What Worked This Spring? Well-Designed and Delivered Courses

Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Doug Lederman reported on the best practices that were incorporated in virtual classes that students rated most highly. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

Professors and students alike viewed their remote learning experience most favorably this spring when their courses incorporated more “best practices.” That’s the path to making the inevitable virtual education better this fall.

Two new nationally representative surveys of more than 1,000 undergraduate students and 4,000 instructors from 1,500 colleges reinforces the prevailing view that many instructors and students were not happy with how the spring went. The proportion of students saying they were highly satisfied with their experience in a course important to them fell from 51 percent pre-COVID to 19 percent post-COVID, and three-fifths of instructors said they struggled to keep students engaged.

But as is true of classroom instruction, too, not all courses are made the same. As instructors abruptly adapted their in-person courses to be delivered virtually over a matter of days in March, some more than others incorporated a set of practices widely embraced as contributing to high-quality virtual learning. And when courses were designed or delivered using significant numbers of those practices, students and professors alike were much likelier to express satisfaction with their experience, to feel engaged.

The studies released by Digital Promise [https://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ELE_CoBrand_DP_FINAL_3.pdf] and Tyton Partners [https://tytonpartners.com/library/time-for-class-covid19-edition-part-1/], both of which are part of the Every Learner Everywhere network, are arguably the most comprehensive surveys to date of student and faculty perspectives on the spring’s remarkable and abrupt transition to remote learning by the vast majority of the country’s colleges, students and professors.

The results were probably not surprising: students who said their courses had utilized at least six of the eight practices that Digital Promise (based on a review of pedagogical research) deemed “recommended” were far likelier (74 percent) to say they were satisfied with their remote learning course, 35 percent very satisfied. By comparison, 43 percent of students who said their course used two or fewer of the eight practices said they were satisfied, only 9 percent very much so.

These 8 practices include the following

  • Live sessions for asking questions/participating in discussions
  • Real-world examples
  • Frequent quizzes
  • Personal messages from the instructor
  • Assignments having you express what you had learned
  • Breaking course activities up into shorter pieces
  • Group projects
  • Breakout groups during a live class

For more, see https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/07/08/what-kept-students-studying-remotely-satisfied-spring-well