Hailey Terracino and Emanuele Calianno
As Bergen heads into another semester of mostly remote learning, students are mobilizing to address issues and challenges related to online classes.
Official college data shows positive grade performance in the Spring and Summer semesters, with higher pass rates than in 2019. However, many students have been concerned with a decrease in the quality of instruction due to the lack of interaction.
Last month, The Torch released a survey of 330 people, which found students and faculty divided on key issues related to the virtual format. In particular, students taking asynchronous courses, which make up the majority of course offerings, often struggle with course materials being provided mostly via slideshows or PDF format, as opposed to pre-recorded lectures by the instructors.
Other student groups at the college are also conducting surveys related to remote learning. The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) is conducting an in-depth, college-wide survey, while the STEMatics team is conducting a STEM-specific survey.
Students are also taking direct action in approaching the college with concerns. PTK presented some initial survey findings at the December Board of Trustees meeting, and plans to address the college again once full results are out next semester.
The Torch addressed the Faculty Senate at its November meeting, with Senate members discussing whether to pass a resolution to address the administration on guidelines for email response time– a common issue for both students and faculty.
Following the Senate meeting, members of the Student Government Association (SGA) met with Senate Chair Alan Kaufman and Academic Affairs Vice President Brock Fisher said SGA President Laila Metwaly. SGA suggested making changes to course syllabi for the Spring semester, and to hold routine faculty evaluations early, Metwaly said.
SGA communicated regularly with the administration this semester to discuss student issues. Metwaly and the executive board were directly involved in discussions to refund lab fees for science courses taken online. Lab fees were eventually refunded around midterms.
Shortly after the meeting with SGA, the college sent out faculty evaluations to students, weeks earlier than usual. Bergen also sent its own survey on remote learning.
Recently, co-chairs of the Faculty Development Committee Joan Dalrymple and Joanna Campbell met with the Torch to discuss the results of its survey, in preparation for faculty workshops in the Spring.
Earlier this month, Fisher sent out an email to faculty, where he suggested a 48-hour email response time, and encouraged professors to record at least some of their lectures. He also reminded faculty to hold regular virtual office hours, and to make use of Moodle regularly.
Occasional reports of professors refusing to use Moodle, Bergen’s online platform, have been brought up periodically since the Spring, when some students first complained at a Board of Trustees meeting.