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Survey: Faculty Mostly Satisfied with Fall Plans

In a recent survey, just over half of faculty in higher education expressed doubt about the new academic year: Fifty-one percent said they were "uncertain" about the fall term. Yet 55 percent have said they're moderately or very satisfied with the plans their schools have publicly stated for the fall, and six in 10 said they'd rate the level of clarity their schools have provided regarding how students will be taught as either "excellent" or "good."

These results came out of a survey of 808 higher education instructors and instructional support staff done during a single week in July by education technology company Top Hat. The vast majority of participants were based in the United States. Top Hat produces an application with digital tools for student engagement, such as virtual classroom streaming, polls and quizzes and live chat and discussions.

More than four out of five (84 percent) respondents said their schools' planned approach is to teach either primarily online or through a hybrid combination of in-person and online instruction.

About two-thirds of respondents rated their schools "excellent" or "good" in terms of working to accommodate personal needs (66 percent), ensuring the physical health and safety of faculty (67 percent) and ensuring the physical health and safety of students (67 percent).

Respondents said they were overall pleased by the quality of support they've received to help them teach effectively and help students succeed in the fall. A combined 62 percent rated the quality of support as "good" or "excellent."

A majority (78 percent) anticipate that students will see value for their investment in higher education. A similarly high number (79 percent) reported confidence that students will succeed using the course format announced by their schools.

A higher share of faculty said the opinion they held of their school has improved during the pandemic than not. While 48 percent of respondents said their opinion hadn't changed, 29 percent said it was better, while 23 percent said it was worse.

The two biggest concerns instructors have about the modality in which they'll teach in the fall and its impact on student learning have to do with students being able to navigate or use the online teaching tools made available (mentioned by 51 percent) and the ability for students to access online teaching materials (41 percent). Also, 81 percent of survey participants reported that keeping students engaged and motivated was a major worry, while 58 percent said they were concerned about providing engaging in-class experiences.

While 84 percent of instructors said they use a learning management system and 80 percent supplement that usage with other digital teaching tools, just one in five respondents (21 percent) indicated their school has fully mandated or prescribed tools for educators to use. A third (35 percent) said their schools had mandated some tools or they either were not given instructions or did not know what tools to use (44 percent).

"Effective online teaching is so much more than just uploading lecture slides and videoconferencing classes in real time," said Top Hat CEO Nick Stein, in a press release. "As we look ahead to the new academic term, students will have high expectations for the levels of engagement, interactivity and connection built into their courses. Based on the results from this survey, there is still opportunity for institutions and educators to get this right before the fall."

Additional survey findings are openly available on the Top Hat website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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