Professors study online learning and its effects on students during the pandemic
When the pandemic forced college students to study from home, Sinjini Mitra and Denise Stanley sought to understand the impact virtual learning would have on students’ college experience, performance, and future learning preferences. on line.
Some of the results were surprising. While many focused on the lack of technology and Wi-Fi issues, the researchers found that lack of privacy and space were at the root of students’ concerns. In fact, 62% of nearly 300 respondents to two surveys conducted in spring 2021 and fall 2020 listed privacy as one of their top concerns.
“There was an overlap of family issues and the need for a quiet space to attend classes, study and read,” said Stanley, an economics professor. “Of the students we surveyed, the average number of people living in a household was four. And if everyone was crammed in, trying to connect to the internet for work or class or taking care of the kids, it was hard for students to concentrate. Also, not all families necessarily have strong internet access from home.
“I think the university has done an amazing job getting laptops, MiFis, and student assistance,” said Mitra, a professor of information systems and decision sciences. “Only 4% to 5% called technology issues a problem. There is no doubt that the university’s efforts have helped to make technical issues less of a problem.
Because so many early studies focused on how the pandemic was affecting K-12 students, professors wanted to focus on what was happening with the students.
“I had taught online classes before the pandemic and looked at the differences between why some students chose online learning over face-to-face learning,” Mitra said. “However, when the pandemic hit, students had no choice. We wanted to see what was going to happen. We also wondered if this would change student preferences in the future.
That said, the researchers were aware that since students had no choice, it could also affect their perception of learning.
“Some students had never taken an online course before,” Mitra said. “At first they looked terrified, but we saw some preferences change over time. Some students who didn’t like online learning before started to prefer it.
These changes tended to reflect students’ online experiences. While they had a negative experience measured by questions related to access to a safe and quiet space to attend classes, take online exams, and the number of people in their household, they were not as likely to plan to enroll in online programs in upcoming semesters. . Conversely, if they had a positive experience, they were more likely to consider online options.
Underrepresented students had a statistically significant percentage who identified “a lack of library and study spaces as an academic challenge” and who identified “a physical health issue as a personal experience during COVID.”
Students had opinions on synchronous lessons (lessons delivered in real time) and asynchronous online lessons (lessons recorded and viewable outside of class hours). “The survey data was mixed when it comes to the style of online courses students want for the future; 35% preferred synchronous while 42% preferred asynchronous (the rest indicating no preference). Personal conversations with professors have suggested some benefits of the synchronous Zoom courses taken.
“I think they felt closer to their classmates because there was more real-time access to each other,” Mitra said, while describing some of her own interactions with enrolled students. to her classes in fall 2020 and spring 2021. “The synchronous classes felt closer to the in-person experience and gave them more ability to connect with each other and with their teachers.
“We’re seeing enrollment increasing in online courses,” Mitra said. “People are more comfortable with technology and online teaching has improved with more videos, additional materials, resources and tools. People also like the ease of online programs – no traffic jams, searching for parking, paying for gas and meals away from home. Such stresses can also impact learning.
“I think we are now in a period of transition with universities offering courses in person and online to better meet the needs of students. For those who still face privacy issues during online classes due to lack of space, we may consider developing spaces on campus for them to take online classes. We will also need to continue to develop spaces on campus to meet the needs of online students who may be struggling by providing additional online tutoring and support.
Mitra and Stanley plan to continue their research and conduct a new survey to see how attitudes change over the coming year.