July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
This paper looks at the impact of COVID-19 and the associated shift to online learning, and how the quality of student learning was impacted by an instructor’s successes and failures in navigating technological platforms. Research shows that the quality of student-professor interactions is vital to student learning (Shea, Li and Pickett 2006, Swan 2002). Moreover, given the challenging nature of an engineering curriculum, our initial findings indicate that student success depends heavily on interactions that they have outside of the classroom via office hours, emails, and as important, study groups and modes of peer support that students form because of the in-person nature of normal classrooms. (Akera et at, 2020, Camacho and Lord 2013) The sudden shift to online learning disrupted established patterns for both instruction and learning, with impacts on how and whether students could successfully navigate their engineering courses. This paper is a subset of a larger, NSF funded project that examines how engineering educators have been responding to the rise of new educational technologies, and how the larger engineering education ecosystem has been responding to the emergence of these new technologies. COVID-19 presented us with a unique shock to the system, and a chance to observe this adaptation in accelerated form. Our research team, as described in “Student Perspectives on Navigating Engineering Pathways” (Akera et al, 2020) had already completed a series of student interviews describing how students with diverse backgrounds navigate the challenges of an engineering degree program. This presented us with an opportunity to extend the interviews to examine how students in turn navigated the forced shift to online learning. Twenty-two interviews were conducted during the Summer of 2020 to capture student experiences with the forced transition to online learning. The general method employed consisted of semi-structured interviews conducted using snowball sampling, with a subject selection matrix used to ensure broad demographic representation of subjects. While the greater findings related to student experiences with online learning that were captured in these interviews will be presented separately, this paper focuses on student reports on how instructors did and didn’t successfully utilize educational technologies during the sudden shift to online learning. Our key findings in this regard are that: instructors who reduced the amount of time lecturing and instead dedicated class time for student questions were able to emulate in-person office hours, instructors who shifted their course to a complete asynchronous mode notably lost the ability to engage students with learning material, and students relied on both institute-provided and non-academic resources (Slack, Discord, Zoom, Google Suite) to collaborate on their assignments. As was true with our “Student Perspectives” study, this work was also based on a relatively novel interview method that relies on the “code switching” that the interviewer—an undergraduate engineering student (female, 21, mid SES)—was able to invoke during the interview to develop rapport, share common experiences, and guide the interview subject towards a more detailed and subjective account of experiences they may have been less likely to share with older researchers unable to relate directly to student experiences. Therefore, the paper will also reflexively integrate the lead author’s experiences as an interviewer and the ways in which this approach facilitated access to key data related to student experiences.
Akera, Atsushi, Soheil Fatehiboroujeni, Sarah Appelhans, Joerene Aviles, Eva Dibong, Beatrice Mendiola, Michelle Murray, Melissa Shuey, Marta Tsyndra, and Makayla Wahaus. “Student Perspectives on Navigating Engineering Pathways.” 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings, 2020. https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2--35234.
Camacho, Michelle Madsen, and Susan M. Lord. The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. Lexington Books, 2013.
Shea, Peter, Chun Sau Li, and Alexandra Pickett. 2006. "A study of teaching presence and student sense of learning community in fully online and web-enhanced college courses." Internet and Higher Education (9): 175-190.
Swan, Karen. 2002. "Building learning communities in online courses: the importance of interaction." Education, Communication, & Information II (1): 23-49.
Shuey, M., & Akera, A., & Appelhans, S., & Cheville, A., & De Pree, T., & Fatehiboroujeni, S. (2021, July), Student Experience with COVID-19 and Online Learning: Impact of Faculty’s Ability to Successfully Navigate Technological Platforms for Remote Instruction Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37742
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