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I’m sure that in each one of your high school classes attendance is taken every day. I’m also fairly certain that there are consequences for unexplained absences and it is typical for your parents to be informed of your attendance patterns. This is dramatically different from university where your presence in class is not as closely monitored, if at all. Beyond this, you will never be scolded and your parents will never be contacted if you decide to miss a class here and there. Needless to say, it is very easy to skip your undergraduate classes without immediate consequences. Don’t be fooled though, there is a negative side to cutting class. The problem in university is that these consequences only become known to you at the most stressful moments; exam and assignment time.

Why go to class when the lecture slides are online?

When you go to university, you will be treated as an adult. Professors/TAs will not interfere with your choice to attend/not attend class. This lack of intervention can make the decision to miss class easy or even justifiable. The logic is often based on the way that some university classes are structured, particularly when course material is available online. 

It is becoming increasingly common for professors/TAs to post their lecture slides on easily accessible web platforms. Because lecture slides are posted online, many students assume that their physical presence in lecture is unnecessary. “Why should I go to class when I can just get all the lecture slides online?” This is a pervasive idea that seems fine in the moment, but it often has unfavourable results. It is important for you to know that going to class is essential for doing well in university, irrespective of whether the course material is posted online. There are a few reasons as to why this is the case:

Essential course content

I can tell you with certainty that every university instructor puts a lot of time into preparing their lectures. Much of the content they plan to discuss never makes onto their slides. This means that students in attendance will be rewarded simply for their presence. Not to mention, it is almost inevitable that professors/TAs will drop hints, not appearing on their lecture slides, which will help you to do well in the course.

In addition to all of the above, you should know that lecture slides will typically only contain basic information that professors plan to elaborate in class. If you plan on being an elite-level student, this is the kind of stuff you’ll want to know. As a general rule, just remember that any material that is posted online is usually meant to complement an instructor’s live lectures, not replace them.

In-person questions

When you’re encountering course content for the first time, it is natural for you to develop questions. You may even need some clarification on some issues. Based on my experience, most professors will answer common questions in class, which is why you should be there.

Assuming that everything you will need for the course will appear in digital form also has other implications. I find that many students believe that all of their questions can be answered via email. However, I’m confident that asking your professor for feedback to a question that requires a long response will not get you the complete answer you’re looking for. For professors, these kinds of emails add up to a significant amount of time that they are typically reluctant to give, at least consistently. So keep in mind, if you’d like a thorough response to a question, try to get it in-person.

In comparison to high school, it is much easier for students to miss class in university. In an academic environment where course information and lecture slides are often made available online, students sometimes feel justified in their decision to miss lectures. But, it is important for you to know that attending classes is essential to doing well in university. There is a reason that university lectures still exist and it should be known that not all essential course content can be found online.