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Title: Student Perceptions of the Complete Online Transition of Two CS Courses in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Student perceptions of the complete online transition of two CS courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the globe switched from traditional Face-to-Face (F2F) course delivery to completely online. Our university declared during our Spring break that students would not return to campus, and that all courses must be delivered fully online starting two weeks later. This was challenging to both students and instructors. In this evidence-based practice paper, we present results of end-of-semester student surveys from two Spring 2020 CS courses: a programming intensive CS2 course, and a senior theory course in Formal Languages and Automata (FLA). Students indicated course components they perceived as most beneficial to their learning, before and then after the online transition, and preferences for each regarding online vs. F2F. By comparing student reactions across courses, we gain insights on which components are easily adapted to online delivery, and which require further innovation. COVID was unfortunate, but gave a rare opportunity to compare students’ reflections on F2F instruction with online instructional materials for half a semester vs. entirely online delivery of the same course during the second half. The circumstances are unique, but we were able to acquire insights for more » future instruction. Some course components were perceived to be more useful either before or after the transition, and preferences were not the same in the two courses, possibly due to differences in the courses. Students in both courses found prerecorded asynchronous lectures significantly less useful than in-person lectures. For CS2, online office hours were significantly less useful than in-person office hours, but we found no significant difference in FLA. CS2 students felt less supported by their instructor after the online transition, but no significant difference was indicated by FLA students. FLA students found unproctored online exams offered through Canvas more stressful than in-person proctored exams, but the opposite was indicated by CS2 students. CS2 students indicated that visual materials from an eTextbook were more useful to them after going online than before, but FLA students indicated no significant difference. Overall, students in FLA significantly preferred the traditional F2F version of the course, while no significant difference was detected for CS2 students. We did not find significant effects from gender on the preference of one mode over the other. A serendipitous outcome was learning that some changes forced by circumstance should be considered for long term adoption. Offering online lab sessions and online exams where the questions are primarily multiple choice are possible candidates. However, we found that students need to feel the presence of their instructor to feel properly supported. To determine what course components need further improvement before transitioning to fully online mode, we computed a logistic regression model. The dependent variable is the student's preference for F2F or fully online. The independent variables are the course components before and after the online transition. For both courses, in-person lectures were a significant factor negatively affecting students' preferences of the fully online mode. Similarly, for CS2, in-person labs and in-person office hours were significant factors pushing students’ preferences toward F2F mode. « less
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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference
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National Science Foundation
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