Environment

Students need an environment that cultivates learning. For some, being in a classroom allows them to engage best, often due to a distraction-free setting and being around other learners. For others, controlling the time and place matters, which isn’t always in the classroom. Many professors felt as though they taught their best in-person, and were better at forming relationships.

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In-person classes. Many students feel that in-person classes are more engaging and offer a richer learning experience, compared to the zoom alternatives they experienced. [5.1]

“Being in person makes me feel like an actual student. In-person learning puts me in ‘school mode’.” - Business Technology


“Having class in person is superior to zoom because it offers a more engaging learning environment.” - Catholic Social Teaching


Photo: Math

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Students feel that discussions and lectures are better in person. [5.1.1 and 5.1.2]

“Zoom discussions aren’t good because you can’t see the intricacies of an argument. There is only room for two people talking and it is difficult to chime in without tangible connections.” - Business


“In person leads to better discussion, it’s easy for one student to dominate when on zoom.” - Design Thinking Faculty


“In person lectures along with outside of class reading is effective.” - Political Science/Business

Quote: Finance

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Distraction-free environment. Many students need a setting that promotes attentiveness. For some, that means they can hold their attention better on the lecture when it’s in-person. [5.1.3]

“I need to be surrounded by other people learning. Being in a physical learning environment puts me in a certain mindset, whereas online leads to distractions.” - Political science/Business


“In person environment allows for better focus and in person questions.” - Classics


“Sometimes it’s harder to stay engaged for entire class online, especially when it’s lecture only.” - FTT

Photo: Finance

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In-person learning is a core need for many students and their learning styles. [5.1.4]

“Humans learn better in the concrete (In person = better learning).” - Business 


“Smaller, in person classes are more enjoyable.” - Political Science/Pre-Health


Quote: Economics

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Specific types of content or subjects were unfit for online learning. The nature of the subject was much better in a physical, hands-on environment. [5.1.6]

“Design Methods needs in-class interaction, with hands-on collaboration. In-class student interactions are key to learning the material.” - Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering Faculty


“For voice lessons on Zoom, the technology makes it really hard to coach/learn. The quality of coaching is directly affected by not being in person, and the technology is simply not sufficient.” - Vocal Performance/Pre Health


Photo: Biological Sciences

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Many students prefer in-person learning because it prevents academic dishonesty. [5.1.7]

“I am too reliant on the Internet and open note exams.” - Business Technology


Photo: Finance

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Many students feel that the quality of their projects and work is better in in-person classes. [5.1.8]

“Being in person to support teams keeps the methods and solutions impactful. Client recommendations that will make a real difference.” - Business


“Not enough incentive to work hard with online classes, and this makes it harder to focus. Let’s find a way to keep flexibility without harming motivation.” - Business Technology


Photo: Design Thinking

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Many students find that having online classes decreases motivation for learning. [5.2]

“I like in person classes and in-class engagement. This holds me accountable for my learning.” - Economics


“The requirement to be in class in-person helps keep motivation high.” - Spanish


Quote: Business Technology

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Some professors feel that they’re better able to react to the needs of their students in-person, such as seeing confused faces and pausing to re-explain a concept. [5.3.1]

“Faculty say that it’s hard to talk to dead space. Not getting to see people gets exhausting. They want to see people reacting in real time, and adjust the pacing of the lecture accordingly.” - ACMS


Photo: Mendoza Faculty

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Some professors deliver content in a more dynamic/engaging way in person. [5.3.2]

“It’s harder to keep dialogue going without being face-to-face with people… When in-person I’m higher energy. I can better develop relationships and engage students.” - Catholic Social Teaching


“The enthusiasm of the professor makes you see content as interesting.” - PLS


Photo: Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering Faculty

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Managing hybrid learning is too exhausting and/or time consuming for some professors. Many prefer to have the entire class in one place, and want to know from the start who will be fully online. [5.4.1 and 5.4.2]

“It takes a lot of work to transfer all the course content to be online-friendly.” - ITAO/Business Faculty


“My professor could upload lectures just fine to Sakai, but it was a struggle for her to engage with the students that were watching online via Zoom. It always took 15 minutes of class for her to get it working.” - ACMS 


Top Photo: FTT

Bottom Photo: ACE

 

Addressing the Needed Learning Environment

The first step in providing the right options for students is understanding what they know about their learning.

Asking Students About Their Learning Style and Needed Environment

Asking students about how they learn best often provides the "why" behind why some students come to lecture, and others don't. Students can also share what they want to be held accountable for in order to learn well. 

Open-Ended Survey, to understand how students learn best. At the beginning of the semester, you could allow students to answer open-endedly:

  • "What environment do you learn best in?" 

  • "What has worked best for you in past classes to 'get' the material?"

  • "What should you hold yourself accountable for to learn well?"

Multiple Choice Survey. Allow students to choose which "Learning Needs" sound most like them, with an option to elaborate or write their own, including these choices pulled from the Summit:

  • "I need to be in the classroom environment to learn and focus best" 

  • "I need to go at my own pace. I often find myself referring to or preferring learning the material outside of lecture."

  • "I often need 1:1 help outside of class to have my questions answered."

  • "The option to miss class for mental or physical health reasons is something I usually need to take advantage of"

  • If these descriptions do not capture your learning style, please elaborate or write your own: ________________

 

Empowering Students to Choose Their Approach

Some students learn best in the classroom. Some students greatly prefer the flipped classroom approach because it allows them to learn at their own pace, or in a setting or timing curated to their learning needs. Providing a range of options for students with different needs could look like:​

  • One class day per week is dedicated to lecture, where students can decide to attend in-person or watch at their own pace, or both. The other class day could be dedicated to in-person collaboration and application. A comprehension assignment could assure that students are coming to the other class day prepared to collaborate. 

Balancing In-Person Connection with Flexible Learning Options

The easiest way to guarantee connection is to provide fully in-person delivery. However, despite feeling connected, the in-person set-pace lecture is unideal for many students. 

  • Lecture-Watch Sessions. Have a classroom open for students to watch flipped-classroom lecture content with their classmates, but at different paces. A TA can be present to answer questions. 

  • More flexibly-paced lectures for slow learners and note-takers. This includes time for questions, short breaks, stories to recapture attention or allow students to catch up. Posting materials after class also allows these learners to succeed. 

  • Real-time collaborative group work that is based off of out-of-class lecture or reading. This prioritizes connection while still providing flexibility for students to absorb the lecture content in a way that makes sense for their learning needs.