Higher Education Replies Stretch Across Spectrum

Varied Opinions Given in COVID-19 Survey

Read more about the survey results here.

Approaches to COVID-19 issues  at Nebraska higher education institutions are widely varied at the start of this spring semester, causing a mixed bag of emotions for college instructors and staff as they prepare to endure a second spring in the midst of a pandemic.

Many NSEA higher education members who responded to an Association survey feel they don’t have the support they need to be effective in their roles.

NSEA surveyed Association members at 19 Nebraska public higher education institutions in December to find out how they feel about working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Predominately, participants reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated with administrators, though several indicated they felt more focused or happy with their institution’s current situation.

“Administration has really impressed me in all of this,” one member wrote. “They’ve been smart and very communicative in the process of their decision making, and they have consistently showed compassion to both staff and students as we all walk through this difficult time.”

Many respondents expressed opposite feelings.

Not Meeting Needs

“No communication and no recognition of the additional workload makes me discouraged,” wrote another.

The 169 respondents included professors and instructors of all ranks, support professionals and program directors who serve in a wide variety of roles, from associate degree and graduate studies to public information and healthcare services. The majority have worked in an education setting for 10 to 30 years.

Results showed 80 percent of respondents’ institutions were offering remote classes, either completely, synchronously with in-person classes or as a hybrid of online and face-to-face at different times.

Respondents aren’t necessarily confident that their institutions’ chosen models are working. Forty percent said their current learning model was not equitably meeting the needs of all students. Issues such as access to internet, illness, planning time, lack of technology in home offices and a feeling of disregard from higher-ups headlined those concerns.

An Assist from NSEA

As classes resumed last fall, NSEA Organizational Specialist Rich Wergin worked with members on nearly every public college and university campus in Nebraska as the members began a new semester teaching during the pandemic.

Wergin assisted members in efforts to reach satisfactory accommodations at the state college campuses at Wayne, Chadron and Peru, where in-classroom teaching was mandated.

Like their K-12 colleagues, many higher ed instructors were teaching synchronously, were working longer hours, and were spending much of that time and effort planning.

“When you combine the face-to-face with the synchronous instruction, providing make-up work for those with Wi-Fi issues or being too ill to join online, the task seemed overwhelming,” Wergin said. “Our higher ed members learned very quickly that this year would be like no other.”