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Student voices on remote education in the COVID-19 era: Recommendations for fall based on student self-reported data

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Abstract and Figures

This paper presents findings and remote reaching recommendations based on Canadian student survey data collected under COVID-19. The anonymous online survey was conducted in April 2020 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Highlight of survey findings include: p3-4 The majority of students felt supported by their instructors during the spring transition to emergency remote education p4-5 Students value clear and consistent ongoing communication embedded in remote courses (e.g. weekly instructor updates) p7 Students seek a consistent set of tools and platforms across their online courses p7-8 Students desire but are doubtful of possibilities for peer connection in remote learning p8-10 Students appreciate remote course components that keep them on track but that also give them some agency p10-12 Students report experiencing learning benefits from a combination of synchronous and asynchronous course components (e.g. pre-recorded lectures with live tutorials) p11-12 Students' most preferred and accessible method of lecture delivery is "live online lectures that can also be viewed later," followed by "pre-recorded lectures with embedded questions posted on the course website" p12-15 First-year students and international students with English as an additional language (EAL) were most likely to report pedagogical benefits from remote learning
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__________________________________________________________________________________________
Siobhán McPheeI and Katherine A. LyonI
Highlight of findings
p3-4 The majority of students felt supported by their instructors during the spring
transition to emergency remote education
p4-5 Students value clear and consistent ongoing communication embedded in remote
courses (e.g. weekly instructor updates)
p7 Students seek a consistent set of tools and platforms across their online courses
p7-8 Students desire but are doubtful of possibilities for peer connection in remote
learning
p8-10 Students appreciate remote course components that keep them on track but that
also give them some agency
p10-12 Students report experiencing learning benefits from a combination of synchronous
and asynchronous course components (e.g. pre-recorded lectures with live tutorials)
p11-12 Students’ most preferred and accessible method of lecture delivery is “live online
lectures that can also be viewed later,” followed by “pre-recorded lectures with
embedded questions posted on the course website”
p12-15 First-year students and international students with English as an additional
language (EAL) were most likely to report pedagogical benefits from remote
learning
IUniversity of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Siobhán McPhee, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Musqueam Traditional Territory
124 - 1984 West Mall, Vancouver BC, V6T1Z2 Canada
siobhan.mcphee@ubc.ca
Acknowledgment: The survey, analysis and drafting of the report were supported by the Institute for the
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISoTL) at UBC. The authors of the report would particularly like to
acknowledge the contributions of Adriana Briseno-Garzon, Trish Varao-Sousa, Bruce Moghtader and Marissa Hall.
UBC Remote Pedagogy Report
2020, 1-16
Student voices on remote
education in the COVID-19 era:
Recommendations for fall
based on student self-reported data
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Study objectives
The study began in March as we, a geographer and a sociologist, rapidly transitioned our
UBC courses online due to COVID-19. We reflected individually and together on the challenges
our students were facing with this transition to emergency remote education. We knew these
education challenges were being compounded by other COVID-19 demands and systemic barriers.
All that we had was some limited control over our teaching and interactions with students in our
courses.
We turned to research on the ways teaching and course pedagogical design decisions can
inform student well-being (for research on this topic coming out of UBC, see Lane et al., 2018).
However, the literature on online education does not fully apply to remote course design for student
wellness in emergency contexts, such as the situation with COVID-19. As instructors teaching
online this summer and fall, we inquired about students’ immediate pedagogical needs in their
emergency remote education, with the goal of using this information to inform immediate teaching
practice. Our goal was not to assess students, educators, or the learning process, but to listen and
respond to student needs. This has allowed us to modify our teaching practices, and to draw upon
these student voices to shape those changes. We used the preliminary results to create this open-
access infographic. To support fall course design, we report more detailed findings below. Overall,
the student voices we document suggest pathways for educators to foster student wellbeing through
the online medium under COVID-19.
Data collection and respondents
We conducted an anonymous online survey in April 2020 at UBC Vancouver and UBC
Okanagan, with results coming from 556 students in a range of disciplines and year-levels:
Table 1
Demographic Information of Students
Students
Variables (n=556) %
Student Status
Domestic (non-Indigenous) 400 71.94
Domestic (Indigenous) 8 1.44
International (English first language) 44 7.91
International (EAL) 104 18.71
Current Degree Year
First Year 80 14.81
Second Year 118 21.85
Third Year 124 22.96
Fourth Year 68 12.59
Fifth Year 37 6.85
MA 15 2.78
PhD 3 .56
Professional Program 95 17.59
Program Department
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Applied Science 32 6.77
Architecture 7 1.48
Arts 166 35.10
Education 124 26.22
Forestry 2 0.42
LFS 31 6.55
Medicine 19 4.02
Neuroscience 2 0.42
Sauder 8 1.69
Science 102 21.56
Number of Courses
One 32 5.94
Two 15 2.78
Three 64 11.87
Four 155 28.76
Five+ 273 50.65
Access to Computer and
Stable WIFI
Both 479 86.46
Computer but not stable WIFI 63 11.37
Neither 1 0.18
Other 11 1.99
The results indicate more planning is needed for online September teaching, with broader
implications for student-centered pedagogy. Students responded to questions in four key areas: 1)
their online transition experience, 2) how connected they felt to their instructor and peers, 3) how
much autonomy they had in completing course requirements, and 4) how all of this affected their
overall well-being. Notably, a third of students reported there was a lack of student input into
course decisions and cited this as a key challenge to their transition to remote education.
Survey findings and implications for fall teaching
1. How students felt supported by their instructors
The rapid transition to the online context affected faculty and students, as it humanised us
all to the realities of how intertwined our lives at UBC are with our personal lives. The ‘status quo’
so to speak of the students’ view of their professors as towering experts able to field any answer
or query in the face-to-face environment, was completely disrupted by the emergency situation we
all found ourselves in. Everyone had to adapt, and students acknowledged this.
“I have felt most supported by professors who have been communicative and have
acknowledged the weirdness of the situation and that they do not have all the answers,
while also taking responsibility for finding those answers and making sure that delays in
providing answers aren't detrimental to students.”
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Supportive instructors:
Results from the survey indicates 70% of students felt supported by their instructor during
the transition. The central reason indicated for this feeling of support was an instructor providing
clear communication while at the same time conveying empathy and understanding.
“I think my professors did an amazing job with the transition and made very generous
concessions and adjustments regarding the course material as well as the way that learning
was assessed.”
Students also indicated having felt supported when instructors were able to consistently provide
course updates, communicate available options, incorporate changes to course processes and make
adjustments to students’ learning outcomes. Some instructors were praised for their attention to
students’ well-being and ensuring every student completed the term with success.
“One of my instructors greatly supported student wellbeing by hosting little social groups
for us to hang out and connect with each other. They were fun and made me feel less
isolated.”
The comments often acknowledged instructors’ flexibility, understanding, and making
adjustments to their planned curriculum and dedicating more time to respond to individual
students.
“My instructors were very communicative at each step of the transition. Reminder emails
about due-dates were very helpful. Re-weighting of my assignments had a huge, positive
impact on my learning and well-being...I still completed all of my assignments and exams
on-time, and knowing that completion of these items could not hurt my grade was
intellectually liberating.”
Instructors who provided options to students were viewed favorably (grading alternatives, options
for learning materials and deadlines). Instructor’s competencies in technology and providing
resources (e.g., providing existing online videos) for further learning was also mentioned as
helpful.
Communication from and to instructors:
In thinking about next year being fully online, some of the key takeaways from the survey
on the role of their instructor in supporting their general well-being focused on communication.
Students will follow the example of instructors in terms of how they communicate. If an instructor
sends lots of emails constantly changing requirements and deadlines, students will do the same. It
is therefore our responsibility as instructors to provide a clear model of communication behaviour.
Ultimately, preparing for the online context must be viewed as different to traditional face-to-face
teaching and learning when thinking about how we communicate with our students. The role of
the instructor as being able to adapt to student needs, providing meaningful examples for
assignments, effective communication and showing concern for student learning are fundamental
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to success in the online environment (Young, 2006). What is central in this communication focus
in the online context is ensuring that students are an active part of any online environment, as the
spontaneous face-to-face interactions are not available to them (Young et al., 2001). A clear
communication model should be embedded in the course, with ongoing and consistent
communication from instructors. Poor communication is really distressing to students, including
both breakdowns and having to keep up with frequent and lengthy email discussions (Hara, 2000).
Evidence of poor communication was indicated by students in the survey where they felt
unsupported when instructors were inflexible and kept demands and expectations unchanged or
completely declined to move to online instruction. Students also mentioned some instructors used
the face-to-face portion of the term to come up with final grades, and that was also negatively
perceived. Instructors complaining about the situation or placing blame on others (e.g. senior
leadership) produced an adverse effect on students. Above all, insufficient, scattered and
inconsistent communication was identified as the biggest challenge.
“It has been frustrating when professors have disappeared, complained about how many
questions they are being asked (while providing no information), or have blamed their
department or faculty for the lack of information (which makes it feel like no one knows
what is happening!).”
“My one professor did not warn us about how lectures would be continuing and I missed
a whole week of class trying to find out.”
Additionally, responses indicate that the medium for clear effective communication also mattered.
Close to half of students reported receiving an overwhelming number of emails, and that these
emails became a barrier to transitioning online.
Communication emails have been completely vague and unclear. Best to have concrete
answers before sending out an email”
Instead of email, students valued regular scheduled check-ins through centralized platforms within
the university’s learning management system (Canvas at UBC). Platforms that were interactive in
nature enabled students to feel heard.
2. Addressing changes in students’ remote engagement
Students reported a significant (32%) decrease in course engagement after the transition to
online learning (see Figure 1). Some of the more salient factors identified by students were lack of
focus, motivation, time management, and a lack of proper study space. Given the uncertain
circumstance with which many students have found themselves in, anxiety and stress have also
played a role in the lack of course engagement. Based on these findings, emphasis should be placed
on the idea of holistic education. It is not enough to only see students from within a classroom
context, but it is important to acknowledge the challenges faced by students across all contexts.
Figure 1
Illustration of students course engagement pre and post online transition
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Note. 4.00 = Very engaged, 1.00 = Not engaged at all. A, B and C represent three different courses taken
by students. Student reports moved from an average rating of 3.2 to 2.2 post transition to online learning.
The impact of non-academic barriers in students’ remote learning engagement
Student feedback indicated that non-academic barriers impeded their course engagement.
Three out of four students were at some point unable to focus on studies due to non-academic-
related challenges”. This lack of focus was due to personal circumstances, anxiety, stress,
uncertainty, and low motivation in the pandemic context. Educators cannot resolve all of the
barriers students face, particularly when these barriers are systemic, but we can indirectly help
students manage daily struggles and continue their studies by designing online courses that fit their
circumstances. The following quotes were expressed by students regarding non-academic barriers
to learning:
“Stress about COVID [sic] and changing home environments, I am international so I
needed to move home... and also into isolation.”
“It's really difficult to care about school in the middle of a pandemic.”
“This transition was hard due to several personal issues related to COVID. I had to move
and support family, and was very distracted generally.”
“With the current situation in my house, I didn't really have anywhere to study.”
“I do not study well at home and have not studied at home for the last few years of my
education. This change in habit has been forced and I have not accommodated well.”
“Maintaining a routine was very important for my mental health and overall wellness,
which unfortunately have been negatively impacted during this transition.”
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“Problems in the household lead to difficulty focusing in courses online. Another stressor
is the growing fear of the unknown. I have to pay rent in the room I'm living in [in
Vancouver] even though I'm back home. This change in the environment is the main
stressor I'm having.”
The impact of educational tools and platforms on students’ engagement shift
More than a quarter of students cited “learning a lot of new technology without much or
any support” as an obstacle in learning new course content. This was amplified by students’
competing needs to balance their online education with COVID-19-related challenges. Even more
students (almost 60%) found that the diverse ways instructors moved online, especially the use of
different tools and platforms across courses, was a core impediment. People in crises can struggle
with a sense of a loss of control (Usher et al., 2020). Consequently, new technology and a multitude
of unfamiliar teaching methods can create this same loss of agency for students in their education.
At this critical time, we need to find a way to ensure remote technology is a gateway and not a
barrier to learning. Universities and faculties should support a consistent and centralized set of
online tools and platforms for this emergency remote education, while still ensuring instructor
autonomy in pedagogical approach.
Each prof adjusted their classes differently, which is hard to keep up with.”
Not all classes were clear on "live" lectures or not. This was confusing as it was different
in each course.”
The impact of perceived (lack of) peer connectivity on students’ remote learning engagement
Another facet regarding the transition from classroom context to online learning is the
connectivity among peers. Not surprisingly, all student groups reported a decrease in the
connection among peers when they moved to online classes (see Figure 2). In particular, MA,
Ph.D., and Professional students reported the most significant drop in connectedness feelings to
their peers. This could result from the collaborative nature of many graduate programs whereby
learning is partly a result of class discussions.
Figure 2
Illustration of students’ perceived peer connectivity pre and post online transition
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Note. 4.00 = Very connected, 1.00 = Not connected at all. Students reported significantly less peer
connection in their course post transition to online learning.
Learning is a fundamentally social process. Student voices suggest that spaces and
processes of collective and/or collaborative learning are necessary to cultivate, even in online
contexts. How can we help foster those moments of classroom chatter before and after lecture?
How can we help students identify commonalities with their peers, as well as learn productively
from their differences? How can students, including first year students new to university, feel that
they have access to online course communities?
There are ways to facilitate remote peer engagement, whether you are teaching
synchronously, or asynchronously, or a combination of both. To facilitate informal peer
engagement, and a small group feel, instructors have the option of assigning students to learning
communities within a Canvas course (via the groups function). To promote asynchronous or
synchronous discussions, consider asking students to annotate readings and lectures in UBC’s
CLAS or the Canvas discussion forum (tip: leave the discussion open for a pre-determined window
of time to promote dynamic yet accessible asynchronous discussion). If giving live lectures or in
Zoom / Collaborate Ultra, breakout groups for small group discussion are a nice
feature. Additional options for virtual community building, including watch parties, digital escape
rooms, and team challenges are outlined here.
3. Structured flexibility
The central finding of the survey fits in with models of online and blended learning
pedagogies around the concept of ‘structured flexibility’ (Burge et al., 2011). In face-to-face
contexts instructors have more ability to adapt to the needs of our students, but in the online context
structured flexibility must be built into the courses from the initial design to avoid the lack of
structure that sometimes results from online learning. A lack of structure was clearly a major
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concern for students during the transition to the online context, and should be kept central to
designing courses for the coming academic year.
“Lack of self-discipline as had mentality decided, ‘can binge lectures later’. This meant
there was no daily structure”
“Self-discipline is very difficult at home. My environment at home is not conducive to
school work which is why I always worked at libraries/on-campus. Getting work done at
home is very difficult.”
Given the complex circumstances, students appreciated course components that kept them on track
but that also gave them some agency.
Structured flexibility and listening as fundamental:
The need for this structured flexibility was particularly visible in course assessments.
Regarding assessments, the majority of students found that their learning and well-being both
benefited from having 1) flexibility in assignment deadlines, 2) choice in which assessments to
complete, and 3) some determination in how these assignments would be weighted. Comments
from the student survey acknowledged instructors’ flexibility, understanding, and making
adjustments to their planned curriculum and dedicating more time to respond to students.
Instructors who provided options to students were viewed favorably (e.g., grading alternatives,
options for learning materials and deadlines).
Some profs provided clear instructions/clearly outlined the process for the course moving
forward which made it easier to use different tools for the various class structures (i.e.
lecture, discussion, group work)”
Key to structured flexibility is the ability to listen to students and come to a fair solution for both
the students and the instructor.
“One professor did not make any changes in regards to assignments despite all students
asking for a one week take home exam as an assignment. Instead we had to write a 3 hour
exam at the original allotted time. Our instructor was not flexible at all and did not listen
to our needs.”
Structured flexibility and assessment:
Assessment is central to structured flexibility. It is the sweet spot of providing students
with choices and flexibility, but still having a set structure for the course and the assessment format
and process. The reality is that there is no one size fits all in any kind of teaching so providing
some choice within the structure of the online assessment is important. If an engaging, interesting
and stimulating assessment model is adopted students will engage (Wanner & Palmer, 2015). The
survey looked at various assessment options such as being able to re-weight assignment percentage
values, having flexible assignment deadlines, and having choices in which course assignments or
tests to complete. Most respondents found that these options benefited both their learning and
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well-being. However, approximately 20% of students were not provided these options within their
courses. Regarding final exam options, the majority of respondents indicated that instructors
changing the final exams to take-home exams with more time, and re-weighting final exams
benefited both their learning and well-being.
The re-weighting option was a game-changer. I still did all of the assignments, and I think
my average assignment grade will actually be higher than usual since I was relieved of a
lot of performance anxiety.”
Building activities and/or assessments into the online course which promote discussion and
timely feedback are essential in succeeding in online courses. Students need the model upfront of
how to answer assignments or engage in activities as they are lacking the face-to-face clarification
opportunity. Students will be lacking the peer engagement they have in the physical classroom
setting, as discussed previously (see Figure 2). It is therefore important that instructors promote
collaboration and conversation opportunities through assignments and delivery methods
(Northrup, 2009). In the flexibility of assessment approaches identified, learning outcomes should
be very clear to the students (Irwin & Hepplestone, 2012). Keeping it simple is central to how
assessment is carried out online, and knowing that more is definitely not beneficial. Central to
online assignments is added time students will need to familiarize themselves with any new
platforms or tools which the instructor uses.
“I already had the means of online learning (PC, laptop, iPad) but taking online
assessments was extremely inconvenient because I had to familiarize myself with new
programs.”
The means to mitigate frustration with tools, technology and their link to course objective is to
design simple regular check-ins with students such as a short UBC Qualtrics anonymous quiz
delivered through Canvas. Structured flexibility is central to how students are assessed but also to
how the course is designed and delivered. Tricker and colleagues (2001), in their evaluation of
online courses concluded that students are attracted to certain online courses by their structured
flexibility.
4. Synchronous and asynchronous remote lectures
One of the key components of delivering an online course is the consideration of what content can
be asynchronous and what aspects of the course should be delivered synchronously. The results
from the survey indicate that synchronous (live) lectures were preferred over asynchronous
lectures for those students who valued the ability to interact with instructors and peers (ask
questions), keep a consistent schedule, and sustain accountability towards course requirements.
Those who preferred synchronous lectures referenced the personal element of being connected
with instructors, classmates and staying on task.
It is nice when the professor is there, you can ask questions and take polls.”
“I prefer the live lecture better as it instills a sense of urgency as well as offers the
opportunity to ask questions in the moment.”
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I stayed engaged in live Collab Ultra lectures but less likely to keep engagement
in recorded video lectures”
“I also appreciate having a routine with set class times.”
Those who preferred asynchronous lectures mentioned flexibility and convenience of reviewing
the material if/as needed (stop, replay and adjust to life demands). Asynchronous lectures afforded
adaptability to time-zone differences, making it a more equitable practice. Students also identified
asynchronous teaching as mostly free of technology glitches/issues and thus offered a smoother
experience. Students found the quality of pre-recorded lectures tended to be better quality than
synchronous.
“The pre-recorded lectures are great. I know the professors put a lot of quality work into
making.”
“Being able to rewatch the recorded lecture to clarify the things I did not understand.”
I personally found it very challenging to attend live lectures because of the time
difference.”
“Asynchronous allowed me to be flexible as I had time to do other things for basic
survival.”
Live online lectures with required attendance were not manageable for at least 20% of students
due to technological issues, personal responsibilities, or differing time zones. In contrast, 60% of
students found that online lectures that could also be viewed later were their preferred method of
lecture delivery. When asked specifically about remote lectures, UBC students ranked the
following modes of online lecture delivery from most beneficial to least beneficial to their
learning:
Table 2
Students’ ranking of online lecture delivery modes
Online Lecture Delivery
Mode
% Of Students
Ranking as Most
Preferred Mode
% Of Students
Ranking
Second Most
Preferred
Mode
% Of Students
Ranking as Least
Preferred Mode
Live online lectures that can
also be viewed later
58%
16%
1%
Pre-recorded lectures with
embedded questions posted
on the course website
12%
32%
7%
Pre-recorded lectures posted
on the course website
13%
27%
4%
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PPT slides with notes
attached posted on the course
website
10%
12%
31%
Live online lectures that
cannot be viewed later
6%
13%
61%
To gain an in-depth understanding of the responses in Table 2, responses were also grouped based
on year of study, domestic/international student status, and linguistic status (EFL / EAL). Similar
trends in lecture delivery preference were found across all student groups. Students
qualitative comments offer further insight into the above general trends across student groups:
“[My] course did not switch to live online classes but just replaced classes with lecture
slides. I found that really hard to follow and remain on top of.”
“Dependent on [the] course - some were better synchronous because needed live questions
to clarify; some were better asynchronous because needed to keep pausing and rewinding
to clarify what was said.”
“I like real time lectures but [I] also like to view them later.”
“Having a live lecture allows everyone to be engaged at the same time and allows for
instant feedback and questions. However, access [to] post-lecture to materials is important
for students to review concepts mentioned in class.”
“I think [a] combination of them is better for us to study.”
“I prefer a combination, or synchronous lectures that also have the option to be watched
at another time if needed. This will increase the likelihood that I will be able to work part-
time and fulfill other family and health obligations during the summer semester.”
“Going forward, a combination of the two [live and pre-recorded] would be preferable so
I can manage the amount of time I am sat actively listening and participating on a screen.”
Regardless of whether an online lecture was live or pre-recorded, students’ qualitative comments
indicated general appreciation for the use of interactive tools (e.g. polls, breakout groups) in these
lectures.
5. Students’ reported benefits from remote learning
Students faced many challenges in the remote education context, as described above.
Despite these challenges, over half of respondents identified several benefits, including the new
flexibility of their learning schedule and not having to commute long distances. Respondents also
mentioned they were better able to take care of personal responsibilities. Again, this highlights the
importance of acknowledging outside influences that impact student learning.
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Because I didn’t have to wake up early to go to class (I would have skipped classes) but
recordings made it easier to go back to the lessons
Other benefits were pedagogical. Over 90% of students indicated that being able to replay lectures
online helped to support their learning. However, some additional benefits differed by student
year-level. First-year students were most likely to report pedagogical benefits from online
learning. About 80% of first-year respondents found that lectures were easier to understand and
follow online than in the classroom. 75% of first-year students found online discussion/tutorial
classes were easier to understand and participate in than those held face-to-face.
“[My] course was a really large class which I had trouble in following and
paying attention so bringing it online made it easier to focus and ask questions of the
instructor.”
“I actually preferred my lectures to be online because I could re-watch parts that I did not
understand or hear clearly which we can’t do in person.”
As Table 3 documents, undergraduate students from second to fifth-year were less likely than first-
year students to report these same benefits.
Students in MA, Ph.D., and Professional programs were the least likely to find online
learning experiences beneficial, with just 50% of these students reporting online discussion
classes easier to understand and participate in than f2f discussion. These students were also less
likely to report benefits from recorded lectures, such as the ability to comprehend and replay them.
This may indicate that as students progress through their education, in-person instruction is more
necessary and beneficial to learning. These findings have important pedagogical implications for
the use of online tools to support students' blended learning and offer insight into students' different
needs as they progress through to higher education.
Table 3
Students’ Self-reported benefits from online lectures and discussion classes/tutorials, by student
year level
Student Status
Online learning experience
% of students
selecting: “In some or
all of my courses”
First year
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
70%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
80%
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
95%
14
Second to Fifth
Year
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
65%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
73%
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
90%
MA, Ph.D and
Professional
Programs
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
50%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
65%
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
70%
Students’ likelihood of reporting benefits from online learning was also tied to their domestic,
international and linguistic status. International students with English as an additional
language (EAL) were most likely to report learning benefits across all three questions:
Table 4
Students’ Self-reported benefits from online lectures and discussion classes/tutorials, by
domestic, international and linguistic status
Student Status
Online learning experience
% of students
selecting: “In some
or all of my courses”
Domestic
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
55%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
70%
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
90%
International
(English as
additional
language (EAL))
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
85%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
85%
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
95%
Online discussion classes were easier to
understand/participate in than in classroom
35%
Lectures were easier to understand and follow
online than in classroom
60%
15
International
(English first
language (EFL))
Being able to replay lectures online supported
my learning
90%
These findings make a case for a potentially blended approach to teaching, combining face-to-face
and online course components once we regain access to physical classroom spaces. However, these
decisions must be left up to individual instructors based on course learning goals, student group,
personal preference, and so on.
Project limitations and future directions
The survey sample is limited as survey completion was dependent on students’ access to a
computer and stable WiFi. The results do not reflect students with limited technology, though
future research should certainly endeavour to do so. Further, this survey was conducted in April,
prior to many international students returning to their home country. As such, these students may
not have been able to fully report on their more recent learning experiences in different national
contexts (e.g. timezone challenges). Additional studies may document the learning needs of
international students studying remotely from their home country.
To further support students learning remotely, future research is needed to identify the
specific non-academic challenges students encountered as barriers to their online learning under
COVID-19. The most frequently endorsed challenge in this survey was students’ inability to focus
on studies due to non-academic reasons; however, data about these non-academic factors was not
systematically collected in this study.
Concluding remarks
Communication and structured flexibility are two of the main takeaways in the transition
to online learning in March, and in our planning for the upcoming year online. Having a clear plan
for the structure of future courses prior to the start is important, but it must also leave room for
flexibility and ample time for communication with students. It is important to provide a structured
yet not constraining virtual classroom environment, and communicate with students in a
consistent, thoughtful and personal way. You are just as human as they are, and knowing this is
fundamental to their ability to embrace their own agency (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010). Giving
students a sense of autonomy is essential to their overall success in higher education, and is
especially true during this current time of the pandemic when they may lack a sense of control
over their daily lives (Jones & McLean, 2012).
References
Burge, E. J., Gibson, C. C., & Gibson, T. (2011). Flexible pedagogy, flexible practice : Notes
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