One bar of WiFi and no space to take notes: What it’s like to have lectures in a church
‘Why am I paying fees to sit in a crowded church where I can’t see the screen?’
There is a notion that you can never know what to expect when starting university and, after discovering most of my lectures to be in an actual functioning church, I have found there is more than just a grain of truth to this idea.
Amongst the nervous excitement of reading through my first uni timetable there was a hint of confusion when I found Wellington Church to be the host of the vast majority of my lectures. Surely that couldn’t be right. A church and a lecture theatre aren’t exactly similar in nature or design. Alas, for the last two weeks, I’ve found myself note-taking in Jesus’ gaff. Here is what it is like:
First of all, Wellington Church is an objectively beautiful building. Built in 1884, it fits the university’s aesthetic incredibly well and is far more visually appealing than some of the more modern buildings on campus.
When asking for my classmates’ opinions on the church for this piece, one stated: “I honestly loved it the first day. It’s a beautiful and historic building – which is what I’d expect from an old uni like Glasgow.”
There is something quite mesmerising about its architecture and it is fascinating to ponder the church’s past and the vast array of people that must have passed through its doors throughout its 138-year history.
“It was cute for the first lecture,” said another student.
However, they then went on to say: “But it’s very impractical.”
This was the consensus I gathered. The quaint appeal of the church quickly wears off.
As one of my classmates stated: “It’s not exactly the best environment for learning”
I think you can safely state that the church’s founding congregations did not envision this eventuality when the building first opened over 130 years ago without it being labelled as baseless conjecture. The occasional bible found perched upon the pews serves as a reminder of its intended purpose – as a place of worship. As a result, the church lacks many basic fundamentals you would expect from a learning space.
The sheer size of the building makes it difficult to hear at times if you are sat nearer the back. Despite the best efforts of the lecturers, getting sound to carry throughout the church’s cauldron-esque interior is an onerous task.
Visibility is also an issue. The church’s imposing pillars obstruct the viewing of those at the back and the view from large portions of the galleries upstairs leaves a lot to be desired. Considering the importance of lecture slides in contextualising a lecture’s content this can’t be acceptable?
One student asked: “Why am I paying fees to sit in a crowded church where I can’t see the screen?”
The church also has the fun distinction of being the only place on campus without WiFi. Well maybe not no WiFi, the one singular available bar of Eduroam extension means you can experience what it must have been like to use the internet when it first emerged in the 80s.
In an increasingly digital age, Wi-Fi access is almost something that we have become accustomed to expect. Its omission from the space is somewhat unsurprising when the building is viewed for what it is. However, when it’s expected to assume the identity of an educational setting this is a tad disappointing.
Perhaps the church’s biggest downfall though is an obvious one, the pews are not designed for note taking. They are simply too small to accommodate either modern (laptop, a concept the building’s architects would not have been able to comprehend) or old-school (notepad, an invention the church predates by almost 20 years) methods of note taking.
The shortcomings of the church as a lecture space were fully exposed in my politics lecture last Thursday. From where I was sat, the visibility of the lecture slides was limited and the noise from the lecturer’s mic didn’t quite fully carry over – two staples of the church lecture experience. I readied myself for a long hour – dominated by a fear of missing potentially important content – little did I know about what was to come.
Within the first twenty minutes, the lecture had descended into chaos. The shrill shriek of feedback, interspersed with the occasional Microsoft Teams notification coming through from his computer at deafening volumes for good measure, dominated Dr Robert Liñeira’s introduction to the question of “What is the state?”. After about ten minutes, both his mic and PowerPoint concluded that they had had enough – dying off in quick succession like some sort of digital play on Romeo and Juliet.
The next ten minutes must have felt like a lifetime to him as a church full of 300 confused politics students observed him fighting a losing battle against modern technology in a vain attempt to get the show back on the road. As time drew nearer to the half hour mark, his microphone experienced a resurrection and the professor proceeded to continue his talk from where he had left off as if nothing had happened.
What a King.
However, his mic seemed a lot quieter than the (already low) level it was at originally and the computer remained defiantly on the blink until the lecture itself had almost reached its end.
All in all, a bit of a shambles.
This ordeal served as a reminder that Wellington Church is not only impractical for students, but also for lecturers. After years of operating in purpose-built spaces it must be disconcerting to bring your work to a completely alien environment. Dr Robert Liñeira, if you see this, you are an absolute trooper for powering through.