Faculty actually liked online learning (mostly), survey finds

Instructors said student engagement, along with access and equity concerns, were the biggest challenges

Contrary to public opinion, the sudden shift to wholesale online learning in higher ed did not create a furious backlash from college and university faculty, a new survey finds.

Only 17% of the 1,500 faculty members surveyed said their view of online learning has become less favorable since the COVID-19 outbreak struck in March, according to the report from Tyton Partners, a higher ed consulting firm.

Another misperception the survey uncovered is that faculty did not simply move from face-to-face teaching to web conferencing tools.

Some 75% of the respondents reported using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous teaching methods while also adopting new instructional practices and tools.

More from UB: Why faculty are pushing back on some reopening plans

Looking ahead, the report lists six priorities identified by faculty for teaching and learning during the 2020-21 academic year.

Faculty, particularly those who had never taught online before, want continued professional development around techniques like checking in with students to ensure they have access to online classes and combining synchronous and asynchronous course elements.

Keeping students engaged was the No. 1 challenge reported by a “vast majority” of faculty, who recognized that not all students had ideal working conditions at home, the report says.

Faculty therefore hope to collaborate with their institutions to provide students with more guidance on how to succeed in online learning and more effective and immediate ways to identify and intervene with struggling students.

Other top challenges faculty reported include providing remediation to students, administering secure tests and transitioning instructional content to the virtual space.

Faculty also wanted more assistance from instructional designers in selecting high-quality and affordable digital learning tools.

Many respondents also urged their institutions to strengthen the campus’ digital learning infrastructure to accommodate those online learning resources.

Losing ground on equity and access?

Many instructors said they were concerned that not all of their students had access to adequate technology or comfortable places to work.

More from UB: Social media offers students a ‘lifeline’ in age of anxiety

They also reported that many low-income students tried to do their work on cell phones while others had to juggle work and family responsibilities while at home.

Mental health and wellbeing, financial stress and not knowing where to get help with courses were among the other student challenges that faculty in the survey identified.

“We do our very best to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots,” one faculty member at a four-year school said in the survey. “During normal times, we manage this reasonably well, but this pandemic and our collective response to it has clawed back all of our equity gains, and I fear that they’ll only continue to erode.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

Most Popular