Kiesel, Kristin; Ehmke, Mariah D.; Boys, Kathryn; Katare, Bhagyashree; Penn, Jerrod; Bergtold, Jason
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked the rapid transition of 1.9 million university student from in-person to remote learning during the spring of 2020. Popular press and recent research reports highlighted serious challenges many students faced during this time. Yet, some students had a good or even very good remote learning experience. The purpose of this research is to analyze student perspectives of their remote learning experiences in the early phase of the pandemic to provide valuable insights to instructors, inform instructional design, and discuss policy implications. We surveyed students from colleges of agriculture at six land-grant universities, generating a sample of 2,690 completed responses. Students described their academic experience; learning environments (living situations, internet access, etc.); health, safety and family concerns; and emotional stressors. Opportunities for active student engagement, being able to connect with the instructor, and the inclusion of reflective assignments all contributed to an improved learning experience in a specific course. We found that a positive prior online experience and differences in learning environments explained observed differences in overall learning experiences. Students who felt discriminated against in their university settings reported a more negative experience during these tumultuous times, and experiences varied significantly across universities. Contrary to the experiences of women in the labor market, students identifying as female and students living with children reported better overall experiences during the first month of the pandemic.