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Going remote: IU releases preliminary findings from faculty/student survey on spring 2020 eLearning

Four main recommendations will help faculty plan for continued remote instruction in face of COVID-19 pandemic

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—In mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Indiana University and many other colleges and universities to suspend in-person instruction and deliver all instruction remotely for the remainder of the semester.

In response to this transition, Indiana University’s eLearning Research and Practice Lab, a unit within IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute, deployed a full-census survey of all undergraduates and instructors across all IU campuses, as part of the IU-led “Mega-Study of COVID-19 Impact in Higher Education.” This research was supported by the IU Office of the Vice President for Research and from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt.

Empty spaces
Empty spaces

The usually bustling sidewalk near IU Bloomington's iconic Sample Gates was a ghost town this spring when the university switched to remote instruction.

The survey aimed to identify student and instructor experiences during the transition to remote instruction, and to provide actionable insights that may improve instruction during future semesters. The preliminary findings and recommendations are now available here

The report lists four recommendations for faculty who are planning their online courses for fall 2020: 

  1. Assign classwork judiciously, and in alignment with clear learning goals.
  2. Create opportunities for student-instructor communication, especially for first- and second-year students.
  3. Facilitate student success and foster a sense of virtual community through student-to-student communication.
  4. Collaborate with other members of IU’s vibrant teaching community by sharing materials and successes and providing venues for others to do the same.

More details, including supporting survey data as well as representative comments from faculty and students, are available in the report

We all will need to work hard to establish strong learning communities, to build opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie among students, and to ensure a strong sense of instructor presence in our classes.

Greg Siering, director, IU Bloomington Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

“Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this report is that students missed having close contact with their instructors and classmates during the sudden shift to remote teaching last spring,” said Greg Siering, director of the IU Bloomington Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. "They value and rely on rich personal connections with their instructors and classmates—hallmarks of a quality IU education. As we move into the fall semester, we all will need to work hard to establish strong learning communities, to build opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie among students, and to ensure a strong sense of instructor presence in our classes.”

As researchers delve into the data in the coming months in preparation for a peer-reviewed academic paper, even more insights will be brought to light about the pandemic-induced transition to remote instruction during spring 2020.

“There's plenty of opportunity for deeper discovery and more nuanced actionable insights, and in the spirit of transparency and open science, we encourage teachers and researchers to make the most of these valuable data provided by IU's students and instructors,” said Ben Motz, director of the eLearning Research and Practice Lab and the study’s principal investigator.

In the spirit of transparency and open science, we encourage teachers and researchers to make the most of these valuable data provided by IU's students and instructors.

Ben Motz, director of the eLearning Research and Practice Lab and the study’s principal investigator

To that end, Motz and his team have also made the complete survey questionnaires, as well as de-identified responses to closed-ended survey items, available to the public: osf.io/69m3t/files/.

About the eLearning Research and Practice Lab

The eLearning Research and Practice Lab is a unit affiliated with the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) and Data to Insight Center (D2I).

PTI transforms new innovations in cyberinfrastructure, computer science, and information technology into robust tools enabling new breakthroughs in research, scholarship, and artistic creation; delivers such tools and supports their use in academic and private sector contexts; aids the growth of the Indiana economy; and helps build Indiana’s 21st century workforce.

The mission of the Data to Insight Center is to conduct societally relevant research, scholarship, and outreach in data science and data-driven computing. The Data to Insight Center is a collaboration of IU’s Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering and the IU Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.