By Will Kubzansky
“I just choose to watch the recording,” said a sophomore. “I would rather watch it in 45 minutes than 90 minutes… and not have to go to 9 AMs.”
In a semester removed from fully virtual learning, Brown students are divided on what aspects of virtual learning they want to continue as the University continues to transition back into fully in-person events. A recent Brown Opinion Project survey showed that more than 85 percent of Brown students support maintaining recorded lectures, even during in-person learning.
Members of the class of 2023 are most likely to want recorded lectures to continue through in-person learning, with 91.3 percent of juniors surveyed in favor.
Members of the class of 2024--the vast majority of which experienced their first fully in-person semester this fall--are the least likely class to agree, with 82.4 percent in favor of recorded lectures continuing.
A sophomore who took the poll said in an interview that he “strongly” favored recorded lectures continuing, noting that the recordings are often helpful in “weird” circumstances.
STEM students are more likely to want recorded lectures to continue, with 90.3 percent of concentrators expressing their approval. They are also more likely to want take-home exams to continue (75.9 percent) as opposed to social sciences and humanities concentrators (71.3 and 67.9 percent, respectively).
When asked about what speed they watched recorded lectures at, a plurality of students--29.30 percent--said they watch at 1.50x speed, with 22.33 percent watching at 1.25x speed. Only the class of 2022 prefers to watch classes at 1.25x speed instead of 1.50x speed.
Members of the class of 2025 and 2023 are most likely to watch their recorded lectures at 2x speed, with just over 20 percent of both classes (20.45 and 20.69 percent, respectively) engaging with their professors at twice the normal speed.
“I love watching lectures on 2x speed,” said another member of the class of 2024 in an interview. “It’s really nice when my professors talk really slowly. There are some classes that are in person, but I just choose to watch the recording because I would rather watch it in 45 minutes than 90 minutes… and not have to go to 9 AMs.”
“That was a trial-and-error thing,” said the first sophomore, who prefers 1.25x. “I just didn’t get anything from 1.5 (speed).”
In the same survey, more than 70 percent of students also said that they wanted their own classes to also feature take-home exams going forward.
Members of the classes of 2023 and 2024 are far more likely than members of the classes of 2022 and 2025 to support take-home exams: roughly four in five (80.17 and 81.60 percent) sophomores and juniors wanted take-home exams continued, while a little over three in five first-years and seniors (63.64 and 67.86 percent) supported taking their exams from home.
But a number of other measures from virtual learning, such as Zoom sections, online office hours, and asynchronous classes, failed to receive majority support. Only about one in five students (21.52 percent) want asynchronous classes to continue, and about the same proportion (23.77 percent) wanted Zoom sections to continue.
“I really hope I never take another asynchronous class again,” said the first sophomore. “A lot of my friends became functionally nocturnal last year. It’s been a lot more pleasant, a lot more positive of an experience this year going to class in the morning.”
Another sophomore, though, said they wanted all options from remote learning to remain on the table--so long as the option to go in-person also existed.
Brown students also mostly think that online classes were less difficult than in-person classes. Just over one in 10 Brown students (12.91 percent) said that online classes are much less difficult, while about four in 10 (41.39 percent) said they are somewhat less difficult. A minority of students--roughly three in 10--thought online classes were as difficult or more difficult than in-person classes.
Members of the class of 2022 were more likely than other years to say that online classes were less difficult, with more than two-thirds (68.75 percent) saying that online classes were either much less or somewhat less difficult. That posed a stark contrast to first-years, of whom just more than one-third (37.88 percent) said online classes were much less or somewhat less difficult.
Notably, Stanford University, Princeton University and Northwestern University--among a number of other schools--all announced that they would shift to remote classes temporarily this January, though President Christina Paxson stated that the University plans to move ahead with in-person classes when Brown begins its spring semester.
Note: All quoted poll-takers remain anonymous to maintain the integrity of Brown Opinion Project surveys. Brown Opinion Project conducted its December 2021 poll from December 2-3, collecting 488 total responses from undergraduate students. The margin of error is 4.44 percent with 95 percent confidence.
Photo “John Hay Library reading room interior” licensed under CC 3.0.