Over the past two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with Maureen Cochran (Director of Student Affairs Assessment) and Erin Mulvey (Transfer Transitions Coordinator) among others, as we researched, designed, and launched a survey to understand students’ current experiences with remote learning.
Survey Design & Response Rate
We sent the Remote Learning Experience survey invitation to Corvallis and Cascade campus undergraduates on April 23rd. Having reviewed sample surveys (HEDS COVID-10 Institutional Response Student Survey and Educause DIY Survey kit), we developed a set of questions you can preview through this link. The survey was designed to be quick to encourage completion. We also wanted analysis to be manageable, as we have used responses to reach out to students who are struggling. By the survey’s close on April 29th, 2892 students on the Corvallis campus had answered at least 75% of the survey–an overall completion rate of 16.29%. This low response rate should be taken into consideration when interpreting findings.
Academic Themes from the Survey
For brevity, I want to share just a few things from my experience working with the data. Given the lens from which I work, you’re going to read a particularly academic focus.
I coded open-ended responses to the question: “What would improve your learning experience in your spring term courses?” The responses reflect what many university students are likely experiencing given the reality of a sudden adjustment to remote delivery. I’d like to highlight two themes and takeaways that I’ve found applicable to my work in and out of the classroom.
Themes & Takeaways
Theme #1: Students are experiencing an increase in assignments, lectures, videos, and readings and are feeling overwhelmed by the workload compared to previous terms. Some students feel that perhaps instructors think they have more time now when, in reality, their workload has increased dramatically and many factors make it harder to complete work.
Take-away: It’s worth revisiting my expectations (of myself, staff, student staff, and students) keeping in mind the backdrop of the pandemic. These are challenging and stressful circumstances. It is hard to stay focused and work efficiently, and screen fatigue has a tangible physical impact. Students shouldn’t need to name why they are stressed or apologize for feeling overwhelmed. At the ASC, each of our team leads is checking in with student staff—do they want more hours? Do they need fewer? In my own work, I’m asking, how can I demonstrate empathy and understanding in the current situation?
Theme #2: Students expressed a desire for course consistency and organization that would help them plan and create routine. A predictable rhythm, clear expectations for assignments, increased access to instructors, and coursework posted earlier were among the “asks.”
Take-away: Previously, I considered myself very organized (although don’t look at my desk). And yet, I am challenged by the shift to navigate all communication, information, and interactions through a single device. I can use what I know helps me stay organized to help students. For example, I can send updates once a week in the form of a digest. I can be generous with deadlines and offer structure and reminders to support their process. I can adapt communication to help students understand the focus of the message (what is different and important) and any actions needed (what they should do).
As we begin planning for summer and fall, we have a chance to plan service delivery with a bit more leisure and intentionality. Even a return to in-person delivery for fall will be different than in the past. This creates another new learning environment and transition for students. I hope to honor the voices and perspectives captured in this survey as we address future delivery of our services and coursework.
Knowing the findings from the survey can help the OSU community better support students, we have disseminated survey information through a few avenues. Survey information is for internal use only. A PDF on Box provides a high level summary of responses as well as coded themes from open-ended questions. Please contact Maureen Cochran for access.