On April 30, Bellevue College released results from a survey analyzing student and staff willingness to return to campus. The statistics were telling, with 34% of students stating that they would prefer to “very rarely” go to class on campus if given the opportunity. In comparison, only 22% of faculty responded with the same answer. However, there is more nuance to this result. Of the 34% of students who answered that they would like to go to campus “very rarely,” 59% of them rarely went to campus in the first place, and 63% of faculty who responded very rarely also infrequently went to campus.
44% of students responded with either “a few times a week” or “almost every day” in response to the question of how often they like to be on campus, and 52% of instructors responded the same way. The survey results displayed that a large portion of the student body favors returning to campus in the fall, but a little over a third of students would not prefer a return to campus. In a previous interview with the Watchdog, President Locke indicated that his administration would seek to create more online and hybrid classes even after a return to normalcy, which is good news for the third of students who primarily want to stay home. Many courses will begin to offer in-person instruction starting in the fall quarter of next year for everyone who would like to attend class in person regularly or intermittently.
Students were able to respond to what method of schooling they felt helped them learn the best. 48% of people who were general full-time students at the college reported that they thought they learned very well with in-person learning, although individuals who were continuing their education only had 63% report that they learn best through online synchronous classes. High schoolers enrolled in the Running Start program registered similar results as the general full-time students, with 53% preferring in-person learning. Online synchronous and asynchronous courses appeared to be the least strongly preferred methods of instruction, with neither being regarded as very effective by a 50% majority of students in any category.
The strain on students’ mental health was also recorded by the survey, with 88% of students reporting at least some level of stress due to the pandemic. Faculty members agreed, with 90% reporting that they had experienced stress as a result of the pandemic. The intensity of the stress each group went through varied, with 35% of students reporting they had gone through a lot of stress compared to the 27% of faculty who felt the same. However, a clear majority of students and faculty responded that they had someone to talk to about stress, with 58% of students responding that they have someone and 67% of faculty. 6% of students and 4% of faculty responded that they had no one to talk to, indicating that there are still people at the college who feel like they have no one to help them work through their stress. If you ever feel this way, one available resource for students is the Counseling Center, where counselors are available to talk with you about anything that you are going through in your life. Faculty and staff can find support through their EAP website.
The survey also noted that many students felt that classes were not taking their personal lives into account with the workloads assigned. One student recommended that the college should “train instructors to have some more understanding and compassion for students who may be going through things during these unprecedented times.” The faculty also shared some concerns that their supervisors were targeting them due to unfavorable student evaluations. Faculty members stated that it was not fair that they were being attacked for lower ratings, given that the transition to an online format has been difficult for them, too. Faculty also felt as though promotion guidelines were antiquated and out of touch for teaching in the middle of a pandemic. In the survey results, a sizable number of instructors called for a reform of the guidelines to make them fairer.
When asked to rank how well the college supports the college community, 75% of general full-time students responded that the college was either supporting them well or very well. Full-time faculty did not rank the college as high in terms of support, with only 54% of them responding that the college supported them well or very well. This 21% reduced approval among faculty indicates that there is some work to be done to improve the faculty experience at the college. The survey also provided a suggestion by one faculty member suggesting that “the college could have set up groups that reached out to faculty and staff on a regular basis to check in on their welfare.” A primary faculty concern in the survey was that their needs were not being considered at the college. We have yet to see a response from the administration on this concern, but one may be forthcoming.