In May 2020, Saint Anselm College distributed a survey to the students to collect information on their experiences in light of the pandemic. Students were asked questions about remote instruction, the college’s response to the pandemic, general questions about their experiences learning remotely, and questions about their various concerns and general well-being. 612 students responded for a response rate of 31%.
Overall, our analysis found a great deal of consistency in student responses meaning that many students were feeling the same during this time of isolation. In general, students found remote instruction challenging but appreciated the effort put forth by the faculty, staff, and administration. Most importantly these findings from the survey will help guide our planning for the fall semester.
A selection of general findings are listed below:
- Students strongly preferred in-person learning to remote learning, but some methods of instruction worked better than others: 75% of students reported Canvas modules grouped by week worked best while 35% of students stated the exclusive use of email did not work well. 61% of students felt Zoom worked well while 30% reported that it did not work well. In general, key factors for students in their remote learning experience were an organized and accessible instructor.
- Students reported the ability to work at their own pace to be a benefit to online learning but also reported a number of learning and technology-related challenges in the transition to remote instruction:
- Challenges to Learning: 78% of students preferred face to face instruction over remote learning; 72% reported difficulties focusing and paying attention, and 65% had difficulty structuring their days; 68% perceived the workload to increase in remote instruction; 63% found it challenging to find an appropriate space/location to work; 71% struggled with the personal motivation to complete coursework; 60% reported that some or all of their courses did not translate well to remote instruction; and, 55% expressed that their instructors’ expectations regarding assignments were unclear.
- Challenges with Technology: 56% of students reported their instructor’s discomfort or lack of familiarity with technology/applications, and 32% of students reported their own discomfort or lack of familiarity with technology. 41% reported a lack of access to reliable internet, and 37% had inadequate digital replacements for face to face collaboration tools (e.g., whiteboards).
Instruction (these responses pertain specifically to the course instructor):
- While students experienced learning and technology challenges, students appreciated how their professors handled the transition to remote learning and the support they received from their faculty and the administration. Specifically, students either agreed or strongly agreed that instructors were available to answer their questions (82%); instructors were active and engaged with students (63%); there were adequate opportunities to interact online with instructors (61%); that instructors altered instructional methods (59%); and, instructors really knew them (54%).
- Overall most students felt that the college response was appropriate, timely, and thoughtful, and appreciated that Saint Anselm took time to decide to close. Students specifically mentioned as helpful when hearing directly from the President, the pass/no pass policy, and the Anselmian Relief Fund.
Stress and Worries:
- 93% of students reported feeling some or a great deal of stress about the potential consequences of the spread of COVID-19. Their biggest concerns were about doing well in college and about losing friendships and social connections once classes were online. Other concerns expressed were: returning to online instruction in the fall, financial concerns related to tuition in the current economy, GPA to maintain scholarships, and health-related concerns related to complications brought about by the pandemic.
- In response to the open-ended question “What are your biggest worries or concerns as you think about what’s coming up in the next few months?” by far, the most common response was being able to return to the campus in the fall.
Multiple scenario planning teams are planning for the fall including those that pertain to technology, health and safety, residential life, and academics. For more information, please visit: https://www.anselm.edu/news/college-announces-plans-fall-2020
Specifically, with regard to academics, the college plans to return to on-ground instruction in the fall; however, on-ground will look different. For example, many courses will have hybrid components and some large lectures will be videoed and viewed remotely. To plan for the fall, a team of faculty and administrators have created an online course to instruct faculty on how to shift their courses to hybrid, flipped, or fully online courses. Faculty are working diligently over the summer to ensure that the quality of the Anselmian classroom experience translates to the online learning environment. Faculty plan to offer approximately 25%-30% of fall courses online, with the intention of bringing the same level of individualized instruction and flexibility, exchange, and feedback to the digital setting as students have come to expect on ground. Lastly, the department of Information Technology is working with faculty over the summer to support their hardware and software needs.