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Faculty Survey Suggests Shift in Pre/Post-Pandemic Teaching

31% increase in those open to non-traditional approach, FA21

February 24, 2021 11:05 AM
"I teach mostly grad students. I did not expect to find any positives about remote teaching - in 35 years of teaching I had NEVER done it and did not plan on doing it before retirement [...] It is a lot of prep work and can be frustrating, but once I figured things out and was less anxious, things went pretty well and that can be quite rewarding. I think the biggest lesson for me was that you get as much effective learning in remote teaching as you put work and effort into prepping. Versatility in approach, flexibility in dealing with issues and a sense of humor are essential. The students reward your effort with their effort."
~ Professor Marina Adler, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health

As UMBC prepares for a possible return to campus next year, DoIT wanted to better understand the faculty experience of remote instruction and online learning over the past year. To do so, we sent an anonymous survey investigating faculty online support needs to three distributions of faculty: those who completed PIVOT Plus, PIVOT Live and those who did not participate in PIVOT.1 Respondents were provided with the option to provide their email address for follow-up questions. The survey was available from Feb. 9 to 17, and was completed by 204 respondents.  Of all respondents, half, (50%) indicated they would prefer to return to campus f2f. However, this is down from 81% prior to the pandemic. Indeed, of the 131 respondents who initially indicated that face-to-face (f2f) was their preferred form of delivery, 40% changed their mind to believing some other form of non traditional instructional delivery is preferable. Only 9%, or 8 respondents, went into the shift to fully online believing that some other form of online or hybrid instruction was preferable but now indicate a preference or interest to teach f2f when the campus reopens .

Three fifths of respondents spent a week or more developing just one course in Blackboard. Microsoft tools were the most leveraged by all respondents (75%), followed by Bb Collaborate and Bb Ultra. About half of respondents indicated they made use of Google Apps, Webex (Meetings), and Panopto. As illustrated in Figure 1, there were deviations in use patterns, depending on PIVOT participation, particularly related to used to support learner engagement tools, such as Google Apps, Panopto, and, in particular, VoiceThread.

Figure 1: Percent Tool Use, by PIVOT Training Participation

Nearly all respondents (97%) indicated they believed their internet skills were adequate to teach their course(s) and posting and receiving assignments worked smoothly (91%). As illustrated by Figure 2, of those who sought support during the Fall2020 term, the majority (63%) submitted a ticket through UMBC’s request tracker system. Around half of respondents also gained assistance through PIVOT training or from their colleagues.

Figure 2: Percent of Respondents Leveraging Resource

The qualitative comments followed several primary themes, one of which was a concern for the quality of online instruction compared with traditional f2f instruction. In general, the harshest criticisms appeared to originate from instructors who did not participate in PIVOT.[1] These qualitative descriptions complement the quantitative data, which indicate 63% percent of instructors would most like additional improvements to support Learner Engagement, while 45% of instructors would like to get a better handle on the best tools to fit their unique instructional needs. Additionally, there were voiced for the tools that were available for instruction, both articulated as there being too many choices and not the correct ones for their interests, particularly around synchronous instruction (e.g., disapproving of Bb Collaborate or WebEx while lauding Zoom or Google). Another area of concern was physical access to technology for both students and instructors. This element is echoed in the likert-type data, where 20% did not agree with the evaluation that the technology available to them during the fall was sufficient for teaching synchronously (e.g., students’ use of Chromebooks, lack of web cameras, or poor internet access).

However there were also many comments supporting the transition to away from fully f2f instruction, as exemplified by the Professor Adler’s  quote at the top of this summary. Respondents voiced their appreciation for the support they received transitioning online, or described how they were able to grow pedagogically in online spaces and hoped to carry forward these new knowledges, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to their instruction once the university eventually moves back to some semblance of normal.

Conducting high-stakes assessment was also a prevalent concern voiced in the respondents’ comments. This theme was echoed in the quantitative data, where managing online tests appeared to be an area of potential opportunity with only 73% of respondents agreeing that they had the necessary KSAs to be successful in this domain, and 9% strongly disagreeing that they were well equipped to assess their students online.

[1] About 3 out of 5 respondents participated in some form of PIVOT (59%), about the same proportion teaching full-time (63%), while 2 of 3 indicated they had previously taught online or hybrid/blended courses either at UMBC or another institution.

~ By Tom Penniston & Mariann Hawken
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