By Emanuele Calianno, Editor-in-Chief
The challenges of remote learning have stumped classrooms across the nation, and Bergen is no exception. In a survey conducted by The Torch, BCC students and faculty were split on how remote classes are progressing, but voiced similar frustrations with the online format.
The survey asked 224 students and 96 professors to rate their experience with remote learning, with results varied among the groups on key issues.
While students and faculty were almost even on rating the overall experience satisfactory (77 to 79 percent, respectively), 85 percent of faculty thought classes had improved since the spring semester, compared to only 55 percent of students.
The biggest factor in this difference seemed to be the rift between synchronous and asynchronous courses. While students were almost even on their preference of synchronous and asynchronous classes (51 percent to 49), faculty have largely opted for the latter, with only 28 percent of courses offered this semester being synchronous.
Students primarily had issues with the way material is being presented. Currently, faculty in asynchronous courses are not required to post pre-recorded lectures, but may instead opt to upload slideshows, link outside material, or simply assign textbook readings, without any interaction with the class. This has left many feeling that they are learning by themselves.
“I find it very hard to pay all this money just to receive some youtube videos,” one student said during a recent forum held by the Student Government Association (SGA) . “I feel like I have not learned anything in the past few weeks.” Another student added that she was struggling with a public speaking course held without ever seeing the professor.
The faculty shared similar opinions about the lack of face-to-face interaction, with professors saying it is hard to engage students remotely. Many teaching via live lectures said students skip class often, do not turn on their cameras, or only communicate via chat during class.
Other issues cited by students involved the difficulty some faculty members had in using technology. While 84 percent thought professors have adapted well to the online format, a small minority was vocal about their instructor’s struggles. “One of my professors writes stuff on a post-it note and shows it to the camera,” said one student.
Multiple students complained of a lack of responsiveness to emails, while some professors felt overwhelmed by the number of emails they received. “[the college needs to] tell both faculty and students what the expected turnaround time for emails is,” one professor said.
Most of the faculty had never taught an online course prior the spring semester, when the quarantine imposed the sudden closure of the campus. Over the summer, the college offered the faculty voluntary training for Moodle, Bergen’s online portal; however, only about 47 percent of faculty reported signing up for it.
With registration for the spring recently open, there has been an increase in faculty offering synchronous and online mix courses, which include both synchronous and asynchronous lecture elements. However, the plurality of courses remain asynchronous for now.
“We know many students this past spring were asking the college for more synchronous courses,” said Alan Kaufman, Chairperson of the Faculty Senate. “But each member of the faculty has the right to teach in the way they think best. We fought the college to protect that academic freedom.”
It is still unclear how remote learning has impacted factors such as drop rates and grade performances. A request for this data from the Office of Institutional Research is currently pending.
Just over 80 percent of students said they would continue taking online classes in the spring. The college anticipates another drop in enrollment, which is already down to a record low in the last decade.