Undergraduate Biology Students Received Higher Grades During COVID-19 but Perceived Negative Effects on Learning

K. Supriya, Chris Mead, Ariel D. Anbar, Joshua L. Caulkins, James Collins, Katelyn Cooper, Paul C. LePore, Tiffany Lewis, Amy Pate, Rachel A. Scott, Sara E. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Institutions across the world transitioned abruptly to remote learning in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This rapid transition to remote learning has generally been predicted to negatively affect students, particularly those marginalized due to their race, socioeconomic class, or gender identity. In this study, we examined the impact of this transition in the Spring 2020 semester on the grades of students enrolled in the in-person biology program at a large university in Southwestern United States as compared to the grades earned by students in the fully online biology program at the same institution. We also surveyed in-person instructors to understand changes in assessment practices as a result of the transition to remote learning during the pandemic. Finally, we surveyed students in the in-person program to learn about their perceptions of the impacts of this transition. We found that both online and in-person students received a similar small increase in grades in Spring 2020 compared to Spring 2018 and 2019. We also found no evidence of disproportionately negative impacts on grades received by students marginalized due to their race, socioeconomic class, or gender in either modality. Focusing on in-person courses, we documented that instructors made changes to their courses when they transitioned to remote learning, which may have offset some of the potential negative impacts on course grades. However, despite receiving higher grades, in-person students reported negative impacts on their learning, interactions with peers and instructors, feeling part of the campus community, and career preparation. Women reported a more negative impact on their learning and career preparation compared to men. This work provides insights into students’ perceptions of how they were disadvantaged as a result of the transition to remote instruction and illuminates potential actions that instructors can take to create more inclusive education moving forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number759624
JournalFrontiers in Education
Volume6
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 19 2021

Keywords

  • biology interest
  • career preparation
  • grade disparity
  • peer interactions
  • sense of community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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