Learning from Universities’ Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for the New Normal

Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Proceedings - SEFI 49th Annual Conference: Blended Learning in Engineering Education: Challenging, Enlightening - and Lasting?

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Last Page



The pandemic has negatively impacted many students’ ability to continue schooling, or to do so with the same level of success. What is not well understood is how universities’ responses to pandemic-induced changes helped or hindered students’ success during the spring 2020 transitions to online learning. To better understand campus closures and transitions to online and blended learning, this paper explores students’ perceptions of their universities’ handling of and responses to the pandemic and which actions and resources would better support their success in the new normal. It is important to understand the impacts of universities’ responses on students not only because some changes are likely here to stay, but also because pivots caused by pandemics may be required with increasing frequency in the future. The data came from an online survey conducted in the United States in spring and summer of 2020. The survey respondents were 669 undergraduate engineering students from 140 institutions. Student responses addressed several distinct groups of stakeholders with most related to individual instructors, followed by academic administrators, and counselling and disability service centres. Less prominent but still important themes related to other groups were also identified. Responses for each of these groups are presented in turn, and the paper concludes with recommendations for each group.

Funding Number

C 2029206

Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation


COVID-19, Empathy, Mental health, Online learning