skip to main content

Title: The impact of emergency remote learning on students in engineering and computer science in the United States: An analysis of four universities
Abstract Background In Spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic sent universities into emergency remote education. The pandemic has been disruptive but offers the opportunity to learn about ways to support students in other situations where abrupt changes to teaching and learning are necessary. Purpose/Hypothesis We described the responses of engineering and computer science students to a series of prompts about their experiences with remote learning. Design/Method Data about students' remote learning experiences were collected from undergraduate engineering and computer science students at four different universities through an end-of-semester survey. Descriptive statistics were calculated, and qualitative responses were analyzed using qualitative content analysis through the lenses of master narrative theory and sociocultural theory. Results Student responses revealed how their individual circumstances combined to reduce motivation, create home environments detrimental to completing schoolwork, and increase stress. Many students described the negative impacts of remote learning, but some students found positive aspects of the situation. The majority of students did not indicate a change in their desire or plans to pursue engineering or computer science majors. Conclusions There was wide variation in how students experienced the disruption to university learning during Spring 2020. Implications of this paper can help not only in cases where emergency remote learning is needed in the future but also as universities seek to return to “normal” operations in 2022 and beyond.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2033129 1726268
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Lisa Benson
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Engineering Education
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    The global pandemic of COVID-19 brought about the transition to Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) at higher education institutions across the United States, prompting both students and the faculty to rapidly adjust to a different modality of teaching and learning. Other crises have induced disruptions to academic continuity (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes), but not to the same extent as COVID-19, which has affected universities on a global scale. In this paper, we describe a qualitative case study where we interviewed 11 second-year Integrated Engineering students during the Spring 2020 semester to explore how they adapted to the transition to remote learning. Our results revealed several student challenges, how they used self-discipline strategies to overcome them, and how the faculty supported students in the classroom through a compassionate and flexible pedagogy. Faculty members showed compassion and flexibility by adjusting the curriculum and assessment and effectively communicating with students. This was especially important for the women participants in this study, who more frequently expressed utilizing pass/fail grading and the personal and gendered challenges they faced due to the pandemic. During this unprecedented crisis, we found that a key element for supporting students’ well-being and success is the faculty members communicating care and incorporating flexibility into their courses. 
    more » « less
  2. This paper describes an evidence based-practice paper to a formative response to the engineering faculty and students’ needs at Anonymous University. Within two weeks, the pandemic forced the vast majority of the 1.5 million faculty and 20 million students nationwide to transition all courses from face-to-face to entirely online. Never in the history of higher education has there been a concerted effort to adapt so quickly and radically, nor have we had the technology to facilitate such a rapid and massive change. At Anonymous University, over 700 engineering educators were racing to transition their courses. Many of those faculty had never experienced online course preparation, much less taught one synchronously or asynchronously. Faculty development centers and technology specialists across the university made a great effort to aid educators in this transition. These educators had questions about the best practices for moving online, how their students were affected, and the best ways to engage their students. However, these faculty’s detailed questions were answerable only by faculty peers’ experience, students’ feedback, and advice from experts in relevant engineering education research-based practices. This paper describes rapid, continuous, and formative feedback provided by the Engineering Education Faculty Group (EEFG) to provide an immediate response for peer faculty guidance during the pandemic, creating a community of practice. The faculty membership spans multiple colleges in the university, including engineering, education, and liberal arts. The EEFG transitioned immediately to weekly meetings focused on the rapidly changing needs of their colleagues. Two surveys were generated rapidly by Hammond et al. to characterize student and faculty concerns and needs in March of 2020 and were distributed through various means and media. Survey 1 and 2 had 3381 and 1506 respondents respectively with most being students, with 113 faculty respondents in survey 1, the focus of this piece of work. The first survey was disseminated as aggregated data to the College of Engineering faculty with suggested modifications to course structures based on these findings. The EEFG continued to meet and collaborate during the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester and has continued through to this day. This group has acted as a hub for teaching innovation in remote online pedagogy and techniques, while also operating as a support structure for members of the group, aiding those members with training in teaching tools, discussion difficult current events, and various challenges they are facing in their professional teaching lives. While the aggregated data gathered from the surveys developed by Hammond et al. was useful beyond measure in the early weeks of the pandemic, little attention at the time was given to the responses of faculty to that survey. The focus of this work has been to characterize faculty perceptions at the beginning of the pandemic and compare those responses between engineering and non-engineering faculty respondents, while also comparing reported perceptions of pre- and post-transition to remote online teaching. Interviews were conducted between 4 members of the EEFG with the goal of characterizing some of the experiences they have had while being members of the group during the time of the pandemic utilizing Grounded theory qualitative analysis. 
    more » « less
  3. This research evaluates the impact of switching college engineering courses from in-person instruction to emergency remote learning among engineering students at a university in the Midwest. The study aimed to answer the question: What were the concerns and perceived challenges students faced when traditional in-person engineering courses suddenly transitioned to remote learning? The goal of this study is to uncover the challenges students were facing in engineering online courses and to understand students’ concerns. Our findings can help improve teaching instruction to provide students with previously unavailable educational assistance for online engineering courses. We collected online survey responses during weeks 8 and 9 of the academic semester, shortly after the COVID-19 shutdown and emergency transition to remote learning in Spring 2020. The survey included two open-ended questions which inquired about students’ feedback about moving the class online, and one two-item scale which assessed students’ confidence in online engineering learning. Data analysis for the open-ended questions was guided by the theoretical framework - Social Cognitive Career Theory [1] that explores how context, person factors and social cognitions contribute to career goals, interests and actions. A phenomenological approach [2] was conducted to understand the experience of these students. Open coding and axial coding [2] methods were used to create initial categories then themes related to students' concerns and challenges. Data from the two-item scale was evaluated using descriptive statistics: means, standard deviations, and ranges. Four main themes with separate sub-categories emerged from the student responses: 1) Instructor’s ability to teach course online (Instructional limitations, Seeking help, Increased Workload), 2) Student’s ability to learn online (Time Management, Lower engagement and motivation, Harder to absorb material, Hard to focus, Worry about performance), 3) Difficulties outside of class (Technology issues), and 4) No concerns. Students seemed more concerned about their ability to learn the material (48% of responses) than the instructor’s ability to teach the material (36% of responses). The instructional limitations or lack of instructional support (22% of responses) and time management (12% of responses) were among the major concerns in the sub-categories. The results from two-item scale indicated participants' s confidence in their ability to master their classroom knowledge was at an intermediate level via online instruction (6/10), and participants' confidence in the instructor's ability to teach knowledge in online classes is moderate to high (7/10). The results align with the open-ended question response in which students were somewhat more concerned about their ability to learn than the instructor’s ability to teach. The themes and analysis will be a valuable tool to help institutions and instructors improve student learning experiences. 
    more » « less
  4. During the Spring 2020 semester, universities shifted into emergency remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the pandemic disrupted students learning, their support structures, and interactions with other individuals both socially and academically. In addition, it created lasting impacts on professionals in determining strategies and altering objectives to help undergraduate engineering students achieve their learning objectives. Previous research on social support during the pandemic has focused primarily on singular cultural context, this study was conducted to understand the impact of the pandemic on students support in different cultural contexts. The purpose of this research was to explore how students experienced social capital structures at two institutions: one in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and one in the United States (U.S.) during the period of emergency remote teaching. The survey was designed around social capital theory, it provided demographic information, students agreement with their educational and social interactions, and names of individuals as well as resources they utilized during the pandemic.Results revealed similarities and differences between the two groups. Both case studies had the same top three alters: friends/roommate, professor, and family members, and reported almost the same frequency in communication with their alters. Participants in both case studies also hadhigh rates of support in both expressive and instrumental categories from their top two alters. Examiningthe differences, the UK case had a lower mean response for both sense of belonging and satisfaction at the university. Finally, there was a difference in the types of alters identified in each case due to different cultural contexts. 
    more » « less
  5. Zhu, Rong (Ed.)
    The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020 forced universities to shut down their campuses and transition to emergency remote instruction (ERI). Students had to quickly adapt to this new mode of instruction while dealing with all other distractions caused by the pandemic. This study integrates extensive data from students’ institutional records at a large Historically Black College and University (HBCU) institution with data from a students’ survey about the impact of COVID-19 on learning during the Spring 2020 semester to examine the impact of the transition to ERI on students’ performance and identify the main factors explaining variations in students’ performance. The main findings of our analysis are: (a) students’ university experience was positively correlated with performance (continuing students who spent at least one academic year at the university prior to the outbreak had better performance than freshman and new transfer students), (b) students’ perceived change in performance after the transition was positively associated with actual performance (students who perceived a decline in their performance after transition to ERI had significantly worse performance than other students), and (c) students’ prior online learning experiences and students’ emotional experiences with the COVID-19 disease were not significantly associated with performance. These results suggest that the approaches adopted by higher education institutions to support students during times of crisis should pay special attention to certain groups of students. 
    more » « less