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Quickpoll Results: Is maintaining attendance in remote classes challenging?

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Throughout Fall 2020 term, the Online Student Services team conducted quick polls collecting brief, anonymous student responses to learn more about their experiences in remote and online learning at PCC. The responses to this installment’s topic: “Is maintaining attendance in remote classes challenging?”

Breaking down responses was difficult, but overall,

  • 333 people indicated that No, attendance wasn’t a challenge
  • 273 people indicated that Yes, attendance was a challenge
  • 14 people responded in a way that couldn’t be categorized
A classroom with empty seats

Image by Adam Vega from Pixabay

Attendance was not a challenge

Let’s first look at the Nos. There were plenty of people who responded with a simple no, but most added some explanatory comment. So while many indicated that maintaining attendance wasn’t a challenge, they included several key observations.

Attendance wasn’t hard compared to in-person classes

Lots of people indicated that attending a Zoom lecture was far easier than having to commute to campus.

Easiest thing ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not sure if that was clear, but 1,000,000,000 times easier. Its the best thing about remote class – no driving, able to handle a few things at once, us disabled folks or folks with medical issues, this is 100% easier.

for me personally it has not been a challenge. I live typically 35-45 minutes away from either the Rock Creek campus or the Hillsboro campus so to me I am saving myself an 70-90 minutes a day in travel time.

I find it a lot easier than in person classes. I live pretty far from the campuses, so its been an amazing benefit for me to be able to attend remotely because I don’t have to worry about trying to travel to campus and potentially being late or having issues getting to school. I’ve absolutely loved having remote classes, it has made it so much easier for me to return to college.

I prefer attendance this way. It’s easier than the hassle of commuting, spending time and money just to go there. The cost of high speed internet service is 70 a month. The cost of transportation to the school is more. And I don’t want corona.

I don’t find maintaining attendance in remote classes to be challenging. I find that it is a lot easier than trying to schedule my life around a class because I can put the class in the time place that it works for me. Also, having an app on my phone makes it so convenient to check in and see what is going on in each of my classes. It is very liberating!

Recorded lectures has made it easier

Several students indicated that attendance was a non-issue in their class. This was either because it wasn’t necessary (e.g. Online classes), or they could simply watch recordings if they missed a class.

In person attendance is often challenging because of my work schedule, but the ability to combine recorded lectures with online office hours makes remote learning much more accessible for me.

Attendance is easy, motivation and engagement not so much

Many students shared the observation that attending the classes was easier.  Staying mentally focused the whole time is more challenging.

The challenging part is staying engaged during class.

Attendance is maybe the easiest part but sometimes the way it is maintained is easy to lose track of, I.e. my classes tend to require a discussion post and two responses, sometimes I’ll do the post early and do one response or none to leave it for later but then forget to do it. Wish there was another way, if we are doing the work and turning it in on time, that should be enough.

Maintaining isn’t hard, but signing in daily is. I do the work each week, and have time to do it. I have young kids that I’m now schooling and working full time, so it’s a bit rough finding time to watch 3 hour lectures these days. I sign in and do it, it’s just finding the right timing to sign in and do it.

It isn’t hard for me to go to the Zoom meetings, but it is hard to pay attention during them.

From all the comments that indicate that attendance was not a challenge, there were several caveats. I do hope we learn from our students as we start to prepare a return. Attendance itself didn’t come across as a challenge because it was far easier than the previous grind of commuting, fitting classes into family and work schedules, and the loss of time moving around. Many students clearly want a more hybrid approach to classes because it fits better into their lives, which have been thrown in to chaos.

Attendance is challenging

While the majority of students indicated that attendance wasn’t a challenge, 43% of respondents did. There were several major themes among those responses, including disliking the medium, the complications of life in COVID-19, the confusion of course organization, access to reliable technology, and more. Let’s look at some of the comments from students among these themes.

Just don’t like remote/online classes

We’ve never pretended that online is the ideal medium for everyone. Many of our students clearly agree.

I really hate zoom calls.

It’s extremely difficult. I just feel like I’m constantly overwhelmed.

It’s very challenging. I get so bored and feel so isolated.

There is twice the amount of work.

I just do not do well in online classes.

Less than ideal environment

Having spoken with many faculty and staff over the last year, I know many of you share these thoughts.

Separating school from home is almost impossible to do at this time. I feel the quality of my learning experience is greatly diminished.

It extremely challenging. My eyes hurt from being on a screen all day but I’m glad I have the opportunity to finish my education remotely.

It’s hard to manage my time and all my obligations from the same space. When I was attending school before, I had the library to do homework so I wouldn’t be so distracted at home.

Yes, only because there is a few of us going to school from home at the same time and one of us works from home. So it is difficult to find a quiet place. But it is more time efficient and comfortable to go to class from home.

Family obligations

I can certainly sympathize with these comments. It’s been a challenge to try and navigate remote work with my kids’ remote schooling. Just when you think things are humming, you learn that there are 5 missing assignments.

There were many comments about trying to navigate personal schedules with family schedules. Trying to support young learners with remote classes seems like a huge challenge.

The biggest challenge with attendance has been juggling my children’s online schooling with my schooling.

Yes, my parents do not understand that I’m not available while in classes and it causes problems when I’m supposed to participate in class.

As an essential worker the hospital is constantly low on staffing right now, on top of it I am now a kindergarten teacher. When I do make it to class I then have my 5 year old trying to talk and see what is going on. Making it in on a certain time is harder than normal because I never know what is going to happen. So thankful this term my teacher gave us the option to watch the recorded class as long as our homework gets turned in on time and we don’t fall behind.

Time Conflict

This should come as no surprise. One of the biggest draws to online learning is the ability to fit education and the work required to pay for it into life.

I have so much screen time as it is and it is a challenge to pay attention/even want to pay attention. I appreciate office hours vs class time where we can come and ask questions if we want vs a formal lecture/class time. It feels far more productive. I will no longer take classes with assigned meeting times online.

While many students’ jobs have been impacted in terms of losing work, many of us are essential employees who have actually increased in work without option. I am in management in a food industry that is allowed to stay open. Naturally, people come to us as one of the few open, so I have no option but to work more to ensure business runs smoothly as it increases.

Organization

I know organization is a theme we keep hitting on, but it’s critical for so many students.

Every class has different places for different things on D2L.

It’s absolutely awful. Everything is disorganized, teachers don’t reply in a timely manner, everything is ten times harder to remember and retain… I hate it. It’s terrible.

This is my first experience with online classes as well as being away from school for 18 years… With that being said, I have experienced, as long as the teacher had the contents page well organized you know to log in every week to see what need to be done, as it has check boxes to walk you through how much you need to do. It’s super helpful.

Yes, I feel that it’s becoming more challenging. I feel that a lot of instructors are trying to fit in so much information online that at times, it feels unorganized or a complete informational overload compared to going through pertinent information + discussing it as you would in previous learning environments.

Technical Barriers

We are offering emergency funding for students but we just can’t provide enough access to our students. And even then, there are interruptions.

Sometimes I have internet issues but I’ve always been able to get to class only a few minutes late. Which isn’t that different from in person classes when there’s an event that slows down traffic.

Yes, especially when you have to work full time just to survive or don’t have a stable internet connection .

Yes. I do not have the right equipment or fast enough internet service. My learning is impaired by this.

Please open a library or area with good wifi. The parking lots do not work good enough for zoom classes. These stream laptops we were given don’t have enough ram. When zoom is going if you can get it going you can’t do anything else. Like pull up you textbook online. which most of them are it seems now.

Reflection

Many students understand that you as instructors are going through the same challenges that they are. Some offered some feedback on what might make the process better for everyone involved.

Yes, I feel like I am not engaged enough in my classes and so participation is difficult and disconnected. Lecturing during class is pointless because people start to tune out and then the teacher asks questions about what they just lectured on and no one can answer them. I suggest video taping short lectures to be watched and then commented on and then during class have it more open dialogue and discussion that way we can actually be productive instead of passive.

Usually I burn out about halfway through the term (this is after doing two terms online, spring and fall 2020). I often feel like I’m the only student participating because most are reluctant to be on camera. So then I kinda burn out about halfway through the term and stop showing up on camera, then almost altogether… but it’s fairly easy to stay involved/on top of work with class recordings.

It’s also really easy to get into the rut of rolling out of bed right before class, which doesn’t work very well for my brain. There’s definitely a problem with making your main living/sleeping space also your office/school work area… I think some behavioral health recommendations for students working and schooling from home would be really helpful for all of us.

Attempting full time credits to ensure graduation this year, the required meetings are hard to hit. I have done my best to work with my assistant to change my schedule but the coming terms leave me with classes on days I will not be able to make and I know many instructors are requiring live attendance via zoom rather than recording lectures for students. I understand it is frustrating for them as well as they want the most for their students, but students are struggling as well, and many of us, the reason we took online courses was for the little added flexibility in scheduling. I think instructors can see when items are viewed or accessed, if so, I feel they could easily record it and still ensure students are “attending” the lecture and doing the work. My grades have always been high, maintaining a 3.9 GPA, I put a lot of work into all of my assignments, I don’t think that attendance and live participation should be such a strict measure during these times, we don’t all have the luxury.

Wrapping up

I am struggling in the same way that our previous posters have about the abundance of feedback from students. There is so much that I want to share but at a certain point it feels a little redundant. Our goal with these posts has been to highlight what our students are experiencing to help us figure out how to reduce barriers for them. One thing that is clear from our students who didn’t think attendance was a challenge is that they feel that it normally is. So many responded No purely in comparison to the daunting task of commuting and fitting in-person classes into their busy lives.

Attendance is viewed as essential to so many classes, yet it can also be a barrier. With recordings and with activities that demonstrate understanding, attendance can seem less important to students. Yet many of our students said that attendance was one of the easiest things in their lives right now. Some even said attending zoom lectures was the only thing that brought structure to their days.

I think one of the longer term lessons is that a mix of hybrid/remote seems to be very popular among students. Many have transportation challenges, work conflict, family obligations and more. It’s clear that remote and online doesn’t work for everyone, but it affords many to participate when they might not otherwise be able to. And I think the remote experience opened many students eyes to hybrid models that may work better for them than fully online or fully on campus classes.

About Andy Freed

I'm the Manager of Online Learning Technology & Student Success in Online Learning, where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services teams. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in sever... more »

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Comments

There are 4 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Peter Seaman 7 months ago

I’m glad to see the comments from students about not spending a lot of time in a car commuting to a campus and thus being able to spend that time more usefully on other priorities. I wonder if, in the post-pandemic world, we need to continue to allow this type of flexibility for students as a way to help avert the climate catastrophe.

x by bryan 7 months ago

These comments dovetail with my experience teaching this term remotely. Students seem to be paying attention — but when I assess what they’ve learned, a good portion of the class clearly has not been retaining the info I want them to use in the class. I’ve had to do a lot more of close monitoring of whether they’re really paying attention or not during class. Some are trying to learn in really chaotic environments and some are just “multi-tasking”, which means usually that they’re not really paying attention. While I’ve taught remotely spring, fall and this winter — this term I’ve noticed that student focus and concentration to have deteriorated substantially compared to previous terms. I think they’ve found ways to check out while appearing to be engaged. (At least some of them.)

x by WENDY CONNELLY 7 months ago

I am in the unusual position of simultaneously being a long time faculty member and a student in a two year program here. I am transitioning to a career in healthcare. The program I am in, Health Information Management, is entirely online and all of it’s classes use the same format in D2L. After the first term, you always know where to find assignments, quizzes, etc.

This will probably set off a “discussion” about academic freedom, but it might be a good idea for PCC to have a required D2L format (perhaps with a couple of alternate formats) for classes. My students have expressed confusion and stress caused by the fact that every class is organized differently and when they have three or four classes, it is overwhelming. By the time they get it figured out, a substantial part of the term has passed.

Our wonderful on line learning professionals have made recommendations and best practices widely available but faculty have been also been overwhelmed and not able to take full advantage of those resources. A choice of two or three formats would smooth things for everyone.

x by Andy Freed 6 months ago

Hi Wendy,

I completely agree with you that consistency is critical. It has been a consistent request/response from students for years. I just listened to a webinar where another college decided to adopt consistent course layouts and the calls from students confused about their courses immediately dropped. I’ve always wondered how creating confusion for students falls into an academic freedom argument but I’d rather hear faculty discuss it.

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PCC offers this limited open forum as an extension of the respectful, well-reasoned discourse we expect in our classroom discussions. As such, we welcome all viewpoints, but monitor comments to be sure they stick to the topic and contribute to the conversation. We will remove them if they contain or link to abusive material, personal attacks, profanity, off-topic items, or spam. This is the same behavior we require in our hallways and classrooms. Our online spaces are no different.