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Sophomore Desiree Nixon works on trigonometry during the first day of classes at Missouri State University on Aug. 17. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

More than a third of Missouri State students reported a problem accessing online learning, according to a mid-semester survey university conducted.

Of the 35 percent reporting an issue, 17 percent complained of internet issues and 14 percent pointed to trouble with equipment, such as laptops, or software, including the Blackboard learning management system.

It was not clear if students encountered a one-time issue or ongoing frustrations.

“A survey is nothing but a survey if you don’t do anything with it,” said Keri Franklin, associate provost for public affairs and assessment. “And so we have to reach back out to the students and let them know ‘We heard your voice’ and ‘We see your need.'”

The results released last week to the MSU Board of Governors showed 7,321 students completed the 10-question survey in late September and early October, designed to shed light on how students were faring during the pandemic.

The response rate was above 44 percent.

“The goal of the survey was the outreach. We want to make sure our students have the tools to succeed,” she said. “With that in mind, we asked them about their adjustment to learning this fall.”

The university halted in-person learning in March because of the pandemic, moving to an online or alternative format. This fall, the campus fully reopened with students opting for a mix of in-person, online and hybrid or blended courses.

The survey asked students how they adjusted to learning this fall and nearly 19 percent described it as great, 20 percent as OK, and 39 percent checked the box “I’m adapting to it but it isn’t ideal.”

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Nearly 16 percent described it as “not good” or “pretty difficult” and a little more than 6 percent — 463 students — said it was terrible.

Students were asked if they were experiencing mental health concerns, needed help with housing or food, or wanted to access online academic assistance. A majority answered “no” to those questions. 

Here is a breakdown of the students who responded yes or maybe to those questions:

  • Mental health concerns — nearly 10 percent yes, 18 percent maybe
  • Assistance with food — nearly 5 percent yes, 6 percent maybe
  • Assistance with housing — 3 percent yes, nearly 5 percent maybe
  • Need academic assistance — 8 percent yes, 13 percent maybe

Franklin said students who answered “yes” were immediately sent a list of resources to meet the need, complete with contact information.

Creating a team to help students in need

MSU also assembled a team to respond to students who have identified a concern or a need. Franklin said the goal is to erase the stigma and remove barriers so students can be successful in college.

Dee Siscoe, vice president for student affairs, said the follow-up with students who had a mental health concern showed that despite communicating options, they often did not know what help was available.

Dee Siscoe (Photo: File photo)

“We find that in a time when they are in a crisis or they are dealing with anxiety, they might not remember those resources,” she said. “We were helpful in making sure they had those at their fingertips.”

Siscoe added: “Just the idea that someone reached out and said they cared was meaningful.”

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As part of the survey each year, the university asks how many students enrolled in the fall plan to return in the spring. This year, 84 percent said yes, 7 percent said they plan to graduate in December and most of the others were unsure.

A tiny sliver of students responded that they either do not plan to return or they plan to enroll in a different institution.

“If students say ‘no,’ they have made up their minds and it’s really hard to change that,” Franklin said. “If they say they are unsure, there may still be a chance there. This is a strategic group to follow up with.”

Claudette Riley is the education reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to [email protected].

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