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Students Complain: Too Much (Busy) Work in Online Classes

Almost three in five students (59 percent) in a recent survey complained that they are doing more assignments online than they ever did in their in-person classes, and nearly as many (55 percent) protested that much of it felt like "busy work." The survey, sponsored by education publisher Wiley, was done by 1,046 business majors attending four-year colleges and universities as undergraduate or graduate students in the United States.

As one student put it, "I am less than satisfied with my current learning situation as professors are using COVID to assign more work with less payoff, as online learning is less interactive than regular in-session courses. [The situation] would be improved if professors would assign homework that is interactive and meaningful and reflects the lecture rather than just plainly assigning homework assignments for points."

These weren't just idle grumblings, since students also reported that they generally found assignments helpful for preparing for quizzes and tests (81 percent), for understanding concepts covered in class (79 percent) and for familiarizing them with concepts before class (66 percent).

The majority of students said it was more valuable to watch instructors work through problems in real time than any other online learning activities they could choose. Two-thirds (64 percent) expressed a preference for real-time instruction, compared to 49 percent who preferred pre-recorded lectures, 45 percent who liked real-time projects and 40 percent who liked collaboration with other students.

The report sharing the results offered this advice:

  • Make the online assignments worthwhile by soliciting student input;
  • Add interactive components and encourage group work and one-on-ones; and
  • Help students make the connections by showing them how the skills they're developing in the class have "real-world relevance."

The "State of the Student Survey" is openly available online.

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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