COVID-19 Remote Learning Transition in Spring 2020: Class Structures, Student Perceptions, and Inequality in College Courses

Teaching Sociology / September 2020

Coffee and Laptop

The COVID-19 pandemic forced all face-to-face college courses to transition to remote instruction. This article explores instructional techniques used in the transition, student perceptions of effectiveness/enjoyment/accessibility of those techniques, barriers that students faced due to the transition, and race/class/gender inequality in experiencing those barriers. The authors used surveys in introductory courses by two instructors (the authors) to compare students’ reactions to our transitions and the transitions in their other courses. They found that which instructional technique instructors use is less important than how well they implement it for student learning. Although there is a tradeoff between enjoyment and accessibility, instructors can use techniques to increase accessibility of interactive formats. Internet and technology barriers were extremely common, even for students who did not anticipate problems. Most students experienced barriers to their learning due to the pandemic, including distractions, increased anxiety, and feeling less motivated, especially for nonwhite, female, and first-generation college students.