22 SES 10 B, Paper Session
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a global crisis affecting all sectors of society. Higher education is no exception. The transition from face to face to online teaching was sudden and unexpected. It entailed both challenges and opportunities to rethink teaching and learning in different environments. In other words, ‘while this is a strong stress test for education systems, this is also an opportunity to develop alternative education opportunities’ (OECD 2020: 1).
The forced and unprecedented shift to online teaching is seen as a turning point to change education (and higher education in particular) and to promote innovation, but issues of equity and social justice also need to be included into the equation (Flores and Gago, 2020), as well as teachers’ and institutions’ predispositions and conditions for operating in different teaching and learning environments. A recent study carried out in the Portuguese context showed that the main constraints to digital innovation in higher education institutions are associated with limited infrastructure and resources, lack of funding opportunities, insufficient technological resources, a conservative academic culture, and a lack of technical support (Vicente, Lucas, Carlos, and Bem-Haja 2020). These and other issues, particularly both personal and institutional adaptation to online teaching and learning, need to be taken into consideration to fully understand its process and effects in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study carried out at a dental school in the USA also showed that students had a strong preference for synchronous recorded live lectures and asynchronous pre-recorded lectures with synchronous follow‐up sessions, compared to nonrecorded live lectures. The same study found that students felt that learning formats like flipped classrooms and creative uses of technology would be beneficial to their virtual learning (Chen, Kaczmarek, and Ohyama 2020).
Another study carried out in Germany showed that students’ readiness for digital learning and their self-reported socio-emotions were correlated. Students who claimed to be ready for digital learning reported less tension, overload, worries, social and emotional loneliness and more joy than those who did not (Händel, Stephan, Gläser-Zikuda, Kopp, Bedenlier, and Ziegler 2020).
Son, Hegde, Smith, Wang, and Sasangohar (2020) conducted interview surveys at a large university in the USA and found that most students indicated increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak, fear and concern about their own and their loved ones’ health, difficulty in concentrating, disruptions to sleeping patterns, decreased social interactions due to physical distancing and increased concerns on academic performance.
On March 13th 2020, the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education announced the closure of all higher education institutions to mitigate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2. All activities which included the presence of students were suspended on March 16th. Furthermore, the same communication stipulated that “efforts should be done to promote online teaching and learning, keeping the activities through teacher and student interaction via digital tools” (MCTES 2020: 1).
It is, therefore, important to investigate how the transition to online teaching and learning was experienced by the higher education students, including the conditions for its implementation and opportunities to learn. To our knowledge, no empirical study has been published so far regarding the Portuguese context. This study may inform future research intended to investigate this topic not only in the Portuguese context, but in other jurisdictions as well. This paper draws upon a wider piece of research which aims to understand how higher education students perceived their online teaching and learning experience and adapted to the closure of their institution.
In general, existing research literature focusing on students’ experience of online teaching in times of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown positive features, for instance their readiness for digital learning, but also issues that deserve further consideration, such as assessment in online environments, as well as internal and external factors affecting students’ predispositions for online learning. This paper draws upon a wider piece of research aimed at investigating higher education students’ perceptions and experiences of online teaching and learning during lockdown, including their adaptation to the closure of their institution. A questionnaire based on a previous study of the experience of teachers in remote teaching, resulting from both legal and theoretical frameworks related to teaching and assessment, was designed. It included both open and closed-ended questions which were organised in three sections, in addition to the students' biographical data: (1) perceptions and experiences about the conditions for online teaching and learning; (2) perceptions and experiences about the process of online teaching and learning; and, (3) perceptions and experiences about assessment and feedback. The sample consisted of 2718 students from different cycles of study (graduate degree, Masters degree, PhD). Most participants were female (65.8%) and younger than 25 years old. Only 8.8% of the participants were more than 30 years old. The students were enrolled in programmes in different fields of knowledge, most of whom were in Engineering, Educational Sciences, Medicine, Psychology and Law. A link to the survey was created through Qualtrics and sent out to the students via students’ unions. Students from all areas of knowledge (e.g., Social Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Health Sciences) and cycles of study (e.g., undergraduate, masters and PhD) were invited. The questionnaire was administered between June 12 and August 12 2020. A non-probability convenience sample was used. The research project was carried out according to international educational research ethics, namely data confidentiality, informed consent, voluntary participation, and the use of the data collected only for research purposes. The project was approved by the Ethics Committee for Research in Social and Human Sciences in our institution. Participants were informed about the goals of the project prior to giving their consent. The link to complete the questionnaire and the research protocol was sent to all participants all of whom confirmed their voluntary informed consent to participate in the study.
Findings from this study have shown that, although, in general, the adaptation of higher education students was positive, there were students who did not adapt well. The success of the adaptation process was related to both personal and contextual factors. Issues of institutional responses to deal with the abrupt transition to online teaching may explain why some students adapted negatively or positively, but teachers’ pedagogical responses and individual processes of adaptation also need to be taken into consideration. Existing literature suggests that there were diverse responses from students in terms of studying time (Aucejo, French, Araya, and Zafar 2020) and from institutions which were forced to have a transition to remote teaching (Flores and Gago 2020; la velle et al. 2020; Quezada et al. 2020; Osman 2020). A positive adaptation of the students was directly associated with their beliefs in their competencies to follow online teaching successfully and to learn well in online environments. Therefore, self-regulated students showing autonomy in their learning process and higher levels of self-efficacy beliefs (Zuffianò et al. 2012) may have been better prepared to manage time and attention, and make the most of available resources (Zimmerman 2011). This study also highlights the importance of contextual factors which seem to have had an impact on the adaptation process, namely concerning access to the necessary technical resources and having had prior experience with online teaching. Institutional and pedagogical responses, individual self-regulatory and socio-emotional competencies and adequate resources are factors that led to more positive or negative student experience with online teaching and in times of COVID-19. These are key aspects for higher education institutions to consider in (re)designing present and future teaching scenarios and in articulating a more coherent and systemic response to the challenges faced during and in post-COVID-19 times.
Aucejo, E., French, J., Araya, M., & Zafar, B. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey. Journal of Public Economics, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104271 Chen, E., Kaczmarek, K., & Ohyama, H. (2020). Student perceptions of distance learning strategies during COVID‐19. J Dent Educ, https://doi.org/10.1002/jdd.12339 Flores, M. A. & Gago, M. (2020) Teacher education in times of COVID-19 pandemic in Portugal: national, institutional and pedagogical responses, Journal of Education for Teaching, 46(4), pp. 507-516 Händel, M., Stephan, M., Gläser-Zikuda, M., Kopp, B., Bedenlier, S., & Ziegler, A. (2020). Digital readiness and its effects on higher education students’ socio-emotional perceptions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. PsyArXiv, https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/b9pg7 la Velle, L., Newman, S., Montgomery, C., & Hyatt, D. (2020). Initial teacher education in England and the Covid-19 pandemic: challenges and opportunities. Journal of Education for Teaching, 46(4), 596-608, https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1803051 MCTES (2020). Nota de Esclarecimento do Gabinete do Ministro da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior de 13 março. Lisboa: Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior, retrieved from https://www.sec-geral.mec.pt/noticia/nota-de-esclarecimento-do-gabinete-do-ministro-da-ciencia-tecnologia-e-ensino-superior OECD. (2020). Education responses to covid-19: Embracing digital learning and online collaboration. Retrieved from https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=120_120544-8ksud7oaj2&title=Education_responses_to_Covid19_Embracing_digital_learning_and_online_collaboration Osman, M. (2020). Global impact of COVID-19 on education systems: the emergency remote teaching at Sultan Qaboos University. Journal of Education for Teaching, https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1802583 Quezada, R., Talbot, C., & Quezada-Parker, K. (2020). From Bricks and Mortar to Remote Teaching: A Teacher Education Program‘s Response to COVID-19. Journal of Education for Teaching, 46(4), 472-483, https://doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2020.1801330 Son, C., Hegde, S., Smith, A., Wang, X., & Sasangohar, F. (2020). Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study. J Med Internet Res, 22(9), e21279, https://doi.org/10.2196/21279 Vicente, P. N., Lucas, M., Carlos, V., & Bem-Haja, P. (2020). Higher education in a material world: Constraints to digital innovation in Portuguese universities and polytechnic institutes, Education and Information Technologies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-020-10258-5 Zimmermann, B. (2011). Motivational sources and outcomes of self-regulated learning and performance. In B. Zimmerman & D. Schunk (Eds), Handbook of Self-Regulation and Performance (pp.49-59). New York: Taylor & Francis. Zuffianò, A., Alessandrini, G., Gerbino, M., Kanacri, B.P.L., DiGiunta, L., Milioni, M. et al. (2012) Academic achievement: The unique contribution of self-efficacy beliefs in self-regulated learning beyond intelligence, personality traits, and self-esteem, Learning and Individual Differences, 23, 158-162, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2012.07.010
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