Transition to Online Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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BackgroundWith the new pandemic reality that has beset us, teaching and learning activities have been thrust online. While much research has explored student perceptions of online and distance learning, none has had a social laboratory to study the effects of an enforced transition on student perceptions of online learning.PurposeWe surveyed students about their perceptions of online learning before and after the transition to online learning. As student perceptions are influenced by a range of contextual and institutional factors beyond the classroom, we expected that students would be overall sanguine to the project given that access, technology integration, and family and government support during the pandemic shutdown would mitigate the negative consequences.ResultsStudents overall reported positive academic outcomes. However, students reported increased stress and anxiety and difficulties concentrating, suggesting that the obstacles to fully online learning were not only technological and instructional challenges but also social and affective challenges of isolation and social distancing.ConclusionOur analysis shows that the specific context of the pandemic disrupted more than normal teaching and learning activities. Whereas students generally responded positively to the transition, their reluctance to continue learning online and the added stress and workload show the limits of this large scale social experiment. In addition to the technical and pedagogical dimensions, successfully supporting students in online learning environments will require that teachers and educational technologists attend to the social and affective dimensions of online learning as well.
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