6 post-COVID insights from faculty teaching intro courses

High failure rates in intro course are disproportionately higher for students of color and those from low-income families
By: | January 26, 2021
More than 90% of introductory course faculty reported teaching in an online or hybrid format, which is a "steep departure" from the 80% of introductory courses that are typically taught in-person. (GettyImages/FatCamera)More than 90% of introductory course faculty reported teaching in an online or hybrid format, which is a "steep departure" from the 80% of introductory courses that are typically taught in-person. (GettyImages/FatCamera)

Faculty who teach introductory-level courses are increasingly concerned about equity and student success with shifts to online and hybrid instruction likely to become permanent post-COVID.

Instructors who teach introductory English, STEM and other general education courses were surveyed at three points during the pandemic for a new report, “Time for Class: Part 3—The Impact of 2020 on Introductory Faculty and their Students,” by Tyton Partners, a strategic advisory firm.

High failure rates in these gateway courses lead to significant dropout rates that are disproportionately higher for students of color and those from low-income families, the report says.

More than 90% of introductory course faculty reported teaching in an online or hybrid format, which is a “steep departure” from the 80% of introductory courses that are typically taught in-person, the survey found.


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Also, 22% of these faculty members reported making planned or unplanned shifts to online or hybrid instruction during the fall term, the survey found. Keeping students engaged was by the far  the biggest challenges cited by faculty last spring and this fall.

In Tyton’r report, faculty shared the following insights about equity and instruction as higher ed emerges from COVID:

  1. Faculty want more help: While hybrid and other flexible formats can offer a powerful combination of in-person and digital learning, faculty need more support in designing and delivering courses. These also see a new for research into the impact and efficacy of these courses.
  2. Trying to be more productive: Faculty say courseware can play an important role in helping them spend time more productively. Courseware can reduce the time that faculty spend on time-intensive tasks, such as grading assignments.
  3. Excited about online learning: Faculty perception of online learning has become more positive and they’re now more willing to experiment with new practices that may be more effective.
  4. Engaging students remains No. 1: Other top priorities include providing timely feedback, increasing student collaboration, and grading.
  5. Provide more professional development: Colleges and universities are offering more professional development, but only 54% of faculty say it has sufficient.
  6. Investing in transformative infrastructure: Because high-quality digital learning hardware and software will fuel these new modes, “academic transformation and institutional transformation must be considered equally.”

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