As Zoom and Canvas have become our classrooms, it’s now harder than ever for professors to get a feel of how their students are doing.
Turned-off cameras hide confused faces, strictly-timed live streams have put an end to idle class chatter and muted mics limit questions and participation. However, just because it’s difficult to check in with students does not mean it isn’t necessary to do so.
In order to gauge students' needs and make necessary alterations to course formatting, all professors should offer midsemester surveys.
This practice is not yet widespread or required, but students whose professors have already sent out surveys of this sort definitely feel the benefits. Due to the pandemic forcing over 60% of fall semester courses online, students want to say what is (and isn’t) working for them in this new format.
“No one's done online learning, and I want to help make sure it’s easy to improve and (professors) know how to improve it,” civil engineering freshman Caroline Conroy said.
Additionally, these surveys help students feel more connected to and supported by professors they don’t see in person.
“It allows the teacher to tell you what they have in mind in terms of what they want to do,” said Taryn Lam, textiles and apparel freshman. “Instead of just doing it, they want to ask for your opinion, which is helpful.”
Furthermore, these surveys are a great tool for professors.
Astrid Runggaldier, art history associate professor of instruction, regularly sends out midsemester surveys in all of her classes that have over 40 students. This semester, however, Runggaldier feels the survey was more important than ever, as it allowed her to communicate with students that she hasn’t been able to meet.
“We’re in one big experiment right now, and we’re all trying to make the best of it,” Runggaldier said. “I basically thought of it as a big, giant conversation.”
For Runggaldier, the volume of student response showed just how much students needed this opportunity right now.
“This one was voluntary … but I was blown away with the number of students that answered,” she said. “Compared to when I did these surveys before, the answers were longer and the time invested was more.”
Clearly, students have a lot they want to say, and the need to feel heard is greater than ever.
Many professors already conduct these sorts of surveys at the end of the semester, but they must offer the opportunity to submit feedback in the middle of the semester, as it benefits the students who are taking the course at the moment.
“I felt like having evaluations at the end of the semester is a really great benefit for the professor, but it doesn’t benefit the students who provide the comments,” Runggaldier said. “Midsemester surveys are actually something you can start implementing right away, and it benefits everybody.”
Midsemester surveys let students know that professors care about their feedback and give them an opportunity to ask for help before they get completely overwhelmed. Additionally, surveys let professors know what’s working and what isn’t and give them the opportunity to change things so students can improve their performance before the semester ends.
During a time when everything is uncertain and unconventional, many students are finding it hard to keep up. Professors must take extra steps to make sure they’re doing what they can to support their students. Midsemester surveys are a necessary step in that direction.
Hosek is a psychology freshman from Austin, Texas.