Has remote learning impacted students' grades?

Orange Coast College – along with most schools – switched over to remote learning when COVID-19 hit in early 2020. For students and professors, this meant facing the pandemic not only in their personal lives, but in their academic lives as well. 

“Doing school work from home is extremely difficult. It’s hard to focus while you have your siblings running all over the place,” said Leslye Rendon, an OCC sophomore. ‘“It’s also hard when you don’t have anyone to ask a question as soon as you need an answer. It’s kind of like learning the material all by yourself and having no professor.”

A topic of discussion has been whether students' grades have suffered or improved due to remote learning – or if remote learning hasn’t impacted grades at all. 

“Last spring when we had to go online so abruptly, I think it had a negative impact on a lot of student’s grades. Students didn’t choose to take the classes online and faculty weren’t prepared for teaching online,” OCC psychology professor Melissa Ferguson said. “I actually compared grade averages from previous semesters and was pleasantly surprised – the class grade averages were very similar. I hope the same holds true for this spring.”

Adjusting teaching styles has been key to making sure students are successful and professors had to learn what works for their specific class and students. 

“I know we all adjusted in different ways, but I just could not see myself on Zoom for over an hour lecturing,” Ferguson said. “‘I felt that an asynchronous format would work better for my students and myself.”’

There is also a question about whether students are getting just as good of an education as they would have been if in face-to-face classes. 

“I think it is possible to get just as good of an education remotely, but it is up to each professor and student to make sure that happens,” she said. “As a professor, we need to maintain regular substantive communication with our students.”

Sheri Sterner, dean of Research, Planning, & Institutional Effectiveness at OCC, has seen how COVID-19 and remote learning has been carefully monitoring the shift and its impact on students. 

“The impact of COVID-19 on grades is a complex one and not easily discernible by grade trends alone,” she said via email. “In addition to these factors, trends can vary by program and department.”

The constant changes to policy also make the process a lot more complex. 

“There were policy changes to withdrawal grades in spring by the state Chancellor’s Office, which makes the analysis even more complex and teasing out causal factors more difficult,” she said. 

Sterner and her team are still working to see if COVID-19 and remote learning have definitely impacted student’s grades. 

“At this time, my office has conducted preliminary analyses on the impact of COVID-19 on a variety of factors, but have not finalized nor published the findings,” she said.

OCC students can reach out to virtual campus tutors for academic help, such as the Student Success Center and counselors who can help students. 

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