Student Remote Learning Survey Findings

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Due to the uniqueness of the Fall 2020 semester, it was imperative for USF to get feedback from students to identify student sentiments about remote course instruction and opportunities to provide additional support. In summary, most students reported an improved remote experience from spring to fall semester and gave USF’s faculty high marks for engagement. Our students' struggles with remote learning and engagement are similar to students at other institutions.

Surveys were sent to students from the Center for Academic and Student Achievement (CASA), Information Technology Services (ITS), and Student Life. Students were also invited to participate in focus groups.

  • New Student Success Survey (first-year undergraduate students, sent by CASA), 827 responses
  • Student Technology Survey (all students, sent by ITS and Student Life), 566 responses
  • ASUSF Senate Focus Group
  • Student Life Student Workers Focus Group

Key challenges reported by students’ remote educational experiences fell in three interconnected ways:

  1. Social isolation: trying to learn and grow in a context with more social isolation;
  2. Increased disruptions: having to focus academically in an environment with more disruptions; and
  3. Pandemic-related emotional health challenges: Managing academics and social life while worrying about physical, mental, and financial challenges they and their loved ones are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s Working for Students?

  • Students generally felt very supported by faculty and staff. Moreover, students felt very supported by ITS to resolve technical challenges.
  • Students appreciated tools and technologies available for remote instruction, such as Canvas and Zoom.
  • Students appreciated the use of technology for building student engagement and community, such as the use of Zoom breakout rooms and Slack.
  • Students appreciated faculty who initiated daily icebreakers — spending a few minutes to check in and help students find community with one another in class.
  • Students appreciated pre-recorded lectures created by faculty.
  • Students preferred a combination of asynchronous and synchronous content:
    • Asynchronous: Better accommodated time zone differences, especially for international students. Better accommodated heavy lecture content and alleviated Zoom fatigue for some students.
    • Synchronous: Better supported live discussions; students enjoyed small group breakouts and getting to know their classmates. Students could discuss challenging materials with their faculty.
  • Some students preferred access to remote learning as it provided time and cost savings.

What Could Be Improved?

  • Students felt disconnected from others, with some reporting feeling very isolated. Some first-year students reported having difficulty forming new friends while others felt a loss in collaborative, peer learning, feeling frustrated by having to problem solve by themselves.
  • Students had challenges managing their academics and social lives with new pandemic-related concerns.
  • Students commented about the lack of a central university online space for students to connect with other students and challenges of finding resources:
    • The Student Hub, USF calendar, and website need improvements — content is slow, scattered, inconsistent, and cluttered. Content is not fun or engaging.
    • Email is not a preferred means of communications — students prefer social media channels.
  • Students commented about some faculty assigning additional course workloads outside of class time, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
  • Students commented about experiencing Zoom and online fatigue.
  • Students commented about challenges from insufficient Internet bandwidth for remote learning.