Alina Snopkowski, Editor
Header image: lasalle.edu
Two weeks ago, we published the first in what will (hopefully) be a series of anonymous surveys for the La Salle Collegian community to share their opinions on a variety of topics. For the inaugural survey, what better topic than something we haven’t stopped hearing about and thinking about for the past couple of years — online classes, COVID-19 and La Salle’s reaction to it all?
The survey was available on the homepage of the Collegian website and was taken by about 70 people. Around 40 were current students who had taken at least one semester of completely online classes and at least one semester of completely (or mostly completely) online classes. The rest were professors, staff, alumni, friends and family of students or students who had only taken online or only in-person classes. This number of responses is just a small collection of Collegian readers and students and is not necessarily representative of the entire University. However, there are still some interesting insights and patterns shown through the responses.
The majority of the topics in the survey, which were only shown to students who had taken at least a semester of online classes as well as a semester of in-person classes, compared online and in-person learning in a variety of ways. Statements were presented with a Likert scale with the responses “strongly agree,” “somewhat agree,” “neither agree nor disagree,” “somewhat disagree,” “strongly disagree” and “I don’t know/this doesn’t apply to me.” At the end of the survey, all respondents could also share whatever other information on these topics that they wanted the Collegian to know.
To try to reduce possible bias from the ways the questions were phrased, for each topic, half of the respondents received a statement asking about online learning compared to in-person learning, while the other half of the respondents received the same statement but reversed, so it asked about in-person learning compared to online learning. For example, a statement about mental health was phrased as “my mental health is better during online classes than it is during in-person classes” for half of the people who took the survey and “my mental health is better during in-person classes than it is during online classes” for the other half. Since the comparison was between just those two choices, a response of “strongly agree” to one ‘version’ of the question means that, at least logically, that same person would have answered “strongly disagree” if they had been asked to respond to the reversed statement. For that reason (and to cut down on the number of charts in this article), all results will be presented in terms of in-person vs online versions of the statements, with all responses to both versions of the question combined.
Here are the results.
“My mental health is better during in-person classes than it is during online classes.”
The majority of students who responded to this question thought that their mental health is better during in-person classes than it is during online classes.
“My professors’ office hours are more convenient in-person than online.”
The highest number of students were neutral on this statement. However, more students thought that online office hours were more convenient than in-person office hours.
“My professors’ office hours are more helpful in-person than online.”
While a high number of students, again, found this statement neutral, many more students found that office hours were more helpful in-person instead of online.
“It is easier for me to work on schoolwork when classes are in-person instead of online.”
The majority of students found it easier to work on schoolwork when classes are in-person.
“It is easier for me to work (at a job) when classes are in-person instead of online.”
The responses to this statement were more varied, but most students thought that working at a job was easier when classes were online.
“It is easier for me to join clubs and extracurriculars when classes are in-person instead of online.”
Again, the majority of students who answered this question find it easier to get involved with clubs and extracurriculars in-person (although, during online classes, many groups, including the Collegian, did meet and organize online).
“My grades, overall, are better when classes are in-person than when they are online.”
This statement had an even split of agreement and disagreement — while eight respondents were neutral, 11 agreed and 11 disagreed in some capacity.
“It is easier for me to connect with my classmates when classes are in-person instead of online.”
Just one respondent disagreed with this statement.
“In-person classes are more interactive than online classes.”
This topic was shown to both students and professors who took the survey, and both groups overall agree that in-person classes are more interactive than online classes. One respondent at the end of the survey made a note that “online classes can be very interactive if the professor knows how to set them up that way.”
All people who took the survey, regardless of if they are students or not, were able to answer questions about La Salle’s distribution of COVID-19 information, contact tracing and COVID-19 testing policies and if they knew who to contact if they had questions on any of those topics.
“La Salle’s distribution of information about online classes, COVID-19 policies and other related topics has overall been up-to-date.”
A majority of respondents thought that this information has been distributed in a timely manner.
“La Salle’s distribution of information about online classes, COVID-19 policies and other related topics has overall been helpful.”
While more people agreed than disagreed with this statement, there was still a fair number of respondents who did not think the University’s information about these topics has been helpful.
“If I have a question about La Salle’s COVID-19 policies, I know who to contact or where to find the information.”
Most respondents seemed to know where they could have their questions answered, although several were also confused and unsure. For current information on La Salle’s COVID-19 policies, check this page.
The last statement students were shown asked them to choose between all online or all in-person classes for the current semester.
“All things considered, if I had to choose between either all in-person classes or all online classes for this semester, I would choose in-person.”
A large majority of respondents prefer in-person classes over online ones for this semester.
“I think that online classes don’t work,” explained one respondent at the end of the survey. “My experiences with online classes have been well,” wrote another. Someone else thinks it is necessary to “keep online classes and accommodations accessible for disabled students and those at highest risk,” and another wrote that it is important to remember that “there is inherent risk to everyone once a person walks outside their home or dorm.”
Although the sample size of this survey is certainly not large enough to represent the campus community as a whole, the results and patterns in the responses are still interesting. Here are my main takeaways.
Overall, the Collegian community, or at least those tuned in enough to respond to this survey, seems to think the University is doing a pretty good job distributing up-to-date and helpful information. Most students who took this survey reported that, in in-person classes, their mental health was better, joining clubs and extracurriculars and connecting with classmates was easier and it was easier to work on schoolwork. However, while classes were online, most respondents found it easier to work at jobs, and many found that online office hours are more convenient than in-person ones. Whether classes were online or in-person didn’t seem to have a consistent effect on students’ grades and, all things considered, the vast majority of students who took this survey would prefer completely in-person classes over totally online ones for this semester.
Many factors have influenced La Salle’s decisions about online classes and COVID-19 policies over the past two years, and some of those factors were certainly not covered in this survey. However, I think it is important to see what students, professors and others in the La Salle community think about changes and policies. We regularly receive surveys from the University about topics like Residence Life and dining options on campus, so why not something including some of the topics and themes in this article? These as well as other subjects could provide important insight to administration about what students think about their decisions and changes — because, after all, shouldn’t they be a little bit interested?
If you have any ideas for topics for future surveys, feel free to contact me at the email linked above!