Data_Sheet_2_Undergraduate Surveys Reveal That Instructors Are Key in Students Overcoming Classroom Struggles During the COVID-19 Pandemic.DOCX
Many undergraduate students encounter struggle as they navigate academic, financial, and social contexts of higher education. The transition to emergency online instruction during the Spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these struggles. To assess college students’ struggles during the transition to online learning in undergraduate biology courses, we surveyed a diverse collection of students (n = 238) at an R2 research institution in the Southeastern United States. Students were asked if they encountered struggles and whether they were able to overcome them. Based on how students responded, they were asked to elaborate on (1) how they persevered without struggle, (2) how they were able to overcome their struggles, or (3) what barriers they encountered that did not allow them to overcome their struggles. Each open-ended response was thematically coded to address salient patterns in students’ ability to either persevere or overcome their struggle. We found that during the transition to remote learning, 67% of students experienced struggle. The most reported struggles included: shifts in class format, effective study habits, time management, and increased external commitments. Approximately, 83% of those struggling students were able to overcome their struggle, most often citing their instructor’s support and resources offered during the transition as reasons for their success. Students also cited changes in study habits, and increased confidence or belief that they could excel within the course as ways in which they overcame their struggles. Overall, we found no link between struggles in the classroom and any demographic variables we measured, which included race/ethnicity, gender expression, first-generation college students, transfer student status, and commuter student status. Our results highlight the critical role that instructors play in supporting student learning during these uncertain times by promoting student self-efficacy and positive-growth mindset, providing students with the resources they need to succeed, and creating a supportive and transparent learning environment.