Capturing Student Sentiment About Fall Semester and Beyond

Capturing Student Sentiment About Fall Semester and Beyond
Izzy Hall

As this highly unusual Fall 2020 semester is nearing its conclusion, administrators are anxious to see how college students have responded to online learning – and how many students are likely to come back for a similar experience in the Spring of 2021. A new student survey from the learning platform company Top Hat finds that while many students are still adjusting to online learning, the majority of them intend to return to school for the Spring semester.

Top Hat surveyed 3,412 college students from both the U.S. and Canada about their experiences during this Fall 2020 semester. Almost all the students they surveyed were taking online classes in some shape or form. Students were asked to weigh in on their thoughts on online learning, their professors, and the tech tools they use to access class. Top Hat discovered that what made the biggest impact on student success and positivity about online classes was their instructors and the way they promoted a community despite the physical distance.

According to the study, 70% of students felt like they were provided with the right tools to stay connected to their professors and peers, which made them more motivated and engaged with learning. Community is a key concern of students, and most reported that their instructors were working hard to transform the virtual classroom into an engaging, active place. Instructors who promoted discussion, interaction and collaboration made students feel like they were getting more value out of their online education, which in turn made them report a greater interest in continuing their education in the Spring.

Before the Fall semester began, many college and university administrators worried that freshmen and incoming students would be particularly averse to online classes, leading to drop-offs in enrollment and retention. But Top Hat found that freshmen were less impacted by the shift to online learning compared to upperclassmen. They were less likely to feel the loss of student services, the cafeteria and study spaces. In general, freshmen reported feeling less of the negatives of online learning compared their older/upperclassmen peers.

What has your experience been this Fall 2020 semester? Do you agree with Top Hat’s findings? Let us known in the comments.

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