Leeds’ Listens and Responds to Student Feedback
July 1, 2020
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus in 2020 created an unprecedented challenge for higher education nationwide: transforming their delivery of curriculum practically overnight. As the country began to shut down, many colleges and scrambled to find ways to quickly transition classes online for the foreseeable future.
Leeds read the signs early on and took action quickly, but the school’s responsiveness to feedback to increase the quality and consistency of online instruction and engagement is especially noteworthy.
Tracy Jennings, faculty director of distance and online immediately coordinated with Leeds Technology Services (LTS) to set up a training for faculty to make an abrupt shift to remote teaching on March 12. Knowing this abrupt shift to remote learning would pose a learning curve for both professors and students, Leeds surveyed both faculty and students regarding their experiences with the transition.
Spring student survey and the COVID Cabinet
More than 600 undergraduate and graduates responded to the student survey, which focused on what students found helpful about their instructors’ personal approach to teaching remotely, their teaching methods (i.e., live/synchronous and pre-recorded/asynchronous), and what technologies and were most effective and ineffective. The survey itself was designed as part of a larger initiative pioneered by Leeds Dean Sharon Matusik to include greater representation of student voices in decision making during COVID-19 and planning for the atypical semester ahead.
Matusik enlisted the help of the Leeds Student Government (LSG) to form the COVID Cabinet a five-student task force. They would help Leeds administration obtain student feedback, analyze the results of the survey, and do continued research on improving student engagement during these unusual times. The task force includes juniors Alexis-Brooke Lobianco (task force lead) and Daniel Knowles, sophomores Matthew Siayap and Nathan Betsch, and senior Anya Berlova. The first three students serve on LSG; Nathan and Anya were selected from 50 student applicants eager to fill the last two spots of the taskforce team.
“Our job was to work with administrators and professors, providing creative solutions and feedback on how to best engage students with academic platforms in response to COVID-19,” says Lobianco. “Being student voices in advising our path to combat the virus was hard work, but there was so much heart involved. Everyone is eager to step foot in school again.”
Actionable insights for faculty
Leeds used the insights learned from the student and faculty surveys to guide three faculty workshops in June. The sessions responded directly to the feedback received and provided additional training and best practices for improving asynchronous and synchronous teaching and engagement. According to Jennings, who is also senior instructor and teaching professor, there will be additional “spinoff” workshops based on interest this summer.
A video of Lobianco and Jennings discussing the survey results was also sent to current undergraduate students, so they could see that their voices were heard, and Leeds was taking action.
Jennings led Leeds faculty through the initial transition to remote teaching, working closely with the COVID Cabinet in the process. In addition to the training at the beginning of the transition, she helped to set up a “Remote Teaching Hub” of content creation resources and assembled a group of faculty to be “Online Teaching Partners” who would be available to help their colleagues with smaller issues they faced in their remote courses.
Transparency and communication in planning
In order to ensure Leeds incoming and current students and their families feel comfortable being on campus this fall, communication has been essential. Leeds has worked to provide transparent and proactive communications about the school’s specific plans, from these improvements in instruction to social distancing in classrooms.
These have included virtual town hall hosted by Dean Matusik, specifically for incoming students and their families, to address questions and concerns. Leeds recruitment collaborated with CU Boulder’s New Student and Family Programs to send two videos via email, one featuring the dean and the other featuring students, both designed to give these incoming first years a glimpse into the student experience and what they can expect for instruction in the fall.
“Obviously, it’s much harder to connect with a faculty member when everything is remote,” says Lobianco. “But, overall, my experience with remote learning was a positive one.”
Communication goes both ways; by ensuring that student feedback from the survey was incorporated into improvements for fall, Leeds has shown it genuinely cares about representing and responding to its students and providing the best educational experience possible in these uncertain times.