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Student Disengagement Has Soared Since the Pandemic. Here’s What Lectures Look Like Now

Student Disengagement Has Soared Since the Pandemic. Here’s What Lectures Look Like Now


Jeffrey R. Young
December 13, 2022
SAN MARCOS, Texas — As a digital media course got underway on a recent Wednesday at Texas State University, a trickle of students took their seats in one of the largest lecture theaters on campus. On paper, this was a huge class, with about 220 students registered.
But there was not much buzz of activity as the class settled in. Only around 60 students showed up. And they were scattered in clumps around the vast room.
I visited this campus to get a sense of what college classes feel like now that COVID is more under control, and just about all colleges are fully back in person. That’s after years of pandemic disruptions where classes couldn’t be held in person, and teaching was forced online for long periods, in an era many students refer to as Zoom University.
My goal in flying down to Texas State was to find out, what do college classes look and feel like now—especially in large lectures like this one?
We’ve been hearing that things are different these days in lecture classes like this. That students are more distracted than ever by their devices—the laptops, smartphones and iPads that just about everyone in this class has out on their desks. But it’s more than that. Some professors around the country are reporting that students just don’t seem as into their classes since the pandemic, or maybe that they’re not convinced that this ritual of lecture is worth doing at all.
And so the stakes are huge, because the concern is that maybe the social contract between students and professors is kind of breaking down. Do students believe that all this college lecturing is worth hearing?
Or, will this moment force a change in the way college teaching is done?
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