Health and education concerns about returning to campus and online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic among US undergraduate STEM majors

J Am Coll Health. 2021 Oct 19;1-8. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2021.1979009. Online ahead of print.


Objective: We examined undergraduates' concerns about returning to campus and online learning from home.

Participants: Undergraduates majoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at US universities/colleges.

Methods: Participants completed an online survey in July 2020. We content-analyzed responses to open-ended questions about concerns about fall 2020.

Results: Students (N = 64) were 52% women, 47% low socioeconomic status (SES), and 27% non-Hispanic white. Concerns about returning to campus included student noncompliance with university COVID-19 prevention guidelines (28%), infection risk (28%), poor instructional quality (26%), inadequate university plans for preventing/handling outbreaks (25%), negative impacts on social interactions (11%), and transportation/commuting (11%). Concerns about learning from home included difficulty focusing on schoolwork (58%), lack of hands-on/experiential learning (24%), negative impacts on social interactions (19%), family/home environment (15%), concerns that online learning wastes time/money (10%), and inadequate technology/Internet access (5%).

Conclusions: Universities should address student concerns and provide resources to overcome barriers to effective learning.

Keywords: COVID-19; education; online learning; undergraduate students.