Update April 29, 2020: we are also offering a COVID-19 faculty survey for implementation in May and June.

Last week, we began launching our COVID-19 student surveys as part of an initiative to address the pressing needs of the community as colleges and universities have pivoted to online instruction. The survey covers several key topics, including the effectiveness of course formats, the resources students are using, institutional communications, general wellness, and retention.

Over 20 institutions from 14 states, including community colleges, public and private research universities, comprehensive masters institutions, and small private colleges have already signed up to participate in these surveys. We are still actively signing institutions to field this survey throughout April and May. 

While the surveys have been in the field for less than a week, we are already seeing remarkably high response rates–averaging roughly 15-20%–just a few days into fieldwork. It is clear that students want the opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences, even–or perhaps because of–current circumstances.

What does an initial review of the data gathered so far tell us about the experiences of students at this moment in time?

  • When compared to other departments or areas of the college or university, students would like more information on financial aid, signaling that this may be an area where institutions can connect with students more frequently or in a more targeted manner depending on individual need.
  • As we have found previously, students continue to struggle most significantly with time management and balancing family, household, and school responsibilities. Adjusting to online instruction and finding quiet places to work are also especially difficult.
  • Classes are being conducted both synchronously and asynchronously. At many colleges, students are fairly evenly participating in course activities that take place in real time and not in real time.
  • While students do report concerns about their physical health, concern for their own mental health tends to be relatively higher.

These and other results are already being used for institutional decision-making. Under ordinary circumstances, an institution might wait until after survey data were collected to take action. Given the need to act on findings as soon as possible, we are providing live dashboards of results that are being circulated among leadership groups to help guide intervention and determine how staff can best support their students during this time. For example, one institution is conducting personalized outreach–from either a faculty or staff member–to connect a subset of students with information on moving out of campus housing, health and wellness resources, and academic supports.

As more institutions begin fielding these surveys in the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor the results to identify additional patterns and trends in the data so that our partners can continue to pursue relevant intervention, retention, and support strategies. We intend to publish an aggregate report of findings from these surveys later in the spring and will be launching a parallel faculty survey within the next two weeks. If you have any questions or are considering participation, please reach out to my colleague Christine Wolff-Eisenberg at christine.wolff-eisenberg@ithaka.org or 212-500-2369.