February 21 Community Survey: Planning Fall 2021

February 21 Community Survey: Planning Fall 2021

We conducted a new community survey in early February and as of this writing 259 members of the campus community have participated.  Thank you!  The chart above shows the proportion of each participating cohort.

Question 2:  How’s It Going?

The second question is one we also asked several times in the fall, just a temperature check on the community.  [See the bottom of this blog for a comparison chart showing the data from the fall on this question.]  As we saw in the fall, the faculty and staff say things are going the same as they expected, or even a bit better.  Students, however, while generally positive, have a few concerns.

Some sample student comments include:

  • Since we started Fall 2020 classes online, I feel that I have gotten used to the way online schooling is. I no longer have trouble with ZOOM or other platforms to get into my classes. My professors are very comfortable using online resources as well which is great.
  • I feel very zoom fatigued. I spend 80% of my day completing homework online, reading my textbooks online, attending class online, and more online. Even though I take breaks as often as I can, my vision feels exhausted. Even though I have an asynchronous class, the professor substitutes class time by giving us online work which is more time on my computer screen. I love school and I love learning but healthwise I am very zoom fatigued which has unmotivated me.
  • I am overwhelmed by the amount of work given. It is stressful.
  • Professors are improving on how to work out Zoom and how to orient the class around in the internet. I am still doing strong in my classes and keeping to a schedule so things are going as I expected.
  • My teachers are cool and I’m learning some really interesting thing.
  • Even though the spring semester is shorter, it doesn’t mean that it is easier. This is the case when we are on campus, imagine how it feels while being remote? The deadlines are still back to back and the workload hasn’t changed much in my opinion. I have been struggling personally trying to balance everything out. It definitely gets discouraging at times because you want to be the best you can be but with all that’s going that is difficult.
  • Since we started Fall 2020 classes online, I feel that I have gotten used to the way online schooling is. I no longer have trouble with ZOOM or other platforms to get into my classes. My professors are very comfortable using online resources as well which is great.
  • This is my first time taking classes online. I did not think I would like it, but I was wrong online classes are great. I would not have returned if I had to come on campus although I miss the campus, I would not have felt comfortable due to the pandemic.

Some sample faculty comments:

  • Spring of 2020 was an emergency situation, finishing class a well as possible under the circumstances. During Summer and Fall we settled in and learning to do virtual classes well and serve our students remotely in involved a lot of work and revision. By the beginning of this semester, I think most are now familiar and comfortable with the new circumstances and how to get things done.
  • To date, the semester is running smoothly. I attribute summer planning on the front end (for the continuation of remote instruction) as being critical to the success of the semester. Student feedback on the decision to remain remote has been mixed. I have some students that are doing well and thriving with remote instruction while others are frustrated and find remote instruction to be very overwhelming.
  • Students are demonstrating increased ease with coming “on camera” and discussing course topics with each other. The breakout rooms allow the instructor to easily mix/match students to share ideas.
  • I am brand new to Trinity and am loving teaching here!

Sample staff comments:

  • I think the work at Trinity seems to be moving on without issue. I continue to be concerned about our nation, vaccine rollout, increasing virus strains, economy, etc…..seems like things will be tough for a bit longer before things start to improve. I thought we would have been further in the recovery at this point.
  • With the restrictions mandated in place by the mayor. I learned that we are working according to their regulations. I am thankful that Trinity has made this process extremely flexible. Especially with dealing with all the uncertainties.
  • This time last year, I was stressed about disemployment, but now I have a stable full time job. I also appreciate that the facilities are clean at all times. I also appreciate that everyone wears masks the majority of the time if not at all times. I feel that this time around, I know what to expect and what to take better care of. I am still very stressed out, but I am also hopeful that this will end soon.
  • Since pivoting in March of 2020, online instruction has come a long way in a short amount of time. Everyone from faculty, staff, and students have acclimated rather well. It’s almost become business as normal. Instructors have enhanced their skills with Moodle, students have increased their skills using Zoom, and everyone sees how doing so has catapulted the university to a new level; one of the positive things we can say has come of the pandemic. The university has adjusted, grown, and leveled from the circumstance at hand. Trinity is now coasting during the Spring 2021 semester.
  • I believe Trinity needs to implement more efficient rules when it comes to student’s visiting offices. Too many students have come into offices without checking with security and it is a shock to the staff. I think limiting how many students can come in only due to the rises in cases of COVID.

Now switching-up the order of reporting responses to get to the key question about Fall 2021 planning:

Question 6: Planning for Fall 2021

We invited input on planning for Fall 2021 and this will be the main topic we discuss in the Campus Conversations on Thursday at 4 pm.  Overall, as the chart above reveals, there is nearly universal agreement that masks and social distance must continue to be required.  On the other end of the spectrum, there seems to be strong concurrence about two things:  the vaccine should not be mandatory, and returning to face-to-face classes will only come when everyone really feels safe.  Faculty and staff want to continue to choose whether to be present on campus.  Students want traditions restored and athletics.  These are all important issues that have different implications that we will continue to discuss as the semester moves along.

We made a chart that looks a little dense, below, but we wanted to compare faculty and student responses on this question:

On the chart above, the columns where the base is dark purple are faculty answers, and the columns where the base is light purpose are student answers.  The columns are paired so that, moving from left to right, each set of two columns show the faculty/student replies to each item listed on the bottom (sorry for the vertical type, I could not get it to pivot correctly).

Looking at the pairs, there is remarkable agreement between faculty and students on some issues such as masks, 6 foot distance, virtual services, rotational staffing, reluctance to return to face-to-face classes.

Where you see some yellow highlights, those are issues where there is significant divergence between faculty and student answers, as follows:

  • While 90% of faculty agree that faculty should choose the teaching modality, 65% of students agree, a wide enough gap to merit a closer look.
  • 78% of faculty say that classrooms should be kept at 10 or fewer, 91% of students want classrooms kept at 10 or fewer.
  • 55% of faculty agree with continuing mostly online classes, compared to 79% of students.
  • 44% of faculty say we should try to have some of the traditions in-person while 79% of students want traditions in-person restored.
  • 36% of faculty agree that the vaccine should be mandatory, compared to 22% of students.
  • 34% of faculty agree that athletics should return compared to 44% of students.

Some faculty comments:

  • I think we should defer reopening campus fully until we can do it safely for all students, faculty, and staff. Specifically, I’m not sure if “mandatory” vaccinations is the answer but I would strongly encourage it and require regular testing for all students, faculty, and staff that wish to be on campus.
  • I have received only positive input from students regarding graduation. I think the smaller, more intimate, online experiences are better! They have no limits to people attending and elders and children can attend without concern.
  • It is hard to predict what circumstances will be like, but regardless, there needs to be flexibility and on-line options and large group gatherings should be minimal.
  • Continue to follow CDC guidelines but begin moving toward more in-person activities to decrease isolation and increase a sense of community. Safety is paramount as vaccination numbers increase.

Some student comments:

  • I think it is critical to offer online classes in the fall so that students who are high risk or caring for family members can continue to isolate. I think that things will improve with the vaccine, but until we know whether it prevents transmission and protects against the variants, it’s impossible to say that students will definitely be safe.
  • In-person traditions are great memories and experiences, however, the concern for public health with new strands of COVID. I am thinking of family members who are more susceptible to viruses.
  • My only opinion is to continue to keep us safe as possible. I do not agree with returning to in person learning for concerns of safety, but do agree that in person learning should happen for those who need it, such as those who are hands on learning. Keep offices open appointment only if a student needs face-to-face services. As a single mother of three school aged managing all virtual classes can be a challenge most days but does not mean I want to give up! I just would like more understanding…
  • While I think a negative test is ideal, I think making it a requirement before coming to campus is a challenge given the lack of free/affordable and convenient locations. I think finding ways to resume those in person traditions is important for mental health and rites of passage.
  • I believe that the path to normalcy should include hybrid classes for the fall. Students who are able to come to class in person should be allowed and encouraged. However, those who are not should not be penalized. It would be great if Professors could teach in-person, while streaming over Zoom.

Some staff comments:

  • With all of the new variants that continue to pop up I would like to err on side of serious caution. I have known far too many people to get this illness and struggle painfully through it as well as many that have passed away from it. I understand the need for some type of normalcy but, realistically I can’t envision that happening until more people are vaccinated and even more take this virus seriously by taking the proper precautions.
  • I think that our current plan is working. Because we are conducting classes online and holding virtual services, everyone involved–faculty, staff, and students–can feel good in knowing that we care about their well-being. As well, everyone involved is still working and making sure that services and teaching are seamless. It is always better safe than sorry.
  • A lot of what we decide around close gatherings, has to do with who decides to vaccinate, if vaccination is safe, and if the community is willing to take all precautions. I think “time” will tell.
  • Most people will probably not be able to get the vaccine until September-December realistically. We should allow face-to face courses in core subjects like math, English and science face-to-face with no more than 10 students per class. We should offer these courses online for students who wish not to come to campus as well. Offices and staff should continue on a rotational basis until everyone has been given the opportunity to get vaccinated. Meetings should continue on Zoom to limited contact between people and avoid the spread of the virus. Orientations and traditions should continue virtually until next fall (2022) to avoid the possible risks of spreading COVID. Everyone on campus should be required to wear a mask at all times.

Q3: Tell Us About Yourself

We asked you to tell us some information about yourself because this helps us with planning.  The chart above compares student and faculty responses to this question.  A few notable points:

73% of faculty say they will get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, but only 32% of students say they will do so.

4% of faculty say they will NOT get the Covid-19 vaccine, but 19% of students say they will not get it.

Many families have experienced Covid-19 infections, more than 20% for both faculty and students, and, sadly, 20% of students and 16% of faculty know someone close to them who has died from Covid-19.

For students, money is a top concern.  We will be providing more information about emergency grants as soon as the U.S. Department of Education releases the next round of CARES funds.

Q4: Your Spring 2021 Experience So Far….

Overall, levels of satisfaction with online and hybrid classes have increased since the fall, and most online services get good marks, along with the level of communication about all the issues on campus.  While there are some variations among students, faculty and staff in the responses, they are not remarkable.

Some student comments:

  • Trinity staff is PHENOMENAL during this time. My only issue is self trying to manage virtual classes and adjusting to different schedules due to having three school aged virtual learning and having my own personal issues. Other than that I have no problems! Trinity did an excellent job transitioning us to virtual learning and making us comfortable during this pandemic time!
  • I wish more of the hard classes could be in person.
  • I would like to know of more financial aid opportunities.
  • I have made request from certain Departments that have gone unfulfilled and I had to contact weeks later to have them done.

Some faculty comments:

  • Sharing written CDC guidelines being followed / not followed through and where we stand as a school community in addressing the needs. What further plans in sanitizing equipment or room after each classes,
  • Campus offices are generally very responsive and pleasant.
  • Very pleased with the Trinity DARE initiative–forward-looking and directly addresses our student population. Love the transparency of taking a historical look at the university’s past and not ignoring the racial issues that plagued Trinity…not that long ago.

Some staff comments:

  • Communications are great! As a staff member, I appreciate the opportunity to work from home, continued pay and benefits, Trinity’s commitment to keeping everyone’s jobs and the upgrades by IT. I could use some technology tips – I’m running out of storage space on my home computer. Tips?
  • I feel safe, however, it is prudent that people who are experiencing symptoms remain away from others. It is hard to enforce that and students need to be responsible for others’ safety and vulnerability. Also, it is critical that students remember to wear their masks at all times., especially in hybrid and face-to-face classes. I like that the university frequently stresses the importance of these matters to everyone.
  • The Thursday Campus Conversations are so unifying, and also so informative, for our campus community.

Q5: What Would You Change About Your Classes Now or In The Future?

We asked this question in our fall surveys and continue to see great divergence of opinion among faculty and student responses.  Some of the key areas of difference:

  • 66% of students — the top student concern — is “more flexibility in assignments” — but this topic rates last on the faculty list, only 2% of faculty rate this as a concern
  • 39% of faculty believe that students need more education in doing online learning well — but only 12% of students think so
  • 64% of students want more asynchronous delivery of classes but only 27% of faculty want asynchronous
  • 31% of faculty want more face-to-face classes but only 17% of students say so

Back to Question #2:  The Semester is Going… same…better…worse….

Ok, the chart below is a bit wonkish but it tells us about some interesting and important trends within our cohort groups.  At the top of this blog we presented the February 21 data for Question #2 about how the semester is going, showing that faculty and staff said “better” or “same” as expected, but some students replied “worse” than expected.  We asked the same question in three surveys in the fall, and it’s interesting to see how the cohorts answered the same question as the months went along.  On the chart below, the most recent survey (February 2021) is the left-hand column in each cluster, and then the columns march backward through the surveys taken in November 2020, October 2020 and September 2020.  Each set of four columns are the answers of a specific cohort group, see the labels on the top of the columns to see each cohort group (CAS, NHP and PGS are all students by academic unit).

A few observations about this data:

All cohorts are starting the spring semester at a higher confidence/satisfaction level than where they were in November.  The holiday break, opportunity to refresh and reflect, and lessons learned from the fall have reset expectations.

All cohorts also experienced declines in confidence/satisfaction levels in the fall as the months went along.  This is not surprising since the weariness and stresses of life in the pandemic began to take a toll in mid-October and into the winter months.

Will we see the same kind of downward trend during the spring months?  We can hope that we’ve learned enough to take steps to keep everyone’s spirits up and confidence levels strong.  Spring is coming, the vaccine gives us hope of an end to the pandemic at some point, there’s some great new fresh air in Washington and we have also proven resilient, creative and thoughtful about managing setbacks.

We’ll keep an eye on the trends…. and challenges.  And, yes, we will ask the same question several times this spring to keep an eye on the temperature level.

Thanks to all for your great participation in the survey!!  We will continue to work with faculty and students to improve the pandemic education experience.  There are no set answers, nor any easy answers.  What we do know is that everyone is striving hard, working to do the right thing, and learning a tremendous amount along the way — including all of us in administration who have never done this before, either!