Learning in the Time of COVID-19
AbstractIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities closed their on-campus offerings and hastily moved to remote learning during March 2020. Michigan State University was one of these institutions. In addition to moving all classes online, students have been given the option to change their grades to pass/fail after seeing their final grade and were asked to leave on-campus housing if possible. To incentivize students to leave campus, the university offered partial room and board rebates if they did so. While typically over 15,000 students live on campus, this number dropped to 2,000 by the end of March.
At the start of the semester, we collected data from Michigan State University students enrolled in introductory economics courses about their grade expectations and views of economics as a major. In order to understand how students responded to the disruption generated by the pandemic, we additionally collected data from students at the end of the semester on grade expectations and supplementary information about the direct effects of the pandemic on their learning environment, including changes to living arrangements, internet access adequacy, studying behavior, course characteristics, and general well-being. Supplementing this survey data with administrative data on demographic characteristics, actual grade outcomes, the choice of pass/fail options, and future course taking behavior, we investigate how the pandemic affected students and these effects varied with student background characteristics (including Pell grant eligibility, race, gender, GPA, and first generation college). With these unique data, we provide a descriptive analysis of students’ reactions and adaptation to an unprecedented disruption to their educational environment.