Update   •

Diane Price BanksDr. Diane Price Banks, Director of the Bronx Community College Medical Lab Technician Program recently co-authored a paper with Sasha Vergez, a student at Lehman College titled: “Online and In-Person Learning Preferences during the COVID-19 Pandemic among Students Attending The City University of New York.” Maria Feliciano, a student at Hostos also contributed. The study was published in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology.


The COVID-19 pandemic elicited mandated shutdowns of establishments not considered essential. This included academic institutions. These institutions had to rapidly find a way to transition into on-line learning.

The study was part of the Pathway to Students Success Research Program (PTS3) at Lehman College. Dr. Banks was selected as a research mentor to the program during the pandemic. She said: “Our research team wanted to know what impact COVID-19 had on current CUNY students progress towards their education. The study had three components: the impact on academics along with psychological and behavioral outcomes.”

An on-line survey was sent to students at 21 CUNY colleges to collect information about their experiences pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and post pandemic. More than 500 students responded. For this study, online learning was defined as synchronized or asynchronized meaning the courses did or did not meet at a specific time.

At BCC fully online courses increased 94.16% from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020. Meanwhile in person courses decreased by 90.81%. This shift prompted the authors to investigate the academic effects of the mandated online learning modality employed during the pandemic among the students at CUNY.

For academics, there were several key findings including the student’s perception of online learning, their academic achievements and the difference between STEM and non-STEM student majors and course outcomes. Non-STEM students rated online learning higher than STEM students. This was because STEM students desired hands-on instruction to complete their coursework accompanied by their perception that STEM courses were more difficult.

The study also addressed the challenges students identified with online learning. These included technical difficulties, lack of interaction with their professors and their peers. Faculty members also struggled with online learning. Students resented being forced into online learning when they were more accustomed to a traditional, meaning an in-person classroom setting.

Dr. Banks said: “We found there were a lot of challenges. A number of CUNY students didn’t have laptops or access to the Internet. They couldn’t log on to their classes. Their class attendance suffered and many students said they struggled with online learning feeling they had to learn on their own. In addition, some described that their instructors had not mastered how to teach online given the very short transitional period.”

However, students did see benefits for online learning. They were able to work from home which eliminated hours spent commuting. There were also financial rewards when students didn’t have to pay for the cost of commuting, lunch and childcare.

Sasha Vergez noted: “A key finding was that more than 52% of the respondents indicated that their GPA increased after the spring semester. So, although online learning was viewed negatively at the onset of the pandemic, we initially assumed that because students didn’t want online learning that their grades would reflect that. But our study found that this was the opposite, grades seemingly improved and increased during the pandemic.”

The study also found that students studying majors in the humanities psychology or sociology, for example, enjoyed the online experience more than those who studied majors in Science, Math, Engineering & Technology. Students taking courses in the humanities field did not have to take online labs that were required of most STEM students.

In the Fall of 2020, several BCC Allied Health Career students were back on campus taking a hybrid of online and in person courses. Dr. Banks noted that it was particularly important for her students in the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) Program have the opportunity to complete their degree as they are the frontline workers during the COVID -19 crisis. MLT classes are 80% laboratory based.

Moving forward Dr. Banks and Sasha Vergez both noted that this was an unprecedented study with implications for the future should there every be another pandemic. Faculty and students will be better prepared for online learning.

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