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Survey: Student Success Gaps Widening During Pandemic

In a recent survey focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students in introductory-level courses this past fall, faculty reported increases in DFWI rates (the number of students who receive a D or F grade, withdraw or fail to complete a course) — particularly at two-year institutions or those serving Pell-eligible students. The top student challenges identified by faculty were managing mental wellness; balancing school and family responsibilities; and ensuring reliable internet access.

Those insights and more came out of "Time for Class: The Impact of 2020 on Introductory Faculty and Their Students," a survey of 852 faculty teaching introductory courses in fall 2020 at higher education institutions across the United States, conducted by Tyton Partners in partnership with the Association of Public Land-grant Universities, Achieving the Dream, the Association of Chief Academic Officers, Digital Promise and Every Learner Everywhere.

"While it's been widely reported that the pandemic has caused a significant decline in enrollment of first time students, we now see faculty warning institutional leaders, policy-makers and the field broadly of increased course failure rates that will exacerbate the persistent equity gaps in degree completion," noted Kristen Fox, director at Tyton Partners and lead report author, in a statement.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • More than 90 percent of faculty teaching introductory courses in the fall delivered them in an online or hybrid format. Two-thirds of faculty taught their courses fully online; 24 percent hybrid or highly flexible; and 9 percent fully in-person or face-to-face.
  • Only 56 percent of faculty teaching in hybrid and highly flexible formats said they felt prepared to teach a high-quality course in those modalities, but 70 percent felt prepared to teach fully online. Fifty-four percent rated the professional development at their institutions as sufficient.
  • Seventy-two percent of faculty integrated new digital tools into their courses; 70 percent updated learning objectives, assessments and activities; 60 percent embedded active learning components; and 46 percent increased the frequency of assessments to track student learning.
  • Faculty members' top instructional priorities: better engaging students; providing timely feedback; increasing student collaboration; and grading.
  • Overall, 76 percent of faculty were either somewhat or extremely satisfied with student learning outcomes in the fall, up from 65 percent in spring 2020.
  • Yet, 66 percent of faculty were concerned that systemic equity gaps at their institution were not being adequately addressed.

The full report is available on the Every Learner Everywhere site.

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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