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Learning About Remote Learning

GCU student learning online

The shift to remote learning went relatively smoothly for Georgian Court University students and faculty, according to a spring survey. Now their feedback will help GCU better implement remote learning for Fall 2020 and into the future.

More than 500 students responded to the survey conducted by the university. It found that though the pandemic created challenges, no new hurdles surfaced overall, said Janet Thiel, OSF, Ph.D., assistant vice president for university assessment at GCU.

According to the survey, 463 students had access to reliable wi-fi technology to engage in remote learning, while 39 students said that was not the case initially and 11 said they did not have access.

Students were split on the challenge of shifting to 100-percent remote learning: 331 respondents said they found the change to remote learning challenging and 338 felt they got enough information about the shift to remote learning.

When virtual classes were held live and in real time—sometimes called synchronous learning—it motivated students to maintain a schedule, and that’s important, Sister Janet said. Communicating via e-mail only contributes to lost interaction with classmates, which is why live video classes were helpful.

Still, not all students could participate in real-time classes, as their work schedules changed due to the pandemic. In those cases, being able to replay a recorded class helped them stay on top of their schoolwork.

Luckily, online learning wasn’t new to many GCU students, as 423 of those surveyed did online coursework before the pandemic. Given their recent experiences, though, some students were very clear about their online learning preferences: 18 percent want to be able to use the Blackboard learning platform for all of their courses, and 12 percent want synchronous interactive lectures.

The Importance of Personal Interaction

Respondents did acknowledge that not having a person in campus offices (GCU offices largely shifted to remote work in mid-March) to respond to phone calls was difficult. Though the community was able to connect via e-mail, personal details could get lost in translation by relying only on written communication, they said. The students also felt remote advising could have been better.

Faculty who responded to the survey overwhelmingly felt that training for remote learning prepared them to succeed as they switched all of their courses online. Those who led online courses before the pandemic didn’t experience many changes as a result of it and had a positive experience moving to 100 percent remote learning, Sister Janet said.

The Value of a Campus Community

An interesting finding? The shift to remote learning revealed that not being able to use the university library was a hardship for many students.

“I was surprised at the number of students who said they had no place to study because the library was closed,” Sister Janet said.

“Some students reported that their home environment was not conducive to quality studying,” she said. In some homes, multiple people needed to share computers for home and work. Some GCU students are also parents, juggling the demands of their own schoolwork with their children’s assignments and need to be present in online classes.

Students referred to the Sister Mary Joseph Cunningham Library at GCU as more of a place of refuge than a place to conduct research. It was also a place that fulfilled their technology needs, Sister Janet added.

Story by Kristen Fischer.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.