Book cover of "Online, Open, and Equitable Education: Lessons from Teaching and Learning during the Global Pandemic" Edited by Nancy Turner, Nick Baker, David J. Hornsby, Aline Germain-Rutherford, David Graham, and Brad Wuetherick

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Coming summer 2024

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In response to the pandemic, faculty had to unexpectedly adapt courses to virtual learning while they and students coped with stress induced by the lockdown and social isolation. In three undergraduate courses at a four-year Hispanic-serving institution, there was a notable change in student attendance (95% to 65%) and number of students submitting assignments on time (91% to 69%) from pre-pandemic face-to-face instruction to post-transition virtual instruction. Pedagogical interventions were implemented in these three courses in the fall 2020 semester to address these issues in student behavior and performance. Primary interventions were aimed at directly addressing the issues observed in the first semester of virtual instruction: (1) accountability groups, (2) individual outreach, (3) extensive feedback provided in a timely fashion, and (4) alignment of course content schedule with assignment due dates. Secondary interventions, which were designed to provide additional support to the students, included using a learner intake survey to identify student concerns, creating a welcoming environment, and being flexible but firm with revised assignment due dates. Improvements were noted in class attendance (65% to 88%) and the number of students submitting assignments on time (69% to 86%). Other benefits were observed, such as students creating their own support networks to navigate the stress of the pandemic, a self-reported strong sense of community that helped with social isolation, and an increase in students attending faculty office hours.

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Discussion Questions

  • How effective do you think the accountability groups were in improving student engagement and attendance, and what are some potential drawbacks of this approach?
  • Considering the unique stressors faced by students during the pandemic, how important is individual outreach from instructors in supporting student mental health and academic performance?
  • The case study mentioned the use of an intake survey to identify students’ concerns at the beginning of the semester. Discuss the potential impacts of this strategy on student-instructor communication and course engagement.
  • Analyze the balance between providing flexibility in assignment due dates and maintaining firm academic expectations. What are the potential benefits and challenges of this strategy?
  • The study utilized music and personal information sharing to create a welcoming environment for online classes. Discuss how these techniques might influence community building and student motivation in a virtual classroom setting.
  • Reflect on the intensive feedback and quick turnaround strategy employed in the study. How might this approach affect students’ academic performance and their perception of the course?