responses so far.

  1. Yan says:

    Very interesting and inspiring blog! Thanks, Sogand! It is very common that a few students fall asleep during classes, especially when the lecture is poorly designed. I feel like that digital technologies can sometimes be very helpful to assist my understanding of new concepts/words during a lecture-based class. It is necessary for the lecturers to design some student-centered teaching methods, which incorporate the reasonable usage of digital technology.

  2. Stephen T-N says:

    I found this to be very interesting and VERY true. Students especially undergraduate students by-in-large do not respond well to lengthy lectures and will tend to drift out of focus or even fall asleep. You mention you TA for a class of 100…I personally think that the class size is partly the issue because it is easier for someone to become distracted in a larger crowd of people. I don’t believe to have the solution to this issue of students becoming distracted during lectures because as much I would like to avoid the “banking model” frame of learning, I think that at some points it is necessary to convey the message needed for students to be successful. It’s a difficult task for sure….

  3. Ashley Carter says:

    Thank you for your post! This generation of undergraduate students are particularly unique because they are attached to their cellphones and laptops all the time. They (& others after them) are being brought up in a time in which personal interaction and face-to-face conversation is becoming less and less “normal”. I agree to an extent with the point that you mention of technology being more of a distraction in the classroom than a help. I think professors just need to find a way to properly utilize it more with their students. While I personally think technology can be a help, I also agree that students should engage with each other in the classroom. Especially now a days since graduate school is becoming a requirement for many students and they won’t know how to function and engage in critical thinking and learning.

  4. Jyotsana Sharma says:

    What a picture! I hope none of my students ever do that. I think you bring up some good points about active learning for sure. I was in a class today in which we workshopped our purpose statements and research questions (and even though I had not done all my readings…) and it was super! I got involved because its my research, I got invested for the same reason, and utilized the expertise of my professor and my colleagues AND my laptop. They all played a part in making class successful and learner-centered for me today. I think that is the kind of learning I’d like to happen in my classes. The answer to the “how” is key

  5. erinleighvt says:

    First, I really like your title! It is really sad that students (or their parents) spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on an education that they often sleep through. I won’t lie, I have dozed off in a few classes before (even in graduate school), so I can’t be too harsh about it. But, when I reflect on the classes that I got sleepy in vs. the classes I looked forward to and never felt tired in (regardless of the class time), it is very apparent to me that the way the material was being relayed played a major roll. The “sleepy” classes were all lecture format, where the professor would read verbatim off the slides. The classes that kept me engaged by having activities, asking the students’ opinions etc were far more enjoyable and memorable!

  6. Tyler Quick says:

    Great post. And great picture. I’ll admit there are days when having a fake picture of myself would have helped me look more attentive. I do think it’s sad how often people are on their phones or sleeping through class. I also think it’s sad how often our teachers just talk for 50 straight minutes and expect people to listen. Engaged learning needs to be a thing we do, not just talk about. Teachers need to think of ways to teach and not just lecture, but engaged learning also puts responsibility on the students to be engaged, which means putting away the cell phones and trying to engage, not just expect people to cram information into their heads for an hour. Like so many things, we need to work together to improve the learning experience. Thanks for the points you raise. Very thought-provoking.

  7. luisab93 says:

    First, to answer your question. Yes, it definitely happened to me during my undergraduate years. I remember trying different seats (front, middle , back) to see if it helps. I began to even avoid the front because no matter how hard I tried to stay up I would still doze off and felt even more bad doing it in front of the professor. I share your opinion that we need lectures for certain classes (intro ones specially) but I do not find them effective. The ones that were more interactive had I-clicker quizzes but that was also a stress that I did not like. I work at El Centro in squires and many of the undergraduate students here in majors like mechanical engineering or CS spend their time watching other Youtube videos to relearn a subject already explained in a lecture.

  8. Allie says:

    Hi Sogand, I loved the reference to John Warner—that teachers should be catalysts of learning rather than conduits of information. Digital media seem as though they would perpetuate the practice that understands teachers to be the latter, but how do you imagine digital media helping teachers be more of a catalyst over a conduit of information?

  9. CorlH says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. I think you have accurately depicted what happens in a classroom. I think finding a balance that both engages students and promotes learning can be difficult. I think we are moving in a direction, in the United States, that requires more peer-to-peer engagement.

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