Some weeks go my colleague Carmelo Cennamo and I circulated an online snapshot survey on this list. As promised, below are some of the key findings. We have also just published a letter in the Financial Times, building upon this, that makes a strong case for not moving towards fully digital universities. This is the link (paywall): https://www.ft.com/content/d38cf4d8-793d-4011-9d78-105f743b6efa. We hope this is informative and stay strong as we all work our way through this!
Dr. Michael J. Mol
Professor of Strategic and International Management
Department of Strategy and Innovation
Copenhagen Business School
On a 7-point scale faculty reported that:
Have you personally been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (agree to disagree)?
Those more affected feel more negatively about future academic value of research.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your ability to deliver teaching online (higher to lower)?
Older academics report worse scores. Scores in Asia are lower than in Europe and the Americas.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your willingness to deliver teaching online (higher to lower)?
How do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the future value for students your school can generate through teaching offline and online (higher to lower)?
Those who see value improvements in teaching, also see value improvements in research and outreach activities.
How do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the future practical value research in your school can generate (higher to lower)?
How do you believe the importance of future outreach activities will change for you because of the COVID-19 pandemic (higher to lower)?
Outreach is seen as especially important in Europe.
On a 7-point scale students reported that:
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your willingness to pay for more education (higher to lower)?
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your likelihood to take a blended (partly online, partly offline) education instead of a face-to-face one (higher to lower)?
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your likelihood to take an offline education instead of a face-to-face one (higher to lower)?
How fast has your university responded to the COVID-19 pandemic through online teaching service (higher to lower)?
How has the online teaching affected your overall learning experience compared to face-to-face
One (higher to lower)?
We conducted an in-depth text analysis from our qualitative responses, coding the text into different topics being discussed and relating these topics to each other and across cases (i.e., respondents) and their attributes.
Key findings from the Faculty Survey
• When discussing the effects of Covid-19 on teaching, faculty discuss the challenges they face with the new teaching format (more effort required, logistical challenges, and also stress on students), and the negative sides that online teaching has on learning experience (disengagement of students, hard to interact, missing out on developing soft skills).
• They also see the risk of teaching becoming a commodity, and the teaching experience being dehumanised due to lack of social relations and less enjoyable teaching experience
• Benefits are also discussed by faculty, mostly in relation to individual benefits (such as new opportunities to learn about new teaching formats or technologies, or adjusting the teaching schedule to own life style), flexibility (ability to reach out students everywhere and different time zones, ability for students to go back to the recorded lesson) and also a push to innovate (it's the crisis that would push universities to finally move online, explore new teaching formats and ways to engage students)
• When it comes to research, faculty see the current situation as opening up more opportunities for them to reach out to firms and stakeholders outside academia for applied research projects
• Faculty recognise opportunities of online teaching for learning and experimentation but also a degrading of teaching and learning experience, which they mainly relate to poor interactions
• There is convergence on the negative sides of the online teaching experience between faculty in European and American schools. There are no particular differences by gender.
Key findings from the Students Survey
• Discussion, social, work, interaction stand out as main topics discussed by students, interaction and discussion being by far the most frequent topics.
• Students discuss to greater extent the negative aspects of online teaching than its benefits; main drawback discussed being the lack of rich interaction (see slides on representative quotes).
• About the missing aspects of face-to-face teaching, students discuss mainly about human aspects (lack of personal, social interaction, missing sense of community), but also the possibility of interacting in group-work, and the class atmosphere (perceived by many as dedicated learning environment facilitating concentration, interaction, and clear boundaries between social/personal and learning/working boundaries)
• About the missing aspects of campus life, students discuss to great extent the socialisation aspect, using campus' infrastructures (such as library, study rooms for working in group, workshops..), but also the in-person group-work, and idea contamination opportunities (run into people you would otherwise not talk to, discuss ideas informally, being exposed to other views)
• Interaction and discussion are topics discussed in relation to the cons of online teaching, the missing aspects from face-to-face teaching but also in relation to the missing aspects from campus life. These are perceived as the most important component of students' learning experience. As one student puts it: "hindrance to discussions and thoughtful exchanges both in and outside the classroom. In my opinion it is through these discussions [that] most of our education takes place."
• Campus life, and its physical facilities, are perceived by students as critical for learning. the campus is seen as a dedicated learning environment, with clear-cut boundaries from personal life, that facilitates attentional focus, commitment and knowledge absorption; and a unique space for socialisation facilitating idea contamination and meaningful networking