Ball State students maintain high GPA during remote learning

<p>The Learning Center is located in NQ 350 of the North Quad Building. Jennifer Haley, director of the Learning Center, said they piloted their online tutoring program within a week of online-only instruction in the spring 2020 semester. <strong>Jenna Gorsage, DN File</strong></p>

The Learning Center is located in NQ 350 of the North Quad Building. Jennifer Haley, director of the Learning Center, said they piloted their online tutoring program within a week of online-only instruction in the spring 2020 semester. Jenna Gorsage, DN File

Though remote learning has changed how students learn, all signs point to an improvement for Ball State students’ grade point average (GPA).

During the spring 2020 semester, Ball State undergraduate level students had an average GPA of 3.219, an improvement over the previous fall 2019 semester’s average of 3.083, while graduate students had an average GPA of 3.747, an improvement over the previous semester’s mark of 3.692, said Ball State Provost Susana Rivera-Mills.

“Spring did not allow us to prepare. We had to shift to remote learning within a period of two weeks,” Rivera-Mills said. “Our online learning capacity and quality is extremely high. We have invested over time to ensure appropriate faculty training, student success support services and intentional course design and assessment.”

The average GPA of Ball State students has generally trended upward over the past five years, and the GPA average has consistently improved between the fall semester to the spring semester each year.

With the change to hybrid models of instruction in some classes this semester, Rivera-Mills said professors had to dramatically revamp their strategies for teaching.

“For fall, we spent all summer preparing to deliver and expand the high quality online learning as well as the flexible hybrid courses we are offering on campus,” Rivera-Mills said. “Faculty participated in extensive training and spent significant time redesigning their courses to meet student needs in an environment that continues to be uncertain due to the pandemic.”

In turn, Jennifer Haley, director of the Learning Center, said appointments for the Learning Center have decreased due to the change in how the program operates during the pandemic. 

She said the Learning Center had to quickly change its programming, including the creation of its online tutoring program, to adapt to the early lockdown orders in March.

“In one week, we created our online programming for tutoring, supplemental instruction and academic coaching, including training student staff, developing a scheduling and sign-up protocol and marketing the services to students as we all adjusted to stay-at-home orders,” Haley said.

Overall, appointments are down 31 percent, though she said the drop may also be due to the cancellation of satellite drop-in tutoring, a math- and chemistry-specific type of tutoring. She also said the effectiveness of online learning remains to be seen.

“I don’t know yet about the impact of online learning on GPA as we haven’t had a full semester of online learning yet,” Haley said. “That data will be available at the completion of fall semester, although it will be difficult to assign causation to any rise or drop in GPA to online learning.”

However, the steady averages have not meant every student has handled the transition to remote learning well. Junior special education major Madison Tupa and senior telecommunications major Morgan O’Connor said they have both experienced difficulties with adapting to the new learning environment.

“I struggle with figuring it out since each class is different,” Tupa said. “When I have a class that's on Zoom, it's like one class might be on one schedule and the other is on another, but not all Zoom classes will follow one schedule.”

O’Connor, who is taking six classes remotely this semester, said her grades have been affected by the way remote learning functions compared to in-person instruction.

“My grades definitely dropped because I have more late work now since it's harder to keep up with everything,” O’Connor said. “I definitely lost track, and for me personally, it’s a lot harder to be productive when classes are online [because] I like to be face to face and visually learning.”

The Learning Center is offering free WebEx tutoring appointments for students during the fall semester, and supplemental instruction leaders may host distanced in-person sessions.

Contact John Lynch with comments at jplynch@bsu.edu or on Twitter @WritesLynch. Contact Angelica Gonzalez Morales with comments at agnozalezmor@bsu.edu or on Twitter @angelicag_1107.

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