Geoscience student progress during the pandemic

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This data brief provides an update on the experiences of geo­science students during the pandemic, including impacts on degree progress, students’ intent to continue in their degree programs, how advising is being conducted, co-curricular and professional development activities, and concerns driven by the pandemic.

Impact on degree completion

In June 2020, 55% of students reported impacts to their degree completion progress, and since July 2020, nearly half of students have continued to report the same. Of note is the increase in students reporting impacts to their degree progress between November 2020 and January 2021 which peaked in December 2020 at 68%. During this time, there was an increase in the percentage of students reporting that the design of their thesis, dissertation or senior capstone project was changed, and an increase in the percentage of students reporting field activities being cancelled or not available.

Delays in tasks related to students’ research projects have consistently been reported by nearly 40% of students since June 2020, and the percentage of students reporting a defer­ral of their final defenses has remained near 10%.

Enrollment intention

Since December 2020, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of students indicating they are graduating, and by April 2021, just over one-third of students participating in the study indicated they will be graduating by the next academic term. Aside from those students who will be graduating and entering the workforce, over 90% of students intend to con­tinue their studies, with most indicating they will be returning full-time for the next academic term.

DB_2021-015 chart 01: Degree completion impacts (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-015 chart 02: Enrollment intention for next academic term (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Student advising

Student advising has continued to primarily be conducted online for the past year, with approximately one-third of students and faculty using multiple modes for student advising, usually a combination of online advising and phone interactions.

As of April 2021, 53% of students and faculty reported that the frequency of student advising was the same as February 2020, 10% of reported meeting more frequently, and 36% reported meeting less frequently.

DB_2021-015 chart 03: Student advising format (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-015 chart 04: Frequency of student advising compared to February 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Co-curricular and professional development activities

Students took part in a variety of co-curricular and profes­sional development activities over the past year, with over three-quarters of students reporting that they had attended virtual workshops, conferences, and webinars, and two-thirds of students reporting being active with departmental committees, campus clubs, or student government. Other commonly reported activities included mentoring other students (45%) and taking online courses (44%).

DB_2021-015 chart 05: Co-curricular and professional development activities (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Current concerns

Since December 2020, more students have reported con­cerns related to meeting their financial obligations and related to job security, and since February 2021, an increasing percentage of students reported being concerned about the availability of employment opportunities. This coincides with the increase in the percentage of students indicating that they will be graduating during the next academic term, as well as the increase in students reporting degree progress impacts related to changing the design of their research project.

DB_2021-015 chart 06: Concerns of geoscience students that are moderately to extremely driven by COVID-19 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Employment opportunities and workplace safety have remained the top concerns moderately to extremely driven by the pandemic for students, although in April 2021, availability of educational opportunities replaced workplace safety as the second top concern of students.

We will continue to provide current snapshots on the impacts of COVID-19 on the geoscience enterprise throughout the year. For more information, and to participate in the study, please visit: www.americangeosciences.org/workforce/covid19

Funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation (Award #2029570). The results and interpretation of the survey are the views of the American Geosciences Institute and not those of the National Science Foundation.

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