In March of 2020, community colleges across the country transitioned from predominantly face-to-face classes to online instruction practically overnight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, we (CCCSE) were in the midst of facilitating the administration of our flagship paper-and-pencil survey, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement. As classrooms emptied and students were sent home to complete the spring term online, very few of the 247 participating colleges were able to complete the administration of the survey. However, we knew that listening to the student voice was more critical than ever.
Although we had always been a classroom-based, paper-and-pencil survey research center, we recognized that we needed to help colleges understand how the early experiences of the pandemic had affected their students. So we turned to our Qualtrics platform to run a free web-based survey focused on how students were managing all the changes brought about by COVID-19. From late spring to early summer 2020, 25 community colleges across 10 states administered the survey to almost 13,000 students. We learned important information from the survey administration that we shared with our member colleges and the field at large. We also learned as a research center the value of a web-based survey tool like Qualtrics.
As the pandemic persisted, we continued to use Qualtrics to run our 2020 fall entering student survey and our 2021 spring student survey. Most colleges have now returned to in-person instruction, and some of those have returned to the classroom-based, paper-and-pencil survey administration. Many, however, have decided to continue to administer the survey online via Qualtrics.
As we move into a new normal, we believe understanding how recent experiences inside and outside of the classroom have impacted student learning will be invaluable in helping students reach their goals—and having two dependable modalities (our paper-and-pencil surveys and the Qualtrics web-based version of the surveys) at our disposal enhances our ability to help colleges glean these types of timely insights that matter.