First-Year Students Discuss Online Learning “at” College

Ann Ferren Conference, displaying the three letters A, F, and C; and the year "2021"
Ann Ferren Conference
American University
Washington, D.C.
January 8, 2021

Full Conference Presentations and More at

– April 2021: survey results of online and hybrid university students, presented at MPSA 
– May 2021: previous info + May 2021 comments from 50+ K-12 teachers, presented at Open World / COIL

As high school seniors went online during the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, nearly 150 completed a survey about finishing high school – and perhaps beginning college – with online learning.  We shared those comments in Educause Review and the American Political Science Assn’s APSA Educate last summer.  

So…How did it go?

This fall we interviewed 30 first-year (first semester) students at 12 universities that were all-online during fall 2020. They shared their thoughts about their ~150 online courses. Summary results were first offered at American University’s annual teaching and learning conference in January 2021.     

Students – who have not yet had on-campus, in-person college learning – offered a wide range of observations. They disagreed on the impact of their learning environments (typically, their childhood home), the quality of teaching, and break-out rooms. They agreed that they turned their cameras on to hold themselves accountable (and they “off” meant they were not fully paying attention). 

They wish their professors recognized “death by PowerPoint” and “laptop burnout,” that office hours or individual instructor-student meetings were required, and that students appreciate how hard (some) professors are trying.  

But too many students are not making the connections – with classmates or with their professors – that they crave. 

PowerPoint presentation is here

2021 Ann Ferren Conf – Quirk-Alvardo presentation – short2


President Biden’s Inaugural Address: A Draft

Using quotes from Inaugurals 1789-1933

See more on Twitter #InauguralAddressoftheDay

The oath taken in the presence of the people becomes a mutual covenant.[1] We seek to overcome all the defects which destroyed the ancient Republics.[2] We face questions of deep and vital importance.[3] I feel incompetent to perform duties so important[4] but for the distinguished honor, and of the confidence reposed in me by the people of United America.[5]

When law is trampled under foot, tyranny rules.[6] Nothing can be more corrupting than the lover of power.[7] There is no salvation in a narrow and bigoted partisanship.[8] Truth and reason have maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false facts.[9] Our people are determined to leave behind them all those bitter controversies.[10]

Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.[11] The proper limitation of partisan zeal,[12] with conciliation and compromise, gave us the Constitution and enable progress.[13] Here muster not the forces of party, but the forces of humanity.[14] He serves his party best who serves his country best.[15]

There was great anxiety. Now there is none.[16] The Union of these States is perpetual,[17] an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage.[18] Free and fearless discussion, blended with unimpaired fraternal feeling,[19] harmonize conflicting interests.[20] This great country will not fall into anarchy.[21]  The Government has been in the hands of the people.[22]

The present situation of the world is without parallel, and our own country full of difficulties.[23]  In this dangerous crisis the people of America were not abandoned by their usual good sense, presence of mind, resolution, or integrity.[24] The shadows, dark upon our path, will soon be dispelled.[25] It will take time to restore the prosperity of former years.[26] This Nation is asking for action – and action now.[27]

Individuals must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest.[28] We pledge equality before the law unimpaired by race or color[29] including the right to vote,[30] and to protect the law-abiding citizen, whether of native or foreign birth.[31] Freedom of the press and of religious opinion should be inviolate.[32]

We cannot escape the effect of world conditions.[33] Our own great Republic is destined to be the guiding star to all others[34]: Justice to all, injustice to none.[35] Success of our arms now may long preserve our country from the necessity of another resort to them.[36]

American citizenship is an inviolable panoply.[37] Genius is free to announce its inventions and discoveries.[38] The wisdom, integrity, and thrift of our people may be trusted,[39] with practical intelligence, courage, endurance, and devotion to a lofty ideal.[40]

The future of our country is bright with hope.[41] With the better angels of our nature,[42] let us strive on to finish the work we are in[43]: to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.[44]

[1] 1889

[2] 1821

[3] 1857

[4] 1865

[5] 1793

[6] 1850

[7] 1841

[8] 1925

[9] 1805

[10] 1881

[11] 1801

[12] 1885

[13] 1829

[14] 1913

[15] 1877

[16] 1901

[17] 1861

[18] 1789

[19] 1837

[20] 1849

[21] 1901

[22] 1817

[23] 1809

[24] 1797

[25] 1917

[26] 1897

[27] 1933

[28] 1833

[29] 1889

[30] 1909

[31] 1869

[32] 1825

[33] 1923

[34] 1873

[35] 1841

[36] 1813

[37] 1853

[38] 1845

[39] 1881

[40] 1905

[41] 1929

[42] 1861

[43] 1865

[44] 1921

Online Learning: Using Discussion Boards

Discussion Boards can be a useful way to simulate classroom discussion, to elicit opinions and analysis, to have students build upon each other’s ideas, or to create or extend a sense of classroom community.   Whether you use a Learning Management System or social media as your platform, preparing the conversations can enhance the quality of the discussion.  Creating the assignment might include thinking about Before the discussion, Setting up a discussion, During the discussion, and After the discussion

Continue reading “Online Learning: Using Discussion Boards”

Early Ireland Elections – Feb 8

Elections due in 2021 and considered for spring 2020 will now be held this February 8, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced today

What are the domestic and foreign policy stakes of Ireland’s elections?

Seemless border at risk? on the left, County Armagh, NI, UK; on the right, County Louth, Republic of Ireland (Google Maps)

2020 Elections in Ireland (from Foreign Policy Assn’s

Leo Varadkar‘s Fine Gael party has led the government for nine years. It has come under domestic pressure on issues like housing, health care, and the divergent paths of the economy in different regions. Ireland’s larger question is on the Brexit negotiations and managing the new border between it and the UK.

Read more…


Parties and Power Volatility

October 23, 2018

Historically frequent changes in party control of White House, Congress to continue?

In addition to the many imminent questions about the U.S. elections Tuesday, November 6, is a more historical one of continuity and volatility. The back-and-forth changes of party control in Congress and the White House seen during the past decade are unlike anything in the last hundred years.

Continue reading “Parties and Power Volatility”

Russia’s Elections – A View from Siberia

A Spanish diplomat and I joined nearly 600 other international observers, deployed all across Russia, for the March 18 presidential elections. The two of us flew several hours east overnight from Moscow, and then with a local driver and interpreter met voters and elections officials in frozen central Eurasia. Here’s some of what we saw.

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