Students' Perceptions About E-Learning Within the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study in Brazil and Portugal

Students' Perceptions About E-Learning Within the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study in Brazil and Portugal

João Manuel Pereira, Rui Manuel Dias, Luisa Margarida Cagica Carvalho, Adriana Backx Noronha
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6776-0.ch014
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The current COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a rapid and abrupt transition from presential to online learning in higher education institutions (HEI) around the world. However, the majority of these HEI are not prepared to handle the challenges of this new disruptive digital environment. Students, teachers, and the entire organizational structure of these institutions must learn how to adapt to these new challenges such as teleworking, the use of technology to access and develop virtual classrooms, personal constraints at home, etc. This chapter aims to study this swift transition process and its impact according to the students´ perspective on this matter. Based on an exploratory study and by drawing on the data collected through a questionnaire applied to 1079 Brazilian and Portuguese students, the chapter provides an interesting view on the student's perceptions, their conditions to study at home, the relation with technology, and their expectations regarding the permanent use of online learning (e-learning or b-learning).
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The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound and disruptive social and economic impact worldwide. Every sector and human activity have been somehow affected by this unexpected outbreak. As a result of it, governments, organizations, and other key players are staggering to mitigate its unpredicted consequences during and after the outbreak. The education sector is no exception, as 1.5 billion learners were affected by the school or university closures in 195 countries, according to UNESCO´s mid-April estimates (UNESCO,2020a). The majority of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and their student population face various challenges amid the global crisis inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Undergraduate and graduate university education are being strongly impacted. Given what is known today, these impacts will perhaps be long-lasting and bound to introduce radical changes to the traditional teaching and learning methods in place and the way we perceive curriculum design and development. Within this context, Darwin´s theory has never proven to be so right and wrong simultaneously, as these institutions now realize that the ability to adapt without a collaborative approach is not, per se, enough to thrive in this challenging and complex new environment. Therefore, HEI and faculty are currently swiftly replacing the traditional classroom face-to-face teaching and learning process by virtual classrooms, sharing notes in digital format (i.e., PPT and PDF), videos, and recorded class sessions, amongst others. For many of those who questioned, or who perhaps continue to question, the pedagogical soundness and validity of online learning, it is essential to realize that the transition to this method is the only viable alternative as an anti-risk measure and a means to ensure the continuity of the learning process abruptly interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. This new paradigm shift is only possible due to new technologies such as digital and other collaborative and learning management platforms, including, amongst other examples, Zoom, Moodle, BBLearning, Google, Teams, and Youtube. However, despite the technology being a key facilitator of online learning and having enabled the swift transition to this new learning environment, the fact is that due to the speed in which the change took place, and as it becomes a routine, several challenges need assessment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

COVID-19 Pandemic: Worldwide outbreak of a recent high-risk contagious coronavirus capable of causing infectious disease or severe illness.

Distance Learning: An instructional method of delivering content and learning material without the teacher's physical presence in the classroom. The content delivery process and interaction between teacher and student is mediated by technology, namely the Internet and other digital technologies.

Online Learning: Referred to sometimes as e-learning, is the instructional method of delivering course content remotely outside the physical classroom through the Internet and other digital technologies. The concept is used alternately in the context of this study as distance learning.

Remote Emergency Teaching: An alternative to ensure the delivery of a curricular design conceived primarily for face-to-face teaching through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

E-Learning: A learning system based on formalized teaching supported by technology, namely electronic resources (i.e., digital resources, mobile, computers) to deliver remotely content and other educational materials to distance learners or as a complementary tool to face-to-face learning (i.e., blended learning). E-Learning platforms allow students to work online at home or in the classroom, digitally assigned learning tasks.

E-Readiness: The degree to which a community may be eager and prepared to accept and take advantage of using Information and Communication Technologies.

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