New survey on College of Business REAL courses continues to show student disapproval

Students study at tables outside the Thomas L. Keon Testing Center in UCF's Business Administration II building on Feb. 1. Student government senators for the College of Business created a survey that showed student disapproval of REAL classes. These courses only meet five times a semester and put an emphasis on group work.

A new survey done by student government senators for the College of Business continues to show student distaste of Relevant, Engaged, Active Learning courses that started back in fall 2017.

These courses only meet five times a semester and put an emphasis on group work. Students work on group projects and solve problems using real-world tools and application. Instructors provide three- or four-minute long videos that cover topics to help students with their online assignments.

The classes were first used for only general education courses such as Microeconomics and Macroeconomics but are now used for higher-level courses such as Quantitative Business Tools.

A petition was started September 2018 by junior finance major Michael Wensinger to reform the REAL learning format. The College of Business senators created an all-around survey in November 2018 and got input from students who both liked and disliked REAL courses.

“We wanted to create an environment for collaboration and that we could continue to be the students' voice for curriculum reform,” Student Government Sen. Daniel Robles said.

For three weeks during the fall 2018 semester, the senators stood outside the College of Business asking students for their majors and whether or not they had taken REAL or lecture-capture courses. If they had, they were then asked to complete the survey and were given the option to write in any additional comments. After receiving surveys from 260 students, the overall opinion toward REAL classes was negative.

One question on their survey read, “If I would have known about REAL courses before enrolling into the College of Business, I might not have chosen UCF.” Students chose answers that ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree. 

According to the new survey, 47 percent of students strongly agreed.

“We actually had some students come up to us and say they’re freshmen, they just got here and if they would have known they weren’t going to have a professor they wouldn’t have come to UCF,” Robles said.

Another part of the survey asked students about their overall experiences in REAL classes. The senators' survey showed that 0 percent said they had an extremely overall positive experience with REAL classes and 2 percent said they had a moderately good experience

The senators said one of the biggest complaints of REAL classes has been that students are left teaching themselves in higher-level courses they don’t have experience in.

In the optional comment section, students left written responses about why they prefer lecture capture to REAL classes.

“I'm being taught the material and not taught by a computer," one student wrote. "I have the opportunity to ask questions and not have to go to the professor’s office in order to get an answer. Office hours limits teacher-student interaction." 

The senators also got input from students who enjoyed the REAL course format.

“Anyone that said they liked them, we made sure to get their input because we wanted to make sure we got both sides,” Robles said.

Despite the amount of negative feedback, some students left encouraging comments as well as to why they preferred REAL to lecture-capture classes.

Lecture-capture was the previous format used by the college. Students in these classes had three options: to attend normal lectures, watch lectures live on their computer or go back and watch the recorded lectures at another time.

“I like the fact that I have more free time and that I can learn at my own pace and pleasure,” one student wrote.

The senators said that since the comment section was optional and some students took the time to write stuff down, it really showed that they have strong opinions toward REAL classes.

The senators shared their data with the administration, as the responses were predominately negative. They said they believed they were all working with the same goal in mind — to improve the overall academic experience of students in their college.

One of the questions on the survey was, "Administrative decisions within the college of business are made with the students' best interest in mind."

While only 2 percent strongly agreed, 34 percent of students strongly disagreed.

During their regularly scheduled meeting last semester with Dean Paul Jarley of the College of Business, the senators shared their data and said they left the meeting feeling dismissed and discouraged.

Following their meeting with Jarley, the senators took it upon themselves to reach out to administration in the provost office about their data.

They met with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Elizabeth Dooley, Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Communications Briant Coleman, Interim Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning Melody Bowdon, and Vice Provost for Digital Learning Thomas Cavanaugh.

The senators said they felt their data was taken much more seriously in this meeting.

“They made me feel respected," Guerra said. "They knew our names and took time to address us. They commended us in our initiative for what were doing."

The senators said the members of administration looked over all the data given, followed along and even took notes as the senators presented.

"They were really listening to us," Robles said

Erika Hodges, the director of communication and marketing for the College of Business, said that all feedback given to the college is taken into consideration.

“The dean and representatives of the college also met with other students over the course of last semester to hear concerns and garner feedback as well," Hodges said. "The college appreciates all of the student feedback and has taken it seriously."

She said the College of Business has created a survey that is sent out to students at the end of each semester in the REAL courses and said they have surveyed more than 6,000 students.

In their findings, they compared students' overall experiences between lecture-capture and REAL classes.

With 6,467 responses from spring 2018 and fall 2018, lecture capture had a 21.6 percent excellent rating and an 8.8 percent poor rating. REAL classes had a 24.5 percent excellent rating and a 7.1 percent poor rating.

Hodges said the administration has been constantly working to perfect the REAL classes format.

“The faculty who teach the REAL classes have been meeting monthly or more to discuss how the classes are going, share student feedback, challenges and best practices,” Hodges said.

Some changes have been made to the format of REAL classes since the classes were introduced in fall 2017. The college of business said this is due to the data they have since collected on the course. 

“Based on the fall’s feedback from students, the college added an introductory in-class session the first week of classes for students to meet their instructors and [teaching assistants] and to hear from the instructor about what is expected and how to succeed in their class,” Hodges said.

The senators said they hope to create an environment of collaboration with the college so all students can get the quality education they pay for. They said they believe the responses from the provost office made them one step closer to making that possible. 

“[The provosts] said [our initiative] was a direct reflection that we care about what we’re doing," Robles said. "It made us feel more hopeful, and I hope it makes the students feel more hopeful in the future.” 

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