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Quickpoll Results: Overall, how is remote learning going for you?

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Throughout the 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: “Overall, how is remote learning going for you? Any comments and/or suggestions to faculty/staff looking to support you?” supports and adds further context to the themes presented in the previous posts: “What has made you feel successful in one of your classes?”, “Do you have a clear idea about what is expected of you in your classes?”, “Is maintaining attendance in remote classes challenging?” and “What have you struggled with in one of your current classes?”.

687 students responded to the question of ‘Overall, how is remote learning going for you?’.  45% (311 students) responded that it was going well, 26% (177) had a neutral response, and 29% (199 students) reported having a more negative experience with remote learning thus far.

Of the responses, several themes connected many of the student experiences as well as reiterated the sentiments seen in the previous poll results. In general, the majority of positive responses mention an increase in their school/work/life balance, and students who had previously taken online classes report a consistently positive experience. The majority of negative responses mention the overwhelming stress of the pandemic impacting their studies, which highlights their desire for increased instructor flexibility. Students enrolled in CTE programs and lab science courses were also more likely to report a negative experience due to not being able to have the hands-on experience they were accustomed to.

Feet balancing on a railroad trackConvenience and Work/Life Balance

Students are recognizing how remote learning presents the opportunity to take classes they might not otherwise have been able to take due to campus location, time restrictions or family responsibilities. Responses regarding this flexibility were predominantly positive.

“I genuinely prefer remote learning over going to a physical location. It’s more convenient, organized and it saves me money, energy and time.”

“I really enjoy remote learning. I was nervous at first but it has made it so much easier being able to attend my classes since it’s remote. I don’t have to worry about child care or transportation issues to get to class.”

“It’s going well for me so far.  I like online learning because it allows me to take classes that wouldn’t normally fit into my work schedule, so it’s helping me move ahead faster toward my degree.  I do miss the hands-on collaboration of in-person classes for my program (ARCH/ID).  I feel like the instructors are doing the best they can with the situation.”

“I’m one of those for whom remote learning is BETTER than in-person classes, since I work full-time (in tech, also at home even in non-pandemic times). I’m taking full advantage of the situation to take more classes. I hope PCC continues to offer more using this model even after it’s no longer medically necessary. It can benefit not only learners like me, but I suspect also an assortment of disabled learners who otherwise would need special accommodations in class or wouldn’t be able to attend at all.”

Instructor Support and Flexibility

Students widely expressed their desire to have increased instructor flexibility and understanding during this stressful and complex time. Many are juggling learning how to navigate online learning with working, taking care of family members, dealing with loss, lack of access to Wifi or a peaceful environment to work in – and all of these are compounded by the relentless stress and uncertainty of the pandemic.

“Remote learning has been hectic unfortunately. With the ongoing changes from COVID, it has been difficult managing. If there was more leniency for submissions and attendance for certain circumstances, it would be much appreciated especially during these uncertain times.”

“Remote learning is going okay. Would be nice to have some flexibility built in with assignments while working remotely, as life is happening at a strange pace for many at this time. Although anecdotal, I’m sure there are numbers to reflect the amount of people struggling with complications of mental health issues, exacerbated by covid/political climate/other particularly upheaving events. Some instructors have been blissfully trusting and relaxed, others seems to want students to devote all their current “extra” time to classwork, and it’s tiring when I’m barely able to take care of myself and my living space day-to-day.”

“It is super hard! With all that’s going on in life, and needing to get tested for covid, etc. It can be really hard to feel like you can ask for accommodations. It feels like everyone is probably struggling with the same things, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to ask for extensions or assistance from professors. Staff could support students better by adding some covid specific rules for late work, extensions, etc into their syllabi.”

“I, like many others, are struggling a lot right now… especially those of us with preexisting health conditions/disabilities, in a lot of circumstances. I never know how to reach out to ask about my accommodations, and feel like I need a story to justify myself each time. I end up just stressing myself out about it. I wish there were ways I could ask for an assignment extension (something in my accommodations) by just hitting a “request” button of some kind, rather than worrying about how to compose the email for days.”

“The thing that is most helpful is the patience and forgiveness of my teachers. I am so thankful for my teachers who have forgiven late assignments and spent extra time with me explaining what is due. I think that having patience and forgiveness is the best thing we can do with online learning, because it is hard for everyone.”

Consistency of Course Organization

Students expressed frustration about the lack of consistency with how courses are organized in D2L, while also acknowledging that this might be hard to centralize. They would like more resources allocated to navigating D2L and easily finding and understanding course requirements.

“It would be helpful if all due dates and assignments were posted in one very obvious place. It is very easy to miss or forget assignments that are sprinkled in different sections of D2L.”

“I really like it – as a single mom it has made it so much easier to get through my classes. I do wish the faculty used the same systems for their classes…and have a clear online guide to make the system more seamless between the classes.”

“It’s going alright. However, not every teacher has the same way of using D2L so I find it easy to mix and confuse requirements between classes. I have to login so many times to recheck deadlines and have still missed them. It’s pretty frustrating.”

Editor’s note: Check out Organizing Content for Student Success for tips to improve course layout for your students. ~af

Learning Environment

Students reported a lack of motivation and engagement because they are unable to work in an ideal learning environment.

“…finding a place to do my classes and all of my school work has been challenging. I used to use the library on campus as a quiet place to do my homework but that currently isn’t an option.”

“I’m so worried I’m going to end up having to retake a test or failing one because someone randomly walks into the room or makes a noise in my house (I have 5 rather unpredictable roommates and nowhere private that I can take my exams).”

“It’s been very difficult to study at home. I have a big loud household and I am often interrupted and unable to concentrate. My professor’s have been flexible with me and it means a lot.”

“It is hard to stay engaged in my learning with so many distractions that go on at home. I think it would be cool if myself and other students could get tips on how to stay engaged while studying at home. How can we deal with the distractions but still learn without physically being in class?”

Class Structure

Students taking classes that offer pre-recorded lectures had a more positive response than those taking classes that only offered live Zoom options. It seems like a mix of these options would be beneficial for students and the differing learning styles.

“More video lectures would be helpful to review certain concepts that most students find challenging in a class. They don’t have to be long, but a brief video explaining or showing the work for certain difficult concepts would be helpful.”

“More videos and lectures of the instructors! Let us see you and hear you!”

“The recordings of lectures are invaluable tools to assist in the learning process.”

“Please offer lecture recordings and make them accessible. Some of my teachers are reluctant to offer this, yet it makes no sense. When I was on campus, I recorded the lectures (voice). This has always been okay and now more than ever, it should be permitted.”

Most Common Suggestions

Students were asked to offer suggestions to the instructors and staff looking for how to best support them, and many students acknowledged that this year has been very difficult for both students and staff/instructors alike. Some of the most common suggestions are compiled below:

Release Content and Utilize Pre-Recorded Videos

Several students explained that it would be helpful to them to be able to access the next week’s content earlier than the Monday it’s usually released. With differing schedules, some weeks they have more time to access content and would appreciate that flexibility. They also emphasized offering pre-recorded lectures that they can revisit if needed.

Reminders

Any and all reminders about the resources available online were greatly appreciated.

Clear COVID information in the Syllabus

One student wrote: “Staff could support students better by adding some covid specific rules for late work, extensions, etc into their syllabi.”

Offer Zoom Office Hours

Students are looking for a way to replicate the immediacy of in-person classes, and many requested dedicated, optional Q&A times where they could ask questions outside of email.

Leniency with Absences and Late Work

The more flexible and understanding the instructors were, the more positive the student experience. They also suggested information about this be clearly communicated in the syllabus and throughout the term.

Foster Student Communication and Interaction outside of Discussion Posts

One student wrote: “My philosophy professor sets aside 20-30 minutes each class for students to discuss relevant topics with one another – my favorite part of class! A pretty decent replacement for time in the classroom.”

Standardize Course Organization in D2L

Students would like more resources allocated to navigating D2L and easily finding and understanding course requirements.

While transitioning to remote learning has been challenging, the majority of students expressed that they are thankful to have the opportunity to continue at PCC and provided insightful feedback to help us all on this journey of continuous improvement. Our What Works Well [pdf] document and the abundance of Instructional Best Practices can also help provide tips for improving and enhancing courses being offered remotely.

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Comments

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

x by Melinda Hutson 1 month ago

This was an interesting post. One of the things that struck me while reading the students comments is how those comments echo what I’m hearing from the instructors in our SAC. Our SAC has had weekly “coffee hours” available to the instructor in our SAC each term since Spring. I’ve heard numerous comments from our instructors about how stressed they are feeling; I was particularly concerned after hearing from a PT instructor in our SAC that remote learning had “ramped up” their depression to the point that they’d briefly considered suicide. From conversations with our faculty, it appears that everyone in our SAC is trying (and struggling) to be lenient and accommodating. One instructor told me that they were stressed out about grading, as they had to choose between giving students prompt feedback and risking overlooking late submissions or delaying grading until they were sure all assignments had been turned (which adds stress to many students who need/expect prompt feedback); that instructor felt they were in a “no win” situation. I co-taught a class with another instructor last term, and we had regular Zoom meetings to discuss aspects of the class. During the term, this instructor Zoomed from various rooms in his house (including the kitchen) and from inside his car. He was interrupted many times by his dog (loud barking) and during one meeting by one of his children (who needed the computer he was using for class). As I thought about the post, particularly the “offer Zoom office hours”, I realized that some of our instructors are facing the same challenges as our students regarding finding a quiet, private location in which to speak with students (synchronous instruction and office hours). I know that my Zoom office hours have occasionally had a “drop-in” by my spouse or one of my children asking a question, which disrupts any conversation I’m having with a student, and causes me concerns about privacy issues. The best way to teach an online or remote class is from a computer in one’s office on campus. Hopefully we’ll be doing this next Fall.

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