COVID and the Classroom

Schools and students are adjusting to remote learning, but how could the experience be improved?

AS THE PANDEMIC has forced most universities to embrace remote learning, how have students and teachers fared? Two organizations recently conducted surveys to try to answer that question.


At Indiana University in Bloomington, the eLearning Research and Practice Lab deployed a full-census survey of undergraduates and instructors across all IU campuses as part of its “Mega-Study of COVID-19 Impact in Higher Education.” The goal was to identify student and instructor experiences during the transition to remote instruction and discover ways to improve such instruction in the future. The preliminary findings offer four recommendations to faculty who are planning to teach fall 2020 classes online:

1. Assign classwork judiciously and in alignment with clear learning goals.

2. Create opportunities for student-instructor communication, especially for first- and second-year students.

3. Facilitate student success and foster a sense of virtual community through student-to-student communication.

4. Collaborate with other educators by sharing materials and successes and providing venues for others to do the same.

“Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this report is that students missed having close contact with their instructors and classmates during the sudden shift to remote teaching last spring,” says Greg Siering, director of the IU Bloomington Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. “They value and rely on rich personal connections with their instructors and classmates.”


Similarly, the education company Chegg recently surveyed 1,145 two-year and four-year undergraduates to determine how they are adapting to the new normal of online learning. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they would welcome some degree of online learning after the pandemic. Thirty-nine percent said their academic performance had been unaffected by the switch, and 36 percent said they learned the same things online that they would have in face-to-face settings.

However, students also identified areas where schools could do better. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said their online course experience could be improved with better communication, while 76 percent said they want better planning for online courses.

The survey results were unveiled at REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit, hosted in July by Arizona State University. Nearly 50,000 faculty members, academics, instructional designers, administrators, and educators from 150 countries attended the vitual event to learn about new standards in remote learning.

“Coronavirus has brought an overnight revolution,” says Dan Rosensweig, Chegg’s president and chief executive officer. “By fast-forwarding underlying trends, it has crystallized the stark choice faced by colleges: They need to innovate if they want to survive.”