Changes and Adaptations: How did students adapt to online learning during the first lockdown?

10 Years of PREMIUM – A decade of Excellence
04-05-2021
10 Years of PREMIUM – A decade of Excellence
11-05-2021

Changes and Adaptations: How did students adapt to online learning during the first lockdown?

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, universities across the globe had to shift from face-to-face to online education. Sudden and unprepared, students were forced to study online, with limited access to the library and other facilities and less contact to peers and teachers. A recent publication presents how students at Maastricht University adapted to the shift to online learning.

Whether staff or student, March and April 2020 were rough on most of us. Students were forced to study online from one day to the next, either in isolation, student housing or with their family at home – being exposed to many distractions. Universities and teachers barely had time to prepare for online education. This so-called ‘emergency remote education’ was different from regular online education: It wasn’t prepared or planned, students didn’t actively decide to study online, and the general uncertainty of the pandemic increased stress and anxiety for everyone.

Two months after the shift to online education, Maastricht University sent out an online survey to all enrolled students. We wanted to know how students adapted to emergency remote education. Did students differ in their approach of online learning? And what could the university do to support these students in the future? 1800 students from all faculties completed the UM.online survey on how the current situation influenced their learning behaviour regarding their motivation, concentration, effort regulation and time management.

While students faced similar challenges, they differed in their approach of adaptation to emergency remote education. All students missed the personal contact with teachers and peers, and the reduced collaboration negatively influenced their motivation. To tackle these challenges, we need to think about how to facilitate online collaboration and socialisation in order to conquer feelings of isolation.

Looking at the average change, we found that students reported being less able to regulate their attention, effort, and time and were less motivated compared to before. They also invested more time and effort in their self-study, while feeling less connected to the university. This pattern, however, was not true for all students. We could identify four groups of how students adapted: The overwhelmed, the surrenderers, the maintainers, and the adapters. Both the overwhelmed and surrenderers reported being more distracted and less motivated to study than before the crisis. The overwhelmed specifically struggled with the lack of structure and increased workload, while the surrenderers felt detached from university and were most critical about a mismatch between their PBL learning experience on-site compared to online.

In contrast, the adapters appreciated the increased flexibility, being able to watch lectures online and study at their own pace. This group of students was able to adapt to online learning quite easily and successfully, their educational experience stayed as good as before the change to online learning. In the group of maintainers, the experiences with online learning were more diverse. While appreciating the comforts of studying at home, they also struggled with staying concentrated and motivated outside the regular study environment.

While students faced similar challenges, they differed in their approach of adaptation to emergency remote education. All students missed the personal contact with teachers and peers, and the reduced collaboration negatively influenced their motivation. To tackle these challenges, we need to think about how to facilitate online collaboration and socialisation in order to conquer feelings of isolation. This can be done, for example, by facilitating informal gatherings online, finding study buddies, or facilitating tutorials outside. In addition, the question arises of how we can support students to guide their attention and effort regulation during self-study online. This could take the form of more guidance during online lectures and stimulating regular breaks.

You want more information about our research? Read the full article by Felicitas Biwer and colleagues open access in Frontiers in Psychology.

For the full article please refer to: Biwer, F., Wiradhany, W., Hospers, H., Wasenitz, S., Jansen, W., & De Bruin, A. B. (2021). Changes and Adaptations: How University Students Self-Regulate Their Online Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology12, 1206.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *