16 SES 14 A, The Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education
Teaching and learning in higher education have been thoroughly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; the switch to what is now labeled as emergency remote teaching (Hodges et al., 2020) has triggered both scientific and applied discourse in the field of educational research and beyond. Higher education institutions rapidly increased availability of support structures for their students and teaching staff. Research followed with a plethora of primary studies conducted on a variety of topics, including analyses of adapted syllabi (Skulmowski & Rey, 2020), the relationship of confinement to students’ academic performance (Gonzalez et al, 2020) or use of social media to maintain communication between students and teachers in formal academic contexts (Sobaih et al., 2020).
However, time passes and the body of studies accumulates as an emerging field of research. As researchers in education we perceive the need to gain an overview of what has been published so far, where studies originate from, which topics they addressed and, broadly, how this emerging field of research can be further delineated. First attempts to collate studies and summarize them from an overarching perspective have already been done, for example, Arndt, Ladwig and Knutzen (2020) reviewing institutional research and evaluations of teaching and learning during Covid-19 within German higher education, Butler-Henderson et al. (2020) creating an open access database for empirical and theoretical studies on education under Covid-19 (CHELD V1) or Bond’s (2020) living rapid systematic review of K-12 teaching and learning during the pandemic.
Our review study aligns with these first attempts cited above as it addresses the perceived need to provide an overview about the research that has so far been published – in order to identify research gaps, discern the scope of research and derive implications for further research. However, whilst the above reviews, including our own, make visible what topics, populations, fields of study, countries are already visible in this existing body of research, in the proposed contribution, we want to shed light on what these reviews do not tell or focus their attention on and discuss these gaps in light of their societal implications.
Therefore, the research questions that lead this reflective piece of research are:
- How can the existing body of research on higher education teaching and learning and Covid-19 be described?
- How can the identified gaps in research be discussed against the background of digital divide, inclusion and national perspectives in higher education?
We conducted a living rapid systematic review (see Bond, 2020 for further details) of primary studies located within teaching and learning in higher education, that were internationally published in 2020 and focused on the summer term 2020. Following the steps of the systematic review process, that is the review of existing research based on predefined criteria for in- and exclusion and following transparent procedures (Zawacki-Richter et al., 2020), we iteratively searched a total of 13 international databases. This led to a body of 9,946 references to screen for inclusion based on title and abstract. In the end, 282 studies met the inclusion criteria of, among others, focusing higher education, relating to an educational setting, employing empirical methods and being conducted in direct relation to the influence of the pandemic. These 282 studies were included for the mapping of the research. The review workflow was managed using the evidence synthesis software EPPI Reviewer (Thomas et al., 2020). As research on teaching and learning in higher education is expected to considerably increase in quantity over the next months, not least due to the ongoing pandemic situation and the fact that the publication process is time-consuming as such, we are far from claiming that we have included all available research within the field. This potentially needs to rely on integrating other approaches, such as text-mining in order to feasibly search an ever-increasing publication body (Christ et al., 2019), as well. Whilst the systematic review serves as our empirical approach, in this contribution, we only use it as our point of departure for a critical discussion of the blind spots in research on Covid-19 and the higher education context.
From the current state of the review, we can already conclude that there is an imbalance in regard to where studies originate from globally. Domestic collaboration between authors is prominently present, international collaboration a lot less often. With students as the main study population, access to technology and Internet connection is often times cited as a challenge and barrier – opening the discussion as to who is currently de facto excluded from learning (and teaching). When it comes to the analysis of the study population, focus on specific groups – who are potentially more vulnerable than others in regard to full online teaching – such as students with special needs is largely lacking in the studies included. This also holds true for the population of international students. These first results will be elaborated on descriptively within the contribution and situated within broader lines of scientific discourse. Beyond the immediate findings from our review, we can see that topics such as broader ethical consideration and reflection, also including use of data and data protection, do not form a central part of current research – this claim will also be discussed and substantiated as part of the contribution.
Arndt, C., Ladwig, T. & Knutzen, S. (2020): Zwischen Neugier und Verunsicherung: Interne Hochschulbefragungen von Studierenden und Lehrenden im virtuellen Sommersemester 2020: Hamburg. Bond, M. (2020). Schools and emergency remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic: A living rapid systematic review. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 191–247. Butler-Henderson, K., Crawford, J., Rudolph, J., Lalani, K., & Sabu, K. M. (2020). COVID-19 in Higher Education Literature Database (CHELD V1): An open access systematic literature review database with coding rules. Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching, 3(2), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.37074/jalt.2020.3.2.11 Christ, A., Penthin, M., & Kröner, S. (2019). Big data and digital aesthetic, arts and cultural education: Hot spots of current quantitative research. Social Science Computer Review. Gonzalez, T., de la Rubia, M. A., Hincz, K. P., Comas-Lopez, M., Subirats, L., Fort, S., & Sacha, G. M. (2020). Influence of COVID-19 confinement on students’ performance in higher education. PLOS ONE, 15(10), e0239490. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239490 Hodges, C. B., Moore, S., Lockee, B. B., Trust, T., & Bond, M. A. (2020). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review. Skulmowski, A., & Rey, G. D. (2020). COVID ‐19 as an accelerator for digitalization at a German university: Establishing hybrid campuses in times of crisis. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 2(3), 212–216. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbe2.201 Sobaih, A. E. E., Hasanein, A. M., & Abu Elnasr, A. E. (2020). Responses to COVID-19 in Higher Education: Social Media Usage for Sustaining Formal Academic Communication in Developing Countries. Sustainability, 12(16), 6520. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166520 Thomas, J., Graziosi, S., Brunton, J., Ghouze, Z., O’Driscoll, P., & Bond, M. (2020). EPPI-Reviewer: advanced software for systematic reviews, maps and evidence synthesis [Computer software]. EPPI-Centre Software. UCL Social Research Institute. London. https://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/Default.aspx?alias=eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/er4 Zawacki-Richter, O., Kerres, M., Bedenlier, S., Bond, M ., & Buntins K. (2020). Systematic reviews in educational research. Wiesbaden: Springer
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