No student is as unlucky as the ones in a three-hour lecture. It’s physically impossible to listen to every word spoken out of the professor’s mouth for 180 minutes as if they’re giving the directions to the Holy Grail. I can’t imagine how the teacher feels either, having to find directions to the Holy Grail and make it last three hours.
Dr. Gregory Peek, Penn State history professor, said he prefers the three-hour block to a large 150 student lecture class. “It is not optimal,” he said. “But at least the three hour block classes are limited to 30 students.” Peek said he likes to divide up the lectures with short breaks and think of it as three one-hour classes.
“I can notice definitely by the third hour students are often tapped out and mentally spent,” Peek said. “For the third hour, I try to include other methods of instruction like class discussion, movies, music, etc. to break up the monotony. To be honest, as an instructor I am also fatigued by hour three.”
He rarely lets students out early but hopes they are more motivated to learn since they knew what they were getting themselves into when they added the class.
Junior at the University of Pittsburgh, Dayna Rose, said she could only stay awake in three-hour classes that she likes. “In my anatomy lab we are dissecting human cadavers [and] that’s really exciting for me,” Rose said. “So even if I haven’t slept, I’m able to stay awake and focus.”
Her other three hour long class is a lecture–and staying awake proves much more difficult when she’s not slicing someone’s dead body open. “Sometimes I have to take coffee breaks or bathroom breaks just to keep my eyes open,” Rose said. “For the most part, I have to struggle to continue taking notes after the first hour.”
Jordan Gaines Lewis, final-year Ph.D. student studying sleep at the Penn State College of Medicine, shares some tips on how to stay focused during long lecture hours. The first step is to get enough sleep, but for college students that’s like telling Chris Pratt to get handsomer–AKA an impossible task. “Go to bed earlier, or take a mid-day nap, if you can,” Lewis said. “Soak up the sunlight on your walk to class, it’ll tell your body it’s time to wake up.”
Lewis also suggests keeping a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. “If you have trouble sleeping at night make sure you limit your artificial light exposure at night, especially blue lights from laptops and smartphones,” Lewis said. “Don’t study in bed, it’ll make you associate your bed with stress, making it much more difficult to fall asleep.” Regular exercise and healthy eating will also help you feel energized to listen to that Holy Grail lecture ahead.