The impact of the Covid-19 disruption on distance learning higher education students and activities

Aristeidou, Maria and Cross, Simon (2021). The impact of the Covid-19 disruption on distance learning higher education students and activities. In: Seventh International Conference on Higher Education Advances proceedings (HEAd'21), UPV Press, València, Spain, pp. 695–702.



Higher education institutions are increasingly concerned about the impact of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on students and learning activities. Yet, we know little about the effect of this disruption, specifically on students in distance learning higher education institutions. This study drew from survey responses of 555 undergraduate students at The Open University, UK. The aims of this study were to understand the impact of the Covid-19 disruption on learning, assessment, and social activities that distance learning students commonly undertake and to explore how this impact relates to their background characteristics (socio-demographics and study properties). Findings showed that overall, students engaged in their study activities less frequently, with learning-related activities (e.g., joining live sessions) having the highest negative impact and social activities (e.g., accessing email for study purposes) the lowest. Female students were more likely than males to engage less across all three activity categories. Background characteristics, such as age, faculty, and race, were associated with particular activity categories. This study is the first step towards enhancing our understanding of the engagement of distance learning, but also campus-based students in emergency distance learning, in online learning activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, and other similar disruptions.

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