Meet the guy who was the only person on his course

He had a whole King’s lecture theatre to himself


A fear that many students have is the the prospect of being called on to answer a question by a lecturer in front of the entire lecture theatre. If there are a hundred people with you, then the chances are that you’ll probably get away with not having to answer anything. For one Edinburgh student though, last year he couldn’t escape.

James, a Maths & Philosophy third year, took a course last year where he was the only student to sign up. This is what he had to say about the experience.

I’m so lonely

What was the course? It was called Maths for Music Technology.

How did it come about that you were the only one on it?

I wanted to have a chilled 2nd semester last year and my course mate had told me how she’d managed to take an outside course basically teaching A Level and 1st Year maths to people who hadn’t studied it. Upon hearing about this gold mine, I started searching for something similar and came across “Maths for Music Technology”.

I signed up without really reading the course description, thinking I’d probably just get to make music all semester with a bit of Pythagoras for 20 credits which was the dream. I went along to the first lecture and sat at the back of a big lecture theatre in Kings.

The lecturer was at the front wiping down the board and I gave him a little wave of acknowledgement, waiting for some more students to turn up. When it dawned on me that perhaps no others were going to, I headed down to the front row to somehow make it all less awkward. We got chatting and he promised that more students had signed up and would perhaps turn up to subsequent lectures so not to worry.

Why didn’t they cancel it? After two weeks we came to accept that perhaps I would be the only one taking the class, but the timeframe to change courses had passed. To be honest, given that the alternative was taking Statistics and Computing & Numerics, two 10 credit courses that seemed like a lot more work, I was happy to carry on.

Did you enjoy it? Although there was’t really any music involved, the course turned out to be pretty useful, going over loads of basic maths I’m supposed to be good at but evidently was not. By being the only one in the class, I was able to ask all and any questions and we finished the course by week 7.

Did you get on with the lecturer? The lecturer was easy going and also into music so we got on well. I spent the first half of most lectures just updating him about my angry neighbour, who kept making noise complaints and eventually managed to get my flat evicted halfway through the year (but that’s another story).

What it’d look like if he didn’t show up

What did you do if you weren’t going to show up to a lecture? I think the lecturer and I had a telepathic agreement that we’d probably only manage one or two lectures a week. At the beginning of the course he gave me his email to ask any him questions but it ended up being the easiest way to let him know that the cold I’d had last week had come back again/I was stuck in Glasgow /thought it was a Tuesday etc… and so couldn’t make it in.

Did you do well in the course? Not especially. I actually forgot the date of the exam until the night before and made a futile attempt at some revision on the morning of the exam. It was only out of 40 so when an eight mark question came up on something we hadn’t even done (worth 20 per cent of the exam!) I knew it wasn’t going to end well. In hindsight maybe I should’ve just taken some Nurofen and made a few more lectures…