Online Learning Survey results

It should come as no surprise that college students like to listen to lectures late at night and in their pajamas. Faculty, however, prefer seeing students’ bright, smiling faces live at 10 a.m.—even remotely.

That’s just one of the findings of two surveys of University of Utah students and faculty. The first was taken in the wake of a quick shift to an all-online instruction spring semester during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a second survey sent toward the end of the subsequent fall semester.

“The good news is: Our campus adjusted quickly and creatively to the shift to all-online instruction in the spring,” says Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “Students and faculty made the best of things and that flexibility prepared us well for fall, when instruction was provided in-person as well as online.”

As university leaders worked on plans for the 2020-21 school year with health and safety of the campus community as the top priorities, they set two guiding principles: preserving the in-person college experience of first-year students and helping seniors complete their degrees. To keep course sizes small and enhance physical distancing, it became clear that online resources and digital technology would still need to be utilized.

To ensure the continued implementation of effective online learning, the university administered an Online Learning Survey to students and faculty. The spring student survey resulted in 3,981 responses and 798 responded to the faculty survey. In the fall, 4,837 students and 724 faculty responded.

“We were pleased to see that most students found the online transition to be reasonably effective,” said Dan Reed, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “The survey also helped us better understand which issues have been most challenging for students and faculty so we may provide the right additional resources and support wherever possible to ensure continued student success during these trying times.”

Based on the survey results, the U has:

  • Significantly expanded faculty training in online techniques via its Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence and Teaching and Learning Technologies teams
  • Deployed online teaching technology in a significant number of additional classrooms
  • Deployed additional Wi-Fi hotspots in public campus areas
  • Expanded its laptop and hotspot student loaner program
  • Allocated CARES Act funding for emergency student support

Key spring 2020 survey results

  • About 76% of students said online education met educational objectives of their courses either moderately well, very well or extremely well.
  • About 80% of instructors thought online education met the educational objectives of their courses either moderately well, very well or extremely well.
  • About 84% of students felt their instructor was either moderately, very or extremely effective in using online teaching tools and techniques.

Top three challenges encountered when taking online classes

  1. Personal motivation, 57.65%
  2. Lack of clarity about course requirements, 33.72%
  3. Time to dedicate to classes, 29.67%

Top three things instructors did to help students succeed

  1. Be flexible and accommodating, 68.82%
  2. Made regular announcements on Canvas, 41.64%
  3. Be accessible and available for questions, 38.23%

Key fall 2020 survey results 

  • About 55% of students said fall semester online instruction was either somewhat or much more effective compared to spring semester.
  • About 65% of faculty said teaching in the fall was either somewhat or much more effective compared to spring semester.
  • About 75% of students said online education met educational objectives of their courses either moderately well, very well or extremely well.
  • About 82% of students felt their instructor was either moderately, very or extremely effective in using online teaching tools and techniques.
  • The most challenging issue faced by students was personal motivation, followed by disrupted sleep and activity sequences and learning expectations.

Top three things instructors did to help students succeed

  1. Be flexible and accommodating, 59.80%
  2. Made regular announcements on Canvas, 38.65%
  3. Give clear instructions for assignments, 37.07%