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IU Report Offers 4 Recommendations for Online Teaching this Fall

Indiana University has released preliminary findings from a survey of undergraduates and instructors across its all of its campuses, examining their experiences of the transition to remote instruction this past spring. The research was conducted by the eLearning Research and Practice Lab, a unit within IU's Pervasive Technology Institute, as part of the "Mega-Study of COVID-19 Impact in Higher Education," an IU-led initiative that is gathering data from institutions within the Unizin Consortium in order to inform future e-learning efforts. The IU survey asked 6,156 current students and 1,538 instructors for their feedback and insights.

Based on their responses, researchers offered four recommendations for faculty who are planning their online courses for the fall semester:

  • "Assign classwork judiciously, and in alignment with clear learning goals." In other words, avoid overloading students. As the researchers pointed out, most student respondents reported increases in classwork volume after the transition to remote instruction, and 73 percent found that it took more effort to complete their assigned work. Many students also reported "high anxiety due to ballooning numbers of deadlines and assignments."
  • "Create opportunities for student-instructor communication, especially for first- and second-year students." During the period of remote instruction, the report found, 67 percent of instructors felt disconnected from their students, and 74 percent of students said they'd lost touch with the university community.
  • "Facilitate student success and foster a sense of virtual community through student-to-student communication." Many IU students experienced "a deep sense of isolation during remote instruction," the report said, and students benefited from encouragement both from their instructors and from their peers.
  • "Collaborate … by sharing materials and successes and providing venues for others to do the same." Researchers found that instructors working from home missed being able to converse with their colleagues and share and benefit from each other's expertise.

"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, in a statement. "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."

The survey report is openly available here.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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