We surveyed CC students. They said they dislike online learning, might not enroll if fall is virtual

Other surveys at liberal arts colleges report similar findings across the country

Good morning, and happy Thursday!

Today, we bring you the results of the Colorado College student survey we sent out last week. Then we show you how the CC responses stacked up against results from student surveys at four other liberal arts schools across the country.

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, we explained how protocols for the Colorado College student Emergency Services squad are changing because of COVID-19, and recapped updates from Colorado colleges and universities about their plans for the fall. Find our whole archive here. Now, onto the news…

Infographic by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith

Results: 89% of 106 CC students surveyed want to return to campus in the fall

Last week, we sent out a survey asking for Colorado College student responses. We promoted the questionnaire on the CC digest and on social media, and we received 106 complete responses.

⚠️A couple caveats: Out of a campus of roughly 2,000 students, 106 is merely a sliver— but likely an engaged sliver. Also, results were anonymous, so we can’t say every response came from a CC student. This was an anecdotal survey looking for student opinions, not a scientific survey by any means, and our sample size is not at all representative of the entire Colorado College student body. OK, now for the findings…

How would you rate CC’s overall response to COVID-19?

  • 4% (4/106) said “Very Poor.”

  • 12% (13/106) said “Poor.”

  • 44% (47/106) said “OK.”

  • 31% (33/106) said “Good.”

  • 9% (9/106) said “Very Good.”

Key takeaway: The largest portion of respondents (44%) thought CC’s overall response to COVID-19 was “OK,” followed by “Good” at 31%.

How satisfied were you with your distance-learning classes this semester?

  • 4% (4/106) said “Extremely Satisfied.”

  • 26% (28/106) said “Moderately Satisfied.”

  • 13% (14/106) said “Slightly Satisfied.”

  • 15% (16/106) said “Slightly Dissatisfied.”

  • 29% (31/106) said “Moderately Dissatisfied.”

  • 8% (8/106) said “Extremely Dissatisfied.”

  • 5% (5/106) said they did not take CC distance-learning classes this semester.

Key takeaway: Slightly more than half of respondents (52%) were dissatisfied with their distance-learning classes to some degree.

How did you handle your belongings?

  • 14% (15/106) said they moved out before Block 6.

  • 29% (31/106) said they moved out after Block 6.

  • 20% (21/106) said they came back to campus to retrieve them.

  • 18% (19/106) said they had them packed up and stored for them.

  • 19% (20/106) said they are planning to come back and retrieve them this summer.

Key takeaway: How CC students approached move out was a mixed bag, with a fairly even split among all five options.

If allowed, would you want to return to campus in the fall?

  • 89% (94/106) said “Yes.”

  • 11% (12/106) said “No.”

Key takeaway: An overwhelming majority of respondents want to return to campus in the fall, if allowed.

How would you prefer classes be held?

  • 67% (71/106) said “In-Person.”

  • 11% (12/106) said “Online.”

  • 22% (23/106) said “Hybrid.”

Key takeaway: A majority of respondents would prefer classes be held in-person, rather than an online or hybrid format.

If the fall semester is held entirely online, would you:

  • 29% (31/106) said “Enroll for the full semester.”

  • 27% (29/106) said “Enroll for part of the semester.”

  • 41% (43/106) said “Take the semester off.”

  • 3% (3/106) said “Take the year off.”

Key takeaway: Only 29% of 106 respondents who said they were CC students who took our survey said they would enroll for the full semester if the fall semester were online, while 71% said they would at least take part of the semester off.

If the fall semester is held online, which grading system would you prefer?

  • 24% (25/106) said “Regular grades.”

  • 52% (55/106) said “Optional pass/fail.”

  • 24% (26/106) said “Default pass/fail.”

Key takeaway: 52% of respondents would prefer to choose their grading method if classes continue online. 

Goodbye, Zoom? Students would consider gap semesters if distance-learning continues

We aren’t the first to try and get a sense of college student opinions through a survey about this situation. Student publications at other private liberal arts schools asked their student bodies for their thoughts on distance learning and what class format or grading method they would prefer for fall. 

Here’s what four student publications found:

The Amherst Student, the student newspaper at Amherst College in Massachusetts, asked

“If students were asked to remain off-campus and participate in online learning for the entirety of the fall semester, would you choose to take the semester off?” 

  • Yes: 80%; No: 20%

The Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper at Bowdoin College in Maine, asked

“How well do you think Bowdoin is handling the COVID-19 crisis?”

  • Well or very well: 85%; Poor or very poorly: 15%

“If the fall semester were to be held entirely online, would you…”

  • Take a semester off: 52.3%; Take a year off: 5.3%; Enroll: 29.3%; Transfer: 2.3%; Other: 10.8%

“Out of the following two options to continue classes, which do you prefer?”

  • Online classes in the fall: 23.9%; No classes in the fall, and a January start with a second semester in the summer: 76.1%

The Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper at Middlebury College in Vermont, asked students about their experience last semester, their plans for the summer, and their preferences for the fall. Given five choices for the fall semester, the majority responded that they would prefer an “on-campus fall semester with social distancing protocols.” A “fully remote fall semester” was the least popular option. 

Other questions:

“If Middlebury were to choose an all-remote fall semester, how willing would you be to pay tuition at the rate of a ‘typical’ semester?”

  • Very or somewhat willing: 4%; Not sure: 8%; Somewhat unwilling: 17%; Very unwilling: 71% 

“In the event of a remote fall semester, which grading system would you prefer?”

  • Regular grades: 10%; Opt-in credit/no credit: 49%. Mandatory credit/no credit: 41%. 

“If Middlebury were to choose an all-remote fall semester, would you attempt to take the semester off?”

  • Yes: 59%; No: 16%; Not sure: 25%

The Williams Record, the student newspaper at Williams College in Massachusetts, asked students for their preferences on variations of a calendar for the fall semester. The most popular option was “Start with Winter Study, shift calendar,” but six days after the data was published, Williams announced the cancellation of Winter Study in 2021. 

They also asked: 

“In the event of a remote fall semester, what grading system would you prefer?”

  • Regular grades: 12%; Optional pass/fail: 37%; Mandatory pass/fail: 49%; Other: 2%

“Would you consider withdrawing for a semester if remote learning continued?” 

  • Yes: 68%; No: 26%; Other: 6%

“Would you be willing to take an on-campus summer semester in 2021?” 

  • Yes: 68%; No: 32%

In all four publications, a majority of respondents reported that they would consider taking the semester off if distance-learning continued into the fall. “College students threatened to revolt if universities put another semester of classes online to avoid spreading the coronavirus — but that's increasingly what campus leaders are considering doing,” wrote USA Today’s Chris Quintana in April. The Washington Post reported in May that about one in five students is “unsure of plans to re-enroll or has decided not to go to college this fall,” and 96% of surveyed college presidents were worried about fall enrollment. Some colleges have already committed to finding ways to reopen in the fall.

We want to learn more about student opinions about the fall, so please email us any time at ccreportingproject@gmail.com.

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

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