Tech hosts listening sessions to hear campus experiences

Photo by Blake Israel

On Feb. 22, Tech’s Academic Restart Task Force began administering listening sessions for students, faculty, and graduate teaching assistants (GTA) to voice their opinions on classroom experiences this semester.

A total of 24 sessions took place with the last one occurring today, March 12, at 10:30am.

The one-hour sessions took place over Microsoft Teams. Only 15 participants were allowed per session to ensure each individual had the opportunity to speak about their opinions.

The discussions were led by Dr. Casey Chaviano, assistant director for assessment and planning in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.

Dr. Kyla Ross, assistant vice provost for advocacy and conflict resolution, also attended each session to take notes on participant comments.

The stated goal of the listening sessions was “to provide insight into perceptions of instructional effectiveness, student engagement, the usefulness of technology, and consistency/clarity of communications and expectations.”

Emily Eby, second-year ME, stated, “I decided to participate in the focus group because I feel very passionately that we should return to in-person classes this fall. When I heard about the focus group sessions, it appeared to be an opportunity to voice my opinions and share my experiences.”

Rose Lacey, third-year MATH, had a similar reason for her involvement. She stated, “I decided to participate in the listening sessions because I really miss the way that Georgia Tech used to be before the pandemic. I have seen how success much we’ve had in limiting cases on campus the past two semesters, and especially with all the vaccines coming out, I feel really confident that we’ll be able to return to normal this fall.”

At the beginning of the undergraduate student listening sessions, participants were asked to raise their hands to indicate which course modes (hybrid, residential, or remote) they were taking this semester. Chaviano followed up by asking for both good and bad experiences within the different courses.

Lacey said, “All of the students [in my session] were in at least one hybrid class, so a lot of the discussion was focused on that, and we came to the conclusion that a lot of classes that were listed as hybrid ended up being mostly or fully online.”

“Many of the participants, myself included, expressed frustration with the current online format for classes,” said Eby.

She further explained, “It was often said that there was little interaction with the professor and our peers. In addition, work felt as if it was of a greater magnitude than in-person classes. It was evident that there was a general sense of isolation and discontent that participants felt with Georgia Tech.”

Results of the sessions will be shared with Tech administrators and the Institute Restart Task Force.

Many students have expressed their gratitude for the listening sessions, explaining how necessary it is for Tech, as well as students, staff and faculty, to understand the perspectives and viewpoints of others on campus.

“I think it is really important for Tech to hold listening sessions,” said Lacey. “When decisions need to be made that have a direct impact on the lives of students, I think the students themselves are the best source of information.”

She continued, “Also, with a community as large and diverse as Georgia Tech’s, no one person can give the best answer when there is a tough issue to solve. Plus, it was nice to feel like I had some input on the plan. After a year of things being out of my control, it was nice to feel like I could have a say in what comes next.”

“Going to these sessions allowed me to express my beliefs as well as hear what others around campus have to say as well,” said Eby. “I was able to hear perspectives from those I would never have interacted with normally, and it was extremely beneficial for me to hear that.”

For those unable to attend the listening sessions, Tech also created a short survey for individuals to voice their opinions on classroom experiences. Like the listening session, results from the survey will be shared with administrators and the Institute Restart Task Force as they continue to plan for the upcoming semesters.