Yesterday I had by far the most interesting lecture this spring. The odd thing about it was that it was in a course that has been really boring. It’s a compulsory course on the theory of computation (it even sounds boring, doesn’t it), so I can’t flunk it even if I wanted to. I’ve attended the lectures and tried to do the exercises, but everything seems to go into one ear and come out the other, and I don’t understand anything. So either the topic is too difficult or I’m just too stupid.
But then it happened. I’ve got two friends doing this course as well, and they had more or less the same problem. In mid-course (about two weeks ago) we decided to really sit down and thoroughly look at the exercises together. I say goddamn! I’ve learned more during these two-three times we’ve met than during the whole of last semester. Just sitting down discussing the problems and sharing thoughts and ideas helps a lot. And if you even manage to explain some thing to your friend, then you really know that you’ve learned it well. So, when I attended the lecture yesterday, I actually understood what the lecturer said and as a matter of fact, it was really interesting!
This, of course, is a well known fact and doing homework together with friends isn’t a new thing even for me. But the studies at my department don’t really invite to collaborating with your friends. This is, however, changing now with the Bologna process and everything. But basically, the students are thrown in and expected to manage on their own. Yes, yes, we are grown up people and are supposed to already know how we best learn new things and act properly thereafter, but it just doesn’t work that way. Maybe some people get this kind of revelation in elementary school or at least in upper secondary school, but I’m betting that most of us don’t, and that’s a pity.
So, how to fix the problem (this is a thing that I and my friend P have been thinking about over a beer or three some time ago):
- New student’s should be given a prepared schedule for the first year. They all have the same courses anyway, but the system now makes it possible to do the courses at different times or at a different pace. Having courses together during a whole year forces the students to get to know each other (if they don’t have any friends from before).
- Exercise groups could even be precompiled, so that the same students always were in the same group.
- The exercises could be arranged as small projects done in study circles (this is a buzzword at the dept nowadays), but the students shouldn’t be forced to join a study circle. The language is another problem.
- If there were enough Swedish speaking students, an exercise group could be arranged only for them, since it’s easier to share thoughts and ideas in your own language.
That’s pretty much it. Of course, the best thing would be to hook up with some friends and internally decide to do the same courses and exercises togheter. Doing things with others makes you want to contribute with something. My friend F called this the “collective kick in the ass”. I’ve been kicked.