ECEDHA Summit: Student Insights Panel
By: Elizabeth Zidar, Student, Northwestern University
As we approach the start to yet another virtual/hybrid semester, I wanted to follow-up on some of the unfinished conversations from the Student Insights on Fall 2020 panel at the December session of the ECEDHA Summit Series. As the Chair and Moderator of the panel, I found our discussion to be very important for both educators and students, and it was clear that this type of collaboration is crucial moving forward. If you were unable to attend the session, I highly recommend you take a look at the on-demand recording.
At the end of the Fall semester, five ECE students and I had a very engaging conversation about many different aspects of remote education. Specifically, we focused on lecture styles, discussions and group projects, office hours, labs, and evaluations and assessments. Because our attendees had such excellent questions and we only had a short time together, there were quite a few topics we did not get a chance to cover, so the panel and I have tried our best to address many of them below. I look forward to the continued collaboration between ECE educators and ECE students as we navigate remote learning together.
What are the students’ expectations of an ‘ideal’ lecture style in remote teaching? Specifically, the length of each fragment; the clear labeling of each fragment; the expectations of the instructor about what the students are expected to know?
Katie Brinker, Iowa State University -- I think engagement and assessing the understanding of students throughout the lecture is key, otherwise it feels like trying to learn from a YouTube video. My favorite format so far was a professor who recorded their lectures in 10-20 minute chunks and put a no points/optional canvas quiz in between each chuck with a question about the material that was just covered. Then in the subsequent video chunk the question was answered. It helped keep me engaged during the video lectures and tested my understanding as we went. The lectures were also released at the same time as the lecture would be if we were in person so that we had some structure and a schedule we could stick to throughout the semester.
Has being remote changed your percentage reliance on the course materials? Like if you learned mostly from the textbook before covid, are you relying on it more now or less? Or if you relied mostly on the lectures before, now are you using the book more? less?
Elizabeth Zidar, Northwestern University -- I am definitely relying more on my textbooks and online resources, which I usually seek out on my own, now than before COVID. When we were in person, I relied heavily on office hours; sometimes I would bring specific questions to the professor or TA, but more often I would learn best from collaborating on that question with my peers. As Jan mentioned during the panel, when students are lined up in the hallway waiting to ask the professor something, we usually discuss our questions with the other students in line and work out a lot of it on our own. This was my favorite way to learn and to meet people. There has not been a great way to replicate this collaboration remotely, so I have been working much more independently this quarter. Because of this, I appreciate anytime the professor provides extra content or problems that we can do on our own outside of class.
How do you feel your workload has been this semester as compared to before COVID? Length of homework, quizzes, lab, exams...
Sadiyah Bhuria, University of Central Florida -- For me this semester was very stressful. Firstly, it was my last semester, and also there were group projects for two of my courses. It was very difficult to collaborate with each team member. The length of exams and labs was the same as it was prior to COVID. However, the group projects were very difficult to manage, and larger groups were even more difficult to manage. I was taking one course that had 10 students in a group, and it was even hard just to meet and talk to everyone at once.
Elizabeth Zidar, Northwestern University -- I agree with Sadiyah that group projects were significantly more challenging this quarter. I worked in a group of seven people who were in four different time-zones that spread across eight hours. It was very hard to meet with everyone at once, and this led to a lot of miscommunication on our assignments.
Going forward, as students what technology will you support for an in-person semester?
Sadiyah Bhuria, University of Central Florida -- I would prefer Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Also, creating polls before class is a very good tool which one of my professors uses so that he can discuss it with the class.
Hannah Schroeder, University of Houston -- I would prefer to be virtual for as long as the virus continues to be a problem. I'm not sure any technology would make in-person classes more safe than virtual ones right now.
Is there anything the Departments can do to help students socialize or feel engaged? Virtual workshops, game nights, etc…
Katie Brinker, Iowa State University -- Departments can partner with and support their IEEE Student Branches and HKN Chapters to host various events for socializing. Ideas for events include an online trivia night, open forums, and co-working from home sessions. One caveat is that if students are too busy/overwhelmed from classes and other responsibilities, such as work, they won’t have the bandwidth to attend social events online. There are also a lot of online events to compete with these days so the planned events really need to stand out.
I have a question regarding how the impact of corporate interactions have changed recently? Less opportunities to interact with companies or similar to previous years? Less connected with job search opportunities or have companies made the virtual recruiting accessible? How can companies better engage? Is there time in your schedules to do virtual events, tech talks, guest speakers or is school already too busy?
Katie Brinker, Iowa State University -- From a student organization perspective having online options has been beneficial - we can get companies to come talk to us that normally wouldn't want to travel to see us. However, towards the end of our semester it became harder and harder to get students to attend online events because they were so busy with classes and weren't really into attending an online event after being online for class and meetings all day. There is a lot of online event competition right now, so when we're planning we're looking for things that will really stand out so that we can get decent attendance and won't disappoint the presenters. IEEE Student Branches and HKN Chapters are a great way for companies to engage with students. Creating events through these organizations can help ensure that a student perspective is present in the planning process and that students will be generally receptive to what is being planned. Some ideas for how companies can better engage is having some sort of interactive component or an incentive for students to attend their event. For example, TI did a series of hands-on workshops with HKN where they shipped those who signed up a kit and then we met on webex to do the workshop together. They talked a little bit about their internship program but framing it around an interactive workshop made it stand out.
Jan Iglesias, University of Central Florida -- I believe that corporate interactions have changed in schools due to moving entirely to remote. Normally, companies would send representatives to my school, UCF, and host events in person. UCF would also host career and internship fairs to help students connect with companies and interact with recruiters. During COVID, this has all been completely changed. My school has still hosted career and internship fairs, but they have been entirely virtual. Many of my peers decided to not attend the virtual fairs because they believed that the virtual format makes it much harder to stand out or properly interface with recruiters. I believe that it can be harder to properly socialize and interact with companies virtually than it is in person. I believe that there are still opportunities available for students out there, but the schools and companies should attempt to make these opportunities more easily accessible to the students. It might be worth it for companies to host their own virtual recruitment events at schools versus relying on big virtual fairs which many students seem to not see the value in. Companies seem to be making that push to make these events are accessible as possible to the students, but perhaps schools can help in achieving as much accessibility as possible. I believe that now is a very good time for companies to engage. Previously, companies would have to incur a large amount of expenses to send representatives to each school, but now companies can send anyone to any school in a virtual event with very little cost. Once we are no longer in a remote setting, I believe that we should switch back to these in-person engagements, but for now these virtual engagements can be very interesting and useful for students. I believe that while students are juggling a lot of asynchronous activities, students will make the time and attend these synchronous company engagement opportunities because during regular semesters they were very useful, important, and interesting to the students. It might be worth partnering with student organizations because student organizations would be more familiar with what works and what doesn't work at that institution during a remote semester. Sending all kinds of representees such as engineers, executive positions, non-engineers, and others is much easier now for companies due to the low-cost required to do so virtually and I believe companies should take advantage of this. Companies should provide students with events in which we see guest speakers that we would not normally engage with during a regular semester.