By Clara Young
As institutions moved online last Spring, students and colleges faced extraordinary challenges in delivering education remotely. To better understand the challenges facing students and adjust institutional policies to eliminate them, Tennessee State University (TSU) launched a student survey last September to gauge student sentiments and needs.
The survey asked a host of questions related to technological limitations, remote instructional delivery, course materials, interaction with fellow students and instructors, and access to supplemental instruction, among other topics.
The results gave us several insights. First, asynchronous courses were limiting interactions among students as well as faculty. Students reported a decreased understanding of course material and made course expectations harder to gauge. One student, echoing others, reported having difficulty reviewing previously covered material before assessments in this format. To address this concern, TSU made all 1000- and 2000-level courses synchronous for the current semester and while instruction remains remote.
Second, pandemic-imposed constraints have made reaching instructors more difficult for students. The loss of in-person office hours left students with fewer avenues to seek help from instructors and some students, were challenged in addressing questions about course content in a timely manner. As a result, TSU has created standing office hours for courses on their e-learning platform.
The pandemic has created extraordinary obstacles to learning and instruction particularly in an online environment. Yet TSU believes strongly in using data to shape institutional policies that better meet students’ needs. This prompt feedback has helped us address student concerns, bolster institutional effectiveness, and address challenges to student success. As the pandemic continues, we view these survey tools as a critically important avenue for staying connected with students and improving the educational experiences of our students.
Dr. Clara Young is Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at Tennessee State University.