StudentSurvey.ie Perspectives on Covid-19
Alongside the EDTL Student Voice survey, the StudentSurvey.ie also recently recieved some fascinating results. In addition to the usual questions posed to students, this time there were additional questions relating to Covid-19. In this article, Nora Trench Bowles discusses the results of the StudentSurvey questions relating to Covid-19 and their possible impact going forward.
Over February and March 2021, when Ireland was in Level 5 lockdown, nearly 50,000 students across 25 Irish higher education institutions took the opportunity to give feedback, to their institution and on a national stage, on the impact of COVID-19 on their experience of higher education.
They did so by responding to the seven questions specifically addressing this which had been added to this year’s StudentSurvey.ie, or the Irish Survey of Student Engagement. These questions were included alongside the established annual survey instrument which asks first and final year undergraduate students and postgraduate students on taught programmes about their experiences of higher education in Ireland more widely, including their academic, personal and social development, and how their higher education institution supports this. In 2021, 43,791 students participated, accounting for a national response rate of 28.4%.
Similar questions were also added to the biennial PGR StudentSurvey.ie, tailored to reflect the experience of postgraduate research students. In 2021, 3,541 Masters by Research and PhD students participated, accounting for a national response rate of 34%.
Each of the participating higher education institutions have access to the results from respondents in their institution, for interrogation and to inform follow-up actions. The aggregated national results of the responses to the specific COVID-19 questions were recently published in an Interim Results Bulletin.
Of particular relevance to the EDTL project in the aggregated national results is that 84.3% of first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students agreed somewhat or definitely that their higher education institution provided adequate online learning opportunities. 86.3% of students reported being able to access online learning sufficiently, and 74.0% indicated that they had a suitable study environment at home (space to work, internet access, computer, etc). Across all these questions, first year undergraduate respondents had the highest rate of agreement, followed closely by taught postgraduate respondents, with final year undergraduate respondents having the lowest level of agreement. For postgraduate research students, 67.0% indicated that they had a suitable study environment at home.
When asked “what are the positive elements of the online/ blended learning experience you want to keep when on-campus studies resume?”, the dominant responses from first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students referenced recorded lectures.
It will be interesting to consider the results in the Interim Results Bulletin, which looked back on the 2020/2021 academic year, in light of the results from the EDTL Student Campaign, which looks to the future. There will also be much to glean from the StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie National Reports when they are published later this year with results from the wide-ranging established survey questions.
Nora Trench Bowles is Head of Lifelong Learning, Skills and Quality in the Irish Universities Association. She is co-Chair of the StudentSurvey.ie Steering Group which includes representatives from the national project’s co-sponsoring bodies – IUA, THEA, HEA and USI – as well as from QQI and participating higher education institutions. The development and implementation of StudentSurvey.ie is driven by the intention to inform, support, and encourage enhancement discussions and activities across and within Irish higher education institutions, and to inform national policy. Approximately 300,000 students in Irish higher education have participated in StudentSurvey.ie since the survey was first introduced in 2013.
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