Nnenna Asidianya Receives U of T Global Impact Student Engagement Award

September 28, 2021 by Eran Vijayakumar

Congratulations to third-year PhD student Nnenna Asidianya for being recognized with a U of T Global Impact Student Engagement Award. For the second consecutive year, the awards will "support student-led projects that contribute to rebuilding healthy, resilient, and equitable communities as part of our post-COVID recovery."

Through a student feedback questionnaire, Asidianya’s project aims to better understand student experiences with online learning and how student’s mental health and environmental circumstances affect their academic performance.  

The inspiration for the project came when Asidianya realized that students were facing similar challenges when learning online. She believes those external factors need understanding. While teaching STAB23H3 in the fall of 2020, Asidianya facilitated a class activity where students each generated survey questions relating to the impact of COVID-19. After that, the whole class completed the survey and performed a basic statistical analysis on the results to demonstrate their knowledge.  

The insights gained from the survey results will help educators and policymakers understand how to improve online learning, based on reported student experiences. The pandemic has put online learning at the forefront of education. However, few studies account for how the pandemic and a student’s environment affects academic performance. Asidianya wants to change that and says: “I would argue that the things you can learn have to be placed in the context of certain unique circumstances. We can't actually assess how well the impact of online learning is going to be until we contextualize online learning within the framework of the pandemic. This is what I want to ask because we know student education has been impacted.”  

Asidianya’s will share her findings in a paper to the U of T Global Health committee and a video presentation to share her insights. Asidianya notes that the self-reported nature of the data limits the analysis from drawing non-obvious conclusions, but it will provide insights on factors that influence academic performance and student’s perception of their online learning experiences.

This project is not Asidianya’s first time working to support inclusion and build healthy communities. She regularly mentors new graduate students through the math department’s women in math mentorship program and volunteered as an instructor in a statistical sciences workshop for high school students from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM.

“I can show people that it's possible to look a little different than your typical student and still thrive,” says Asidianya.