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The Impact of COVID-19 on Education: A Meta-Narrative Review

  • Original Paper
  • Published: 05 July 2022
  • Volume 66 , pages 883–896, ( 2022 )

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research paper about education in pandemic

  • Aras Bozkurt   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-4520-642X 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Kadir Karakaya   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-3375-1532 4 ,
  • Murat Turk   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5105-2578 5 ,
  • Özlem Karakaya   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9950-481X 6 &
  • Daniela Castellanos-Reyes   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0183-1549 7  

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The rapid and unexpected onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic has generated a great degree of uncertainty about the future of education and has required teachers and students alike to adapt to a new normal to survive in the new educational ecology. Through this experience of the new educational ecology, educators have learned many lessons, including how to navigate through uncertainty by recognizing their strengths and vulnerabilities. In this context, the aim of this study is to conduct a bibliometric analysis of the publications covering COVID-19 and education to analyze the impact of the pandemic by applying the data mining and analytics techniques of social network analysis and text-mining. From the abstract, title, and keyword analysis of a total of 1150 publications, seven themes were identified: (1) the great reset, (2) shifting educational landscape and emerging educational roles (3) digital pedagogy, (4) emergency remote education, (5) pedagogy of care, (6) social equity, equality, and injustice, and (7) future of education. Moreover, from the citation analysis, two thematic clusters emerged: (1) educational response, emergency remote education affordances, and continuity of education, and (2) psychological impact of COVID-19. The overlap between themes and thematic clusters revealed researchers’ emphasis on guaranteeing continuity of education and supporting the socio-emotional needs of learners. From the results of the study, it is clear that there is a heightened need to develop effective strategies to ensure the continuity of education in the future, and that it is critical to proactively respond to such crises through resilience and flexibility.

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Introduction

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has proven to be a massive challenge for the entire world, imposing a radical transformation in many areas of life, including education. It was rapid and unexpected; the world was unprepared and hit hard. The virus is highly contagious, having a pathogenic nature whose effects have not been limited to humans alone, but rather, includes every construct and domain of societies, including education. The education system, which has been affected at all levels, has been required to respond to the crisis, forced to transition into emergency modes, and adapt to the unprecedented impact of the global crisis. Although the beginning of 2021 will mark nearly a year of experience in living through the pandemic, the crisis remains a phenomenon with many unknowns. A deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the changes that have been made in response to the crisis is needed to survive in these hard times. Hence, this study aims to provide a better understanding by examining the scholarly publications on COVID-19 and education. In doing this, we can identify our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, be better prepared for the new normal, and be more fit to survive.

Related Literature

Though the COVID-19 pandemic is not the first major disruption to be experienced in the history of the world, it has been unique due to its scale and the requirements that have been imposed because of it (Guitton, 2020 ). The economies of many countries have greatly suffered from the lockdowns and other restrictive measurements, and people have had to adapt to a new lifestyle, where their primary concern is to survive by keeping themselves safe from contracting the deadly virus. The education system has not been exempt from this series of unfortunate events inflicted by COVID-19. Since brick-and-mortar schools had to be closed due to the pandemic, millions of students, from those in K-12 to those in higher education, were deprived of physical access to their classrooms, peers, and teachers (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020a , b ). This extraordinary pandemic period has posed arguably the most challenging and complex problems ever for educators, students, schools, educational institutions, parents, governments, and all other educational stakeholders. The closing of brick-and-mortar schools and campuses rendered online teaching and learning the only viable solution to the problem of access-to-education during this emergency period (Hodges et al., 2020 ). Due to the urgency of this move, teachers and instructors were rushed to shift all their face-to-face instruction and instructional materials to online spaces, such as learning management systems or electronic platforms, in order to facilitate teaching virtually at a distance. As a result of this sudden migration to learning and instruction online, the key distinctions between online education and education delivered online during such crisis and emergency circumstances have been obfuscated (Hodges et al., 2020 ).

State of the Current Relevant Literature

Although the scale of the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on education overshadows previously experienced nationwide or global crises or disruptions, the phenomenon of schools and higher education institutions having to shift their instruction to online spaces is not totally new to the education community and academia (Johnson et al., 2020 ). Prior literature on this subject indicates that in the past, schools and institutions resorted to online or electronic delivery of instruction in times of serious crises and uncertainties, including but not limited to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes (e.g., Ayebi-Arthur, 2017 ; Lorenzo, 2008 ; Tull et al., 2017 ), local disruptions such as civil wars and socio-economic events such as political upheavals, social turmoils or economic recessions (e.g., Czerniewicz et al., 2019 ). Nevertheless, the past attempts to move learning and teaching online do not compare to the current efforts that have been implemented during the global COVID-19 pandemic, insofar as the past crisis situations were sporadic events in specific territories, affecting a limited population for relatively short periods of time. In contrast, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to pose a serious threat to the continuity of education around the globe (Johnson et al., 2020 ).

Considering the scale and severity of the global pandemic, the impacts it has had on education in general and higher education in particular need to be explored and studied empirically so that necessary plans and strategies aimed at reducing its devastating effects can be developed and implemented. Due to the rapid onset and spread of the global pandemic, the current literature on the impact of COVID-19 on education is still limited, including mostly non-academic editorials or non-empirical personal reflections, anecdotes, reports, and stories (e.g., Baker, 2020 ; DePietro, 2020 ). Yet, with that said, empirical research on the impact of the global pandemic on higher education is rapidly growing. For example, Johnson et al. ( 2020 ), in their empirical study, found that faculty members who were struggling with various challenges adopted new instructional methods and strategies and adjusted certain course components to foster emergency remote education (ERE). Unger and Meiran ( 2020 ) observed that the pandemic made students in the US feel anxious about completing online learning tasks. In contrast, Suleri ( 2020 ) reported that a large majority of European higher education students were satisfied with their virtual learning experiences during the pandemic, and that most were willing to continue virtual higher education even after the pandemic (Suleri, 2020 ). The limited empirical research also points to the need for systematically planning and designing online learning experiences in advance in preparation for future outbreaks of such global pandemics and other crises (e.g., Korkmaz & Toraman, 2020 ). Despite the growing literature, the studies provide only fragmentary evidence on the impact of the pandemic on online learning and teaching. For a more thorough understanding of the serious implications the pandemic has for higher education in relation to learning and teaching online, more empirical research is needed.

Unlike previously conducted bibliometric analysis studies on this subject, which have largely involved general analysis of research on health sciences and COVID-19, Aristovnik et al. ( 2020 ) performed an in-depth bibliometric analysis of various science and social science research disciplines by examining a comprehensive database of document and source information. By the final phase of their bibliometric analysis, the authors had analyzed 16,866 documents. They utilized a mix of innovative bibliometric approaches to capture the existing research and assess the state of COVID-19 research across different research landscapes (e.g., health sciences, life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities). Their findings showed that most COVID-19 research has been performed in the field of health sciences, followed by life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences and humanities. Results from the keyword co-occurrence analysis revealed that health sciences research on COVID-19 tended to focus on health consequences, whereas the life sciences research on the subject tended to focus on drug efficiency. Moreover, physical sciences research tended to focus on environmental consequences, and social sciences and humanities research was largely oriented towards socio-economic consequences.

Similarly, Rodrigues et al. ( 2020 ) carried out a bibliometric analysis of COVID-19 related studies from a management perspective in order to elucidate how scientific research and education arrive at solutions to the pandemic crisis and the post-COVID-19 era. In line with Aristovnik et al.’s ( 2020 ) findings, Rodrigues et al. ( 2020 ) reported that most of the published research on this subject has fallen under the field of health sciences, leaving education as an under-researched area of inquiry. The content analysis they performed in their study also found a special emphasis on qualitative research. The descriptive and content analysis yielded two major strands of studies: (1) online education and (2) COVID-19 and education, business, economics, and management. The online education strand focused on the issue of technological anxiety caused by online classes, the feeling of belonging to an academic community, and feedback.

Lastly, Bond ( 2020 ) conducted a rapid review of K-12 research undertaken in the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic to identify successes and challenges and to offer recommendations for the future. From a search of K-12 research on the Web of Science, Scopus, EBSCOHost, the Microsoft Academic, and the COVID-19 living systematic map, 90 studies were identified and analyzed. The findings revealed that the reviewed research has focused predominantly on the challenges to shifting to ERE, teacher digital competencies and digital infrastructure, teacher ICT skills, parent engagement in learning, and students’ health and well-being. The review highlighted the need for straightforward communication between schools and families to inform families about learning activities and to promote interactivity between students. Teachers were also encouraged to develop their professional networks to increase motivation and support amongst themselves and to include opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous interaction for promoting student engagement when using technology. Bond ( 2020 ) reported that the reviewed studies called for providing teachers with opportunities to further develop their digital technical competencies and their distance and online learning pedagogies. In a recent study that examines the impact of COVID-19 at higher education (Bozkurt, 2022 ), three broad themes from the body of research on this subject: (1) educational crisis and higher education in the new normal: resilience, adaptability, and sustainability, (2) psychological pressures, social uncertainty, and mental well-being of learners, and (3) the rise of online distance education and blended-hybrid modes. The findings of this study are similar to Mishra et al. ( 2021 ) who examined the COVID-19 pandemic from the lens of online distance education and noted that technologies for teaching and learning and psychosocial issues were emerging issues.

The aforementioned studies indicate that a great majority of research on COVID-19 has been produced in the field of health sciences, as expected. These studies nonetheless note that there is a noticeable shortage of studies dealing with the effects of the pandemic in the fields of social sciences, humanities, and education. Given the profound impact of the pandemic on learning and teaching, as well as on the related stakeholders in education, now more than ever, a greater amount of research on COVID-19 needs to be conducted in the field of education. The bibliometric studies discussed above have analyzed COVID-19 research across various fields, yielding a comparative snapshot of the research undertaken so far in different research spheres. However, despite being comprehensive, these studies did not appear to have examined a specific discipline or area of research in depth. Therefore, this bibliometric study aims to provide a focused, in-depth analysis of the COVID-19-related research in the field of education. In this regard, the main purpose of this study is to identify research patterns and trends in the field of education by examining COVID-19-related research papers. The study sought to answer the following research questions:

What are the thematic patterns in the title, abstract, and keywords of the publications on COVID-19 and education?

What are the citation trends in the references of the sampled publications on COVID-19 and education?

Methodology

This study used data mining and analytic approaches (Fayyad et al., 2002 ) to examine bibliometric patterns and trends. More specifically, social network analysis (SNA) (Hansen et al., 2020 ) was applied to examine the keywords and references, while text-mining was applied (Aggarwal & Zhai, 2012 ) to examine the titles and abstracts of the research corpus. Keywords represent the essence of an article at a micro level and for the analysis of the keywords, SNA was used. SNA “provides powerful ways to summarize networks and identify key people, [entities], or other objects that occupy strategic locations and positions within a matrix of links” (Hansen et al., 2020 , p. 6). In this regard, the keywords were analyzed based on their co-occurrences and visualized on a network graph by identifying the significant keywords which were demonstrated as nodes and their relationships were demonstrated with ties. For text-mining of the titles and abstracts, the researchers performed a lexical analysis that employs “two stages of co-occurrence information extraction—semantic and relational—using a different algorithm for each stage” (Smith & Humphreys, 2006 , p. 262). Thus, text-mining analysis enabled researchers to identify the hidden patterns and visualize them on a thematic concept map. For the analysis of the references, the researchers further used SNA based on the arguments that “citing articles and cited articles are linked to each other through invisible ties, and they collaboratively and collectively build an intellectual community that can be referred to as a living network, structure, or an ecology” (Bozkurt, 2019 , p. 498). The analysis of the references enabled the researchers to identify pivotal scholarly contributions that guided and shaped the intellectual landscape. The use of multiple approaches enables the study to present a broader view, or a meta-narrative.

Sample and Inclusion Criteria

The publications included in this research met the following inclusion criteria: (1) indexed by the Scopus database, (2) written in English, and (3) had the search queries on their title (Table 1 ). The search query reflects the focus on the impact of COVID-19 on education by including common words in the field like learn , teach , or student . Truncation was also used in the search to capture all relevant literature. Narrowing down the search allowed us to exclude publications that were not education related. Scopus was selected because it is one of the largest scholarly databases, and only publications in English were selected to facilitate identification of meaningful lexical patterns through text-mining and provide a condensed view of the research. The search yielded a total of 1150 papers (articles = 887, editorials = 66, notes = 58, conference papers = 56, letters = 40, review studies = 30, book chapters = 9, short surveys = 3, books = 1).

Data Analysis and Research Procedures

This study has two phases of analysis. In the first phase, text mining was used to analyze titles and abstracts, and SNA was applied to analyze keywords. By using two different analytical approaches, the authors were able to triangulate the research findings (Thurmond, 2001 ). In this phase, using lexical algorithms, text mining analysis enabled visualizing the textual data on a thematic concept map according to semantic relationships and co-occurrences of the words (Fig.  1 ). Text mining generated a machine-based concept map by analyzing the co-occurrences and lexical relationships of textual data. Then, based on the co-occurrences and centrality metrics, SNA enabled visualizing keywords on a network graphic called sociogram (Fig.  2 ). SNA allowed researchers to visually identify the key terms on a connected network graph where keywords are represented as nodes and their relationships are represented as edges. In the first phase of the study, by synthesizing outputs of the data mining and analytic approaches, meaningful patterns of textual data were presented as seven main research themes.

figure 1

Thematic concept mapping of COVID-19 and education-related papers

figure 2

Social networks analysis of the keywords in COVID-19 and education-related papers

In the second phase of the study, through the examination of the references and citation patterns (e.g., citing and being cited) of the articles in the research corpus, the citation patterns were visualized on a network graphic by clusters (See Fig.  3 ) showing also chronical relationships which enabled to identify pivotal COVID-19 studies. In the second phase of the study, two new themes were identified which were in line with the themes that emerged in the first phase of the study.

figure 3

Social networks analysis of the references in COVID-19 and education-related papers 2019–2020 (Only the first authors were labeled – See Appendix Fig. 4 for SNA of references covering pre-COVID-19 period)

Strengths and Limitations

This study is one of the first attempts to use bibliometric approaches benefiting from data mining and analysis techniques to better understand COVID-19 and its consequences on published educational research. By applying such an approach, a large volume of data is able to be visualized and reported. However, besides these strengths, the study also has certain limitations. First, the study uses the Scopus database, which, though being one of the largest databases, does not include all types of publications. Therefore, the publications selected for this study offer only a partial view, as there are many significant publications in gray literature (e.g., reports, briefs, blogs). Second, the study includes only publications written in English, however, with COVID-19 being a global crisis, publications in different languages would provide a complementary view and be helpful in understanding local reflections in the field of education.

Findings and Discussion

Sna and text-mining: thematic patterns in the title, abstract, and keywords of the publications.

This section reports the findings based on a thematic concept map and network graphic that were developed through text mining (Fig.  1 —Textual data composed of 186.234 words visualized according to lexical relationships and co-occurrences) and sociograms created using SNA (Fig.  2 —The top 200 keywords with highest betweenness centrality and 1577 connections among them mapped on a network graph) to visualize the data. Accordingly, seven major themes were identified by analyzing the data through text-mining and SNA: (1) the great reset, (2) digital pedagogy, (3) shifting educational landscape and emerging educational roles, (4) emergency remote education, (5) pedagogy of care, (6) social equity, equality, and injustice, and (7) future of education.

Theme 1: The Great Reset (See path Fig.  1 : lockdown  +  emergency  +  community  +  challenges  +  during  >  pandemic and impact  >  outbreak  >  coronavirus  >  pandemic and global  >  crisis  >  pandemic  >  world; See nodes on Fig.  2 : Covid19, pandemic, Coronavirus, lockdown, crisis ). The first theme in the thematic concept map and network graphic is the Great Reset. It has been relatively a short time since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. Although vaccination had already started, the pandemic continued to have an adverse impact on the world. Ever since the start of the pandemic, people were discussing when there would be a return to normal (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020a , b ; Xiao, 2021 ); however, as time goes by, this hope has faded, and returning to normal appears to be far into the future (Schwab & Malleret, 2020 ). The pandemic is seen as a major milestone, in the sense that a macro reset in economic, social, geopolitical, environmental, and technological fields will produce multi-faceted changes affecting almost all aspects of life (Schwab & Malleret, 2020 ). The cover of an issue of the international edition of Time Magazine reflected this idea of a great reset and presented the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to transform the way we live and work (Time, 2020 ). It has been argued that the pandemic will generate the emergence of a new era, and that we will have to adapt to the changes it produces (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020 ). For example, the industrial sector quickly embraced remote work despite its challenges, and it is possible that most industrial companies will not return to the on-site working model even after the pandemic ends (Hern, 2020 ). We can expect a high rate of similar responses in other fields, including education, where COVID-19 has already reshaped our educational systems, the way we deliver education, and pedagogical approaches.

Theme 2: Digital pedagogy (See path on Fig.  1 : distance learning  >  research  >  teacher  >  development  >  need  >  training  +  technology  +  virtual  >  digital  >  communication  >  support  >  process  >  teaching  >  online  >  learning  >  online learning  +  course  >  faculty  >  students  >  experience ; See nodes on Fig.  2 : online learning, distance learning, computer-based learning, elearning, online education, distance education, online teaching, multimedia-based learning, technology, blended learning, online, digital transformation, ICT, online classes, flexible learning, technology-enhanced learning, digitalization ). Owing to the rapid transition to online education as a result of COVID-19, digital pedagogy and teachers’ competencies in information and communication technology (ICT) integration have gained greater prominence with the unprecedented challenges teachers have faced to adapt to remote teaching and learning. The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably manifested the need to prepare teachers to teach online, as most of them have been forced to assume ERE roles with inadequate preparation. Studies involving the use of SNA indicate a correspondence between adapting to a digital pedagogy and the need to equip teachers with greater competency in technology and online teaching (e.g., Blume, 2020 ; König et al., 2020 ). König et al. ( 2020 ) conducted a survey-based study investigating how early career teachers have adapted to online teaching during COVID-19 school closures. Their study found that while all the teachers maintained communication with students and their parents, introduced new learning content, and provided feedback, they lacked the ability to respond to challenges requiring ICT integration, such as those related to providing quality online teaching and to conducting assessments. Likewise, Blume ( 2020 ) noted that most teachers need to acquire digital skills to implement digitally-mediated pedagogy and communication more effectively. Both study findings point to the need for building ICT-related teaching and learning competencies in initial teacher education and teacher professional development. The findings from the SNA conducted in the present study are in line with the aforementioned findings in terms of keyword analysis and overlapping themes and nodes.

Theme 3: Shifting educational landscape and emerging educational roles (See path on Fig.  1 : future > education > role > Covid19; See nodes on Fig.  2 : higher education, education, student, curriculum, university, teachers, learning, professional development, teacher education, knowledge, readiness ). The role of technology in education and human learning has been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology has become a prerequisite for learning and teaching during the pandemic and will likely continue to be so after it. In the rapid shift to an unprecedented mode of learning and teaching, stakeholders have had to assume different roles in the educational landscape of the new normal. For example, in a comprehensive study involving the participation of over 30 K higher education students from 62 countries conducted by Aristovnik et al. ( 2020 ), it was found that students with certain socio-demographic characteristics (male, lower living standard, from Africa or Asia) were significantly less satisfied with the changes to work/life balance created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that female students who were facing financial problems were generally more affected by COVID-19 in their emotional life and personal circumstances. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there is likely to be carry over in the post-pandemic era of some of the educational changes made during the COVID-19 times. For example, traditional lecture-based teacher-centered classes may be replaced by more student-centered online collaborative classes (Zhu & Liu, 2020 ). This may require the development and proliferation of open educational platforms that allow access to high-quality educational materials (Bozkurt et al., 2020 ) and the adoption of new roles to survive in the learning ecologies informed by digital learning pedagogies. In common with the present study, the aforementioned studies (e.g., Aristovnik et al., 2020 ; König et al., 2020 ) call for more deliberate actions to improve teacher education programs by offering training on various teaching approaches, such as blended, hybrid, flexible, and online learning, to better prepare educators for emerging roles in the post-pandemic era.

Theme 4: Emergency remote education (see path Fig.  1 : higher education  >  university  >  student  >  experience  >  remote; See nodes on Fig.  2 : Covid19, pandemic, Coronavirus, higher education, education, school closure, emergency remote teaching, emergency remote learning ). Educational institutions have undergone a rapid shift to ERE in the wake of COVID-19 (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020a ; Bozkurt et al., 2020 ; Hodges et al., 2020 ). Although ERE is viewed as similar to distance education, they are essentially different. That is, ERE is a prompt response measure to an emergency situation or unusual circumstances, such as a global pandemic or a civil war, for a temporary period of time, whereas distance education is a planned and systematic approach to instructional design and development grounded in educational theory and practice (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020b ). Due to the urgent nature of situations requiring ERE, it may fall short in embracing the solid pedagogical learning and teaching principles represented by distance education (Hodges et al., 2020 ). The early implementations of ERE primarily involved synchronous video-conferencing sessions that sought to imitate in-person classroom instruction. It is worth noting that educators may have heavily relied on synchronous communication to overcome certain challenges, such as the lack of available materials and planned activities for asynchronous communication. Lockdowns and school closures, which turned homes into compulsory learning environments, have posed major challenges for families and students, including scheduling, device sharing, and learner engagement in a socially distanced home learning environment (Bond, 2020 ). For example, Shim and Lee ( 2020 ) conducted a qualitative study exploring university students’ ERE experiences and reported that students complained about network instability, unilateral interactions, and reduced levels of concentration. The SNA findings clearly highlight that there has been a focus on ERE due to the school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is key to adopt the best practices of ERE and to utilize them regularly in distance education (Bozkurt, 2022 ). Moreover, it is important to note that unless clear distinctions are drawn between these two different forms of distance education or virtual instruction, a series of unfortunate events in education during these COVID-19 times is very likely to take place and lead to fatal errors in instructional practices and to poor student learning outcomes.

Theme 5: Pedagogy of care (See path Fig.  1 : r ole  >  education  >  Covid19  >  care ; See nodes on Fig.  2 : Stress, anxiety, student wellbeing, coping, care, crisis management, depression ). The thematic concept map and network graphic show the psychological and emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various stakeholders, revealing that they have experienced anxiety, expressed the need for care, and sought coping strategies. A study by Baloran ( 2020 ), conducted in the southern part of the Philippines to examine college students’ knowledge, attitudes, anxiety, and personal coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, found that the majority of the students experienced anxiety during the lockdown and worried about food security, financial resources, social contact, and large gatherings. It was reported that the students coped with this anxiety by following protective measures, chatting with family members and friends, and motivating themselves to have a positive attitude. In a similar study, Islam et al. ( 2020 ) conducted an investigation to determine whether Bangladeshi college students experienced anxiety and depression and the factors responsible for these emotional responses. Their cross-sectional survey-based study found that a large percentage of the participants had suffered from anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Academic and professional uncertainty, as well as financial insecurity, have been documented as factors contributing to the anxiety and depression among college students. Both studies point to the need for support mechanisms to be established by higher education institutions in order to ensure student wellbeing, provide them with care, and help them to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. Talidong and Toquero ( 2020 ) reported that, in addition to students’ well-being and care, teachers’ perceptions and experiences of stress and anxiety during the quarantine period need to be taken into account. The authors found that teachers were worried about the safety of their loved ones and were susceptible to anxiety but tended to follow the preventive policies. A pedagogy of care has been presented as an approach that would effectively allow educators to plan more supportive teaching practices during the pandemic by fostering clear and prompt communication with students and their families and taking into consideration learner needs in lesson planning (e.g., Karakaya, 2021 ; Robinson et al., 2020 ). Here it is important to stress that a pedagogy of care is a multifaceted concept, one that involves the concepts of social equity, equality, and injustice.

Theme 6: Social equity, equality, and injustice (See path on Fig.  1 : Impact  >  outbreak  >  coronavirus  >  pandemic  >  social ; See nodes on Fig.  2 : Support, equity, social justice, digital divide, inequality, social support ). One of the more significant impacts of COVID-19 has been the deepening of the existing social injustices around the world (Oldekop et al., 2020 ; Williamson et al., 2020 ). Long-term school closures have deteriorated social bonds and adversely affected health issues, poverty, economy, food insecurity, and digital divide (Van Lancker & Parolin, 2020 ). Regarding the digital divide, there has been a major disparity in access to devices and data connectivity between high-income and low-income populations increasing the digital divide, social injustice, and inequality in the world (Bozkurt et al., 2020 ). In line with the SNA findings, the digital divide, manifesting itself most visibly in the inadequacy and insufficiency of digital devices and lack of high-speed Internet, can easily result in widespread inequalities. As such, the disparities between low and high socio-economic status families and school districts in terms of digital pedagogy inequality may deepen as teachers in affluent schools are more likely to offer a wide range of online learning activities and thereby secure better student engagement, participation, and interaction (Greenhow et al., 2020 ). These findings demonstrate that social inequities have been sharpened by the unfortunate disparities imposed by the COVID-19, thus requiring us to reimagine a future that mitigates such concerns.

Theme 7: Future of education (See word path on Fig.  1 : Future  >  education  >  Covid19  >  pandemic  >  changes and pandemic  >  coronavirus, outbreak, impact  >  world ; See nodes on Fig.  2 : Sustainability, resilience, uncertainty, sdg4). Most significantly, COVID-19 the pandemic has shown the entire world that teachers and schools are invaluable resources and execute critical roles in society. Beyond that, with the compulsory changes resulting from the pandemic, it is evident that teaching and learning environments are not exclusive to brick-and-mortar classrooms. Digital technologies, being at the center of teaching and learning during the pandemic period, have been viewed as a pivotal agent in leveraging how learning takes place beyond the classroom walls (Quilter-Pinner & Ambrose, 2020 ). COVID-19 has made some concerns more visible. For example, the well-being of students, teachers, and society at large has gained more importance in these times of crisis. Furthermore, the need for educational technology and digital devices has compounded and amplified social inequities (Pelletier et al., 2021 ; West & Allen, 2020 ). Despite its global challenges, the need for technology and digital devices has highlighted some advantages that are likely to shape the future of education, particularly those related to the benefits of educational technology. For example, online learning could provide a more flexible, informal, self-paced learning environment for students (Adedoyin & Soykan, 2020 ). However, it also bears the risk of minimizing social interaction, as working in shared office environments has shifted to working alone in home-office settings. In this respect, the transformation of online education must involve a particular emphasis on sustaining interactivity through technology (Dwivedi et al., 2020 ). In view of the findings of the aforementioned studies, our text-mining and SNA findings suggest that the COVID-19 impositions may strongly shape the future of education and how learning takes place.

In summary, these themes extracted from the text-mining and SNA point to a significant milestone in the history of humanity, a multi-faceted reset that will affect many fields of life, from education and economics to sociology and lifestyle. The resulting themes have revealed that our natural response to an emerging worldwide situation shifted the educational landscape. The early response of the educational system was emergency-based and emphasized the continuance of in-person instruction via synchronous learning technologies. The subsequent response foregrounded the significance of digitally mediated learning pedagogy, related teacher competencies, and professional development. As various stakeholders (e.g., students, teachers, parents) have experienced a heightened level of anxiety and stress, an emerging strand of research has highlighted the need for care-based and trauma-informed pedagogies as a response to the side effects of the pandemic. In addition, as the global pandemic has made systemic impairments, such as social injustice and inequity, more visible, an important line of research has emerged on how social justice can be ensured given the challenges caused by the pandemic. Lastly, a sizable amount of research indicates that although the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented challenges to our personal, educational, and social lives, it has also taught us how to respond to future crises in a timely, technologically-ready, pedagogically appropriate, and inclusive manner.

SNA: Citation Trends in the References of the Sampled Publications

The trends identified through SNA in citation patterns indicate two lines of thematic clusters (see Fig.  3 -A network graph depicting the citing and being cited patterns in the research corpus. Node sizes were defined by their citation count and betweenness centrality.). These clusters align with the results of the analysis of the titles, abstracts, and keywords of the sampled publications and forge the earlier themes (Theme 4: Emergency remote education and Theme 5: Pedagogy of care).

Thematic Cluster 1: The first cluster centers on the abilities of educational response, emergency remote education affordances, and continuity of education (Bozkurt & Sharma, 2020a ; Crawford et al., 2020 ; Hodges et al., 2020 ) to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on education, especially for more vulnerable and disadvantaged groups (UNESCO, 2020 ; Viner et al., 2020 ). The thematic cluster one agrees with the theme four emergency remote education . The first trend line (See red line in Fig.  3 ) shows that the education system is vulnerable to external threats. Considering that interruption of education is not exclusive to pandemics – for example, political crises have also caused disruptions (Rapp et al., 2016 ) – it is clear that coping mechanisms are needed to ensure the continuity of education under all conditions. In this case, we need to reimagine and recalibrate education to make it resilient, flexible, and adaptive, not only to ensure the continuity of education, but also to ensure social justice, equity, and equality. Given that online education has its own limitations (e.g., it is restricted to online tools and infrastructures), we need to identify alternative entry points for those who do not have digital devices or lack access to the internet.

Thematic Cluster 2: The second cluster centers on the psychological impact of COVID-19 on learners, who during these times suffered a sense of uncertainty (Bozkurt, & Sharma, 2021 ; Cao et al., 2020 ; Rose, 2020 ; Sahu, 2020 ) which suggest that learners are experiencing difficult times that can result in psychological and mental problems. The thematic cluster two agrees with theme five which is pedagogy of care . Therefore, it can be argued that learners' psychological and emotional states should be a top priority. Brooks et al. ( 2020 ) reported the potential of post-traumatic issues with long-lasting effects, on top of the trauma that has already been suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, the effects of the COVID-19 crisis may prove to extend beyond their current state and add long-term challenges. Additionally, it has further been reported that the socio-economic effects of the pandemic (Nicola et al., 2020 ) may cause inequality and inequity in educational communities (Beaunoyer et al., 2020 ). The research also shows that learners’ achievement gaps are positively associated with psychological issues, while support and care are negatively associated with their traumatic states (Cao et al., 2020 ). In this context, the second thematic cluster reveals that researchers have seriously considered the psychological and emotional needs of learners in their publications. Care (Noddings, 1984 ) and that trauma-informed pedagogy (Imad, 2020 ) can be a guideline during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. It is quite clear that learners have experienced educational loss (e.g., drop-outs, achievement gaps, academic procrastination, etc.), as well as social and emotional impairments (e.g., fear, frustration, confusion, anxiety, sense of isolation, death of loved ones, etc.). Therefore, we need to critically approach the situation, focusing first on healing our social and emotional losses, and then, on the educational losses. As Bozkurt and Sharma ( 2020a ) put it:

“What we teach in these times can have secondary importance. We have to keep in mind that students will remember not the educational content delivered, but how they felt during these hard times. With an empathetic approach, the story will not center on how to successfully deliver educational content, but it will be on how learners narrate these times” (p. iv).

Conclusion and Suggestions

The results from this study indicate that quick adaptability and flexibility have been key to surviving the substantial challenges generated by COVID-19. However, extreme demands on flexibility have taken a toll on human well-being and have exacerbated systemic issues like inequity and inequality. Using data mining that involved network analysis and text mining as analytical tools, this research provides a panoramic picture of the COVID-19-related themes educational researchers have addressed in their work. A sample of 1150 references yielded seven themes, which served to provide a comprehensive meta-narrative about COVID-19 and its impact on education.

A portion of the sampled publications focused on what we refer to as the great reset , highlighting the challenges that the emergency lockdown brought to the world. A publication pattern centered around digital pedagogy posited distance and online learning as key components and identified the need for teacher training. Given the need for adaptability, a third theme revealed the demand for professional development in higher education and a future shift in educational roles. It can be recommended that future research investigate institutional policy changes and the adaptation to these changes in renewed educational roles. The ERE theme centered on the lack of preparation in instituting the forced changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The publications related to this theme revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic uncovered silent threads in educational environments, like depression, inequality, and injustice. A pedagogy of care has been developed with the aim of reducing anxiety and providing support through coping strategies. These research patterns indicate that the future of education demands sustainability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Results of the thematic analysis of citation patterns (Fig.  3 ) overlapped with two of the themes found in our thematic concept map (Fig.  1 ) and network graphic (Fig.  2 ). It was shown that researchers have emphasized the continuity of education and the psychological effects of the COVID-19 crisis on learners. Creating coping strategies to deal with global crises (e.g., pandemics, political upheavals, natural disasters) has been shown to be a priority for educational researchers. The pedagogy of resilience (Purdue University Innovative learning, n.d. ) provides governments, institutions, and instructors with an alternative tool to applying to their contexts in the face of hardship. Furthermore, prioritizing the psychological long-term effects of the crisis in learners could alleviate achievement gaps. We recommend that researchers support grieving learners through care (Noddings, 1984 ) and trauma-informed pedagogy (Imad, 2020 ). Our resilience and empathy will reflect our preparedness for impending crises. The thematic analysis of citation patterns (1: educational response, emergency remote education affordances, and continuity of education; 2: psychological impact of COVID-19) further indicates suggestions for future instructional/learning designers. Freire ( 1985 ) argues that to transform the world we need to humanize it. Supporting that argument, the need for human-centered pedagogical approaches (Robinson et al., 2020 ) by considering learning a multifaceted process (Hodges et al., 2021 ) for well-designed learning experiences (Moore et al., 2021 ) is a requirement and instructional/learning designers have an important responsibility not only to design courses but an entire learning ecosystem where diversity, sensitivity, and inclusivity are prioritized.

ERE is not a representative feature in the field of online education or distance education but rather, a forced reaction to extraordinary circumstances in education. The increasing confusion between the practice of ERE and online learning could have catastrophic consequences in learners' outcomes, teachers' instructional practices, and institutional policies. Researchers, educators, and policymakers must work cooperatively and be guided by sound work in the field of distance learning to design nourishing educational environments that serve students’ best interests.

In this study, text mining and social network analysis were demonstrated to be powerful tools for exploring and visualizing patterns in COVID-19-related educational research. However, a more in-depth examination is still needed to synthesize effective strategies that can be used to support us in future crises. Systematic reviews that use classical manual coding techniques may take more time but increase our understanding of a phenomenon and help us to develop specific action plans. Future systematic reviews can use the seven themes identified in this study to analyze primary studies and find strategies that counteract the survival of the fittest mindset to ensure that no student is left behind.

Data Availability

The dataset is available from the authors upon request.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is dedicated to all educators and instructional/learning designers who ensured the continuity of education during the tough times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article is produced as a part of the 2020 AECT Mentoring Program.

This paper is supported by Anadolu University, Scientific Research Commission with grant no: 2106E084.

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A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Bastian A. Betthäuser   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-4544-4073 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Anders M. Bach-Mortensen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7804-7958 2 &
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To what extent has the learning progress of school-aged children slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic? A growing number of studies address this question, but findings vary depending on context. Here we conduct a pre-registered systematic review, quality appraisal and meta-analysis of 42 studies across 15 countries to assess the magnitude of learning deficits during the pandemic. We find a substantial overall learning deficit (Cohen’s d  = −0.14, 95% confidence interval −0.17 to −0.10), which arose early in the pandemic and persists over time. Learning deficits are particularly large among children from low socio-economic backgrounds. They are also larger in maths than in reading and in middle-income countries relative to high-income countries. There is a lack of evidence on learning progress during the pandemic in low-income countries. Future research should address this evidence gap and avoid the common risks of bias that we identify.

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research paper about education in pandemic

Large language models in medicine

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to one of the largest disruptions to learning in history. To a large extent, this is due to school closures, which are estimated to have affected 95% of the world’s student population 1 . But even when face-to-face teaching resumed, instruction has often been compromised by hybrid teaching, and by children or teachers having to quarantine and miss classes. The effect of limited face-to-face instruction is compounded by the pandemic’s consequences for children’s out-of-school learning environment, as well as their mental and physical health. Lockdowns have restricted children’s movement and their ability to play, meet other children and engage in extra-curricular activities. Children’s wellbeing and family relationships have also suffered due to economic uncertainties and conflicting demands of work, care and learning. These negative consequences can be expected to be most pronounced for children from low socio-economic family backgrounds, exacerbating pre-existing educational inequalities.

It is critical to understand the extent to which learning progress has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We use the term ‘learning deficit’ to encompass both a delay in expected learning progress, as well as a loss of skills and knowledge already gained. The COVID-19 learning deficit is likely to affect children’s life chances through their education and labour market prospects. At the societal level, it can have important implications for growth, prosperity and social cohesion. As policy-makers across the world are seeking to limit further learning deficits and to devise policies to recover learning deficits that have already been incurred, assessing the current state of learning is crucial. A careful assessment of the COVID-19 learning deficit is also necessary to weigh the true costs and benefits of school closures.

A number of narrative reviews have sought to summarize the emerging research on COVID-19 and learning, mostly focusing on learning progress relatively early in the pandemic 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 . Moreover, two reviews harmonized and synthesized existing estimates of learning deficits during the pandemic 7 , 8 . In line with the narrative reviews, these two reviews find a substantial reduction in learning progress during the pandemic. However, this finding is based on a relatively small number of studies (18 and 10 studies, respectively). The limited evidence that was available at the time these reviews were conducted also precluded them from meta-analysing variation in the magnitude of learning deficits over time and across subjects, different groups of students or country contexts.

In this Article, we conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on COVID-19 learning deficits 2.5 years into the pandemic. Our primary pre-registered research question was ‘What is the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning progress amongst school-age children?’, and we address this question using evidence from studies examining changes in learning outcomes during the pandemic. Our second pre-registered research aim was ‘To examine whether the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning differs across different social background groups, age groups, boys and girls, learning areas or subjects, national contexts’.

We contribute to the existing research in two ways. First, we describe and appraise the up-to-date body of evidence, including its geographic reach and quality. More specifically, we ask the following questions: (1) what is the state of the evidence, in terms of the available peer-reviewed research and grey literature, on learning progress of school-aged children during the COVID-19 pandemic?, (2) which countries are represented in the available evidence? and (3) what is the quality of the existing evidence?

Our second contribution is to harmonize, synthesize and meta-analyse the existing evidence, with special attention to variation across different subpopulations and country contexts. On the basis of the identified studies, we ask (4) to what extent has the learning progress of school-aged children changed since the onset of the pandemic?, (5) how has the magnitude of the learning deficit (if any) evolved since the beginning of the pandemic?, (6) to what extent has the pandemic reinforced inequalities between children from different socio-economic backgrounds?, (7) are there differences in the magnitude of learning deficits between subject domains (maths and reading) and between age groups (primary and secondary students)? and (8) to what extent does the magnitude of learning deficits vary across national contexts?

Below, we report our answers to each of these questions in turn. The questions correspond to the analysis plan set out in our pre-registered protocol ( https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42021249944 ), but we have adjusted the order and wording to aid readability. We had planned to examine gender differences in learning progress during the pandemic, but found there to be insufficient evidence to conduct this subgroup analysis, as the large majority of the identified studies do not provide evidence on learning deficits separately by gender. We also planned to examine how the magnitude of learning deficits differs across groups of students with varying exposures to school closures. This was not possible as the available data on school closures lack sufficient depth with respect to variation of school closures within countries, across grade levels and with respect to different modes of instruction, to meaningfully examine this association.

The state of the evidence

Our systematic review identified 42 studies on learning progress during the COVID-19 pandemic that met our inclusion criteria. To be included in our systematic review and meta-analysis, studies had to use a measure of learning that can be standardized (using Cohen’s d ) and base their estimates on empirical data collected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (rather than making projections based on pre-COVID-19 data). As shown in Fig. 1 , the initial literature search resulted in 5,153 hits after removal of duplicates. All studies were double screened by the first two authors. The formal database search process identified 15 eligible studies. We also hand searched relevant preprint repositories and policy databases. Further, to ensure that our study selection was as up to date as possible, we conducted two full forward and backward citation searches of all included studies on 15 February 2022, and on 8 August 2022. The citation and preprint hand searches allowed us to identify 27 additional eligible studies, resulting in a total of 42 studies. Most of these studies were published after the initial database search, which illustrates that the body of evidence continues to expand. Most studies provide multiple estimates of COVID-19 learning deficits, separately for maths and reading and for different school grades. The number of estimates ( n  = 291) is therefore larger than the number of included studies ( n  = 42).

figure 1

Flow diagram of the study identification and selection process, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

The geographic reach of evidence is limited

Table 1 presents all included studies and estimates of COVID-19 learning deficits (in brackets), grouped by the 15 countries represented: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the United States. About half of the estimates ( n  = 149) are from the United States, 58 are from the UK, a further 70 are from other European countries and the remaining 14 estimates are from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa. As this list shows, there is a strong over-representation of studies from high-income countries, a dearth of studies from middle-income countries and no studies from low-income countries. This skewed representation should be kept in mind when interpreting our synthesis of the existing evidence on COVID-19 learning deficits.

The quality of evidence is mixed

We assessed the quality of the evidence using an adapted version of the Risk Of Bias In Non-randomized Studies of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool 9 . More specifically, we analysed the risk of bias of each estimate from confounding, sample selection, classification of treatments, missing data, the measurement of outcomes and the selection of reported results. A.M.B.-M. and B.A.B. performed the risk-of-bias assessments, which were independently checked by the respective other author. We then assigned each study an overall risk-of-bias rating (low, moderate, serious or critical) based on the estimate and domain with the highest risk of bias.

Figure 2a shows the distribution of all studies of COVID-19 learning deficits according to their risk-of-bias rating separately for each domain (top six rows), as well as the distribution of studies according to their overall risk of bias rating (bottom row). The overall risk of bias was considered ‘low’ for 15% of studies, ‘moderate’ for 30% of studies, ‘serious’ for 25% of studies and ‘critical’ for 30% of studies.

figure 2

a , Domain-specific and overall distribution of studies of COVID-19 learning deficits by risk of bias rating using ROBINS-I, including studies rated to be at critical risk of bias ( n  = 19 out of a total of n  = 61 studies shown in this figure). In line with ROBINS-I guidance, studies rated to be at critical risk of bias were excluded from all analyses and other figures in this article and in the Supplementary Information (including b ). b , z curve: distribution of the z scores of all estimates included in the meta-analysis ( n  = 291) to test for publication bias. The dotted line indicates z  = 1.96 ( P  = 0.050), the conventional threshold for statistical significance. The overlaid curve shows a normal distribution. The absence of a spike in the distribution of the z scores just above the threshold for statistical significance and the absence of a slump just below it indicate the absence of evidence for publication bias.

In line with ROBINS-I guidance, we excluded studies rated to be at critical risk of bias ( n  = 19) from all of our analyses and figures, except for Fig. 2a , which visualizes the distribution of studies according to their risk of bias 9 . These are thus not part of the 42 studies included in our meta-analysis. Supplementary Table 2 provides an overview of these studies as well as the main potential sources of risk of bias. Moreover, in Supplementary Figs. 3 – 6 , we replicate all our results excluding studies deemed to be at serious risk of bias.

As shown in Fig. 2a , common sources of potential bias were confounding, sample selection and missing data. Studies rated at risk of confounding typically compared only two timepoints, without accounting for longer time trends in learning progress. The main causes of selection bias were the use of convenience samples and insufficient consideration of self-selection by schools or students. Several studies found evidence of selection bias, often with students from a low socio-economic background or schools in deprived areas being under-represented after (as compared with before) the pandemic, but this was not always adjusted for. Some studies also reported a higher amount of missing data post-pandemic, again generally without adjustment, and several studies did not report any information on missing data. For an overview of the risk-of-bias ratings for each domain of each study, see Supplementary Fig. 1 and Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 .

No evidence of publication bias

Publication bias can occur if authors self-censor to conform to theoretical expectations, or if journals favour statistically significant results. To mitigate this concern, we include not only published papers, but also preprints, working papers and policy reports.

Moreover, Fig. 2b tests for publication bias by showing the distribution of z -statistics for the effect size estimates of all identified studies. The dotted line indicates z  = 1.96 ( P  = 0.050), the conventional threshold for statistical significance. The overlaid curve shows a normal distribution. If there was publication bias, we would expect a spike just above the threshold, and a slump just below it. There is no indication of this. Moreover, we do not find a left-skewed distribution of P values (see P curve in Supplementary Fig. 2a ), or an association between estimates of learning deficits and their standard errors (see funnel plot in Supplementary Fig. 2b ) that would suggest publication bias. Publication bias thus does not appear to be a major concern.

Having assessed the quality of the existing evidence, we now present the substantive results of our meta-analysis, focusing on the magnitude of COVID-19 learning deficits and on the variation in learning deficits over time, across different groups of students, and across country contexts.

Learning progress slowed substantially during the pandemic

Figure 3 shows the effect sizes that we extracted from each study (averaged across grades and learning subject) as well as the pooled effect size (red diamond). Effects are expressed in standard deviations, using Cohen’s d . Estimates are pooled using inverse variance weights. The pooled effect size across all studies is d  = −0.14, t (41) = −7.30, two-tailed P  = 0.000, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.17 to −0.10. Under normal circumstances, students generally improve their performance by around 0.4 standard deviations per school year 10 , 11 , 12 . Thus, the overall effect of d  = −0.14 suggests that students lost out on 0.14/0.4, or about 35%, of a school year’s worth of learning. On average, the learning progress of school-aged children has slowed substantially during the pandemic.

figure 3

Effect sizes are expressed in standard deviations, using Cohen’s d , with 95% CI, and are sorted by magnitude.

Learning deficits arose early in the pandemic and persist

One may expect that children were able to recover learning that was lost early in the pandemic, after teachers and families had time to adjust to the new learning conditions and after structures for online learning and for recovering early learning deficits were set up. However, existing research on teacher strikes in Belgium 13 and Argentina 14 , shortened school years in Germany 15 and disruptions to education during World War II 16 suggests that learning deficits are difficult to compensate and tend to persist in the long run.

Figure 4 plots the magnitude of estimated learning deficits (on the vertical axis) by the date of measurement (on the horizontal axis). The colour of the circles reflects the relevant country, the size of the circles indicates the sample size for a given estimate and the line displays a linear trend. The figure suggests that learning deficits opened up early in the pandemic and have neither closed nor substantially widened since then. We find no evidence that the slope coefficient is different from zero ( β months  = −0.00, t (41) = −7.30, two-tailed P  = 0.097, 95% CI −0.01 to 0.00). This implies that efforts by children, parents, teachers and policy-makers to adjust to the changed circumstance have been successful in preventing further learning deficits but so far have been unable to reverse them. As shown in Supplementary Fig. 8 , the pattern of persistent learning deficits also emerges within each of the three countries for which we have a relatively large number of estimates at different timepoints: the United States, the UK and the Netherlands. However, it is important to note that estimates of learning deficits are based on distinct samples of students. Future research should continue to follow the learning progress of cohorts of students in different countries to reveal how learning deficits of these cohorts have developed and continue to develop since the onset of the pandemic.

figure 4

The horizontal axis displays the date on which learning progress was measured. The vertical axis displays estimated learning deficits, expressed in standard deviation (s.d.) using Cohen’s d . The colour of the circles reflects the respective country, the size of the circles indicates the sample size for a given estimate and the line displays a linear trend with a 95% CI. The trend line is estimated as a linear regression using ordinary least squares, with standard errors clustered at the study level ( n  = 42 clusters). β months  = −0.00, t (41) = −7.30, two-tailed P  = 0.097, 95% CI −0.01 to 0.00.

Socio-economic inequality in education increased

Existing research on the development of learning gaps during summer vacations 17 , 18 , disruptions to schooling during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Guinea 19 , and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan 20 shows that the suspension of face-to-face teaching can increase educational inequality between children from different socio-economic backgrounds. Learning deficits during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have been particularly pronounced for children from low socio-economic backgrounds. These children have been more affected by school closures than children from more advantaged backgrounds 21 . Moreover, they are likely to be disadvantaged with respect to their access and ability to use digital learning technology, the quality of their home learning environment, the learning support they receive from teachers and parents, and their ability to study autonomously 22 , 23 , 24 .

Most studies we identify examine changes in socio-economic inequality during the pandemic, attesting to the importance of the issue. As studies use different measures of socio-economic background (for example, parental income, parental education, free school meal eligibility or neighbourhood disadvantage), pooling the estimates is not possible. Instead, we code all estimates according to whether they indicate a reduction, no change or an increase in learning inequality during the pandemic. Figure 5 displays this information. Estimates that indicate an increase in inequality are shown on the right, those that indicate a decrease on the left and those that suggest no change in the middle. Squares represent estimates of changes in inequality during the pandemic in reading performance, and circles represent estimates of changes in inequality in maths performance. The shading represents when in the pandemic educational inequality was measured, differentiating between the first, second and third year of the pandemic. Estimates are also arranged horizontally by grade level. A large majority of estimates indicate an increase in educational inequality between children from different socio-economic backgrounds. This holds for both maths and reading, across primary and secondary education, at each stage of the pandemic, and independently of how socio-economic background is measured.

figure 5

Each circle/square refers to one estimate of over-time change in inequality in maths/reading performance ( n  = 211). Estimates that find a decrease/no change/increase in inequality are grouped on the left/middle/right. Within these categories, estimates are ordered horizontally by school grade. The shading indicates when in the pandemic a given measure was taken.

Learning deficits are larger in maths than in reading

Available research on summer learning deficits 17 , 25 , student absenteeism 26 , 27 and extreme weather events 28 suggests that learning progress in mathematics is more dependent on formal instruction than in reading. This might be due to parents being better equipped to help their children with reading, and children advancing their reading skills (but not their maths skills) when reading for enjoyment outside of school. Figure 6a shows that, similarly to earlier disruptions to learning, the estimated learning deficits during the COVID-19 pandemic are larger for maths than for reading (mean difference δ  = −0.07, t (41) = −4.02, two-tailed P  = 0.000, 95% CI −0.11 to −0.04). This difference is statistically significant and robust to dropping estimates from individual countries (Supplementary Fig. 9 ).

figure 6

Each plot shows the distribution of COVID-19 learning deficit estimates for the respective subgroup, with the box marking the interquartile range and the white circle denoting the median. Whiskers mark upper and lower adjacent values: the furthest observation within 1.5 interquartile range of either side of the box. a , Learning subject (reading versus maths). Median: reading −0.09, maths −0.18. Interquartile range: reading −0.15 to −0.02, maths −0.23 to −0.09. b , Level of education (primary versus secondary). Median: primary −0.12, secondary −0.12. Interquartile range: primary −0.19 to −0.05, secondary −0.21 to −0.06. c , Country income level (high versus middle). Median: high −0.12, middle −0.37. Interquartile range: high −0.20 to −0.05, middle −0.65 to −0.30.

No evidence of variation across grade levels

One may expect learning deficits to be smaller for older than for younger children, as older children may be more autonomous in their learning and better able to cope with a sudden change in their learning environment. However, older students were subject to longer school closures in some countries, such as Denmark 29 , based partly on the assumption that they would be better able to learn from home. This may have offset any advantage that older children would otherwise have had in learning remotely.

Figure 6b shows the distribution of estimates of learning deficits for students at the primary and secondary level, respectively. Our analysis yields no evidence of variation in learning deficits across grade levels (mean difference δ  = −0.01, t (41) = −0.59, two-tailed P  = 0.556, 95% CI −0.06 to 0.03). Due to the limited number of available estimates of learning deficits, we cannot be certain about whether learning deficits differ between primary and secondary students or not.

Learning deficits are larger in poorer countries

Low- and middle-income countries were already struggling with a learning crisis before the pandemic. Despite large expansions of the proportion of children in school, children in low- and middle-income countries still perform poorly by international standards, and inequality in learning remains high 30 , 31 , 32 . The pandemic is likely to deepen this learning crisis and to undo past progress. Schools in low- and middle-income countries have not only been closed for longer, but have also had fewer resources to facilitate remote learning 33 , 34 . Moreover, the economic resources, availability of digital learning equipment and ability of children, parents, teachers and governments to support learning from home are likely to be lower in low- and middle-income countries 35 .

As discussed above, most evidence on COVID-19 learning deficits comes from high-income countries. We found no studies on low-income countries that met our inclusion criteria, and evidence from middle-income countries is limited to Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa. Figure 6c groups the estimates of COVID-19 learning deficits in these four middle-income countries together (on the right) and compares them with estimates from high-income countries (on the left). The learning deficit is appreciably larger in middle-income countries than in high-income countries (mean difference δ  = −0.29, t (41) = −2.78, two-tailed P  = 0.008, 95% CI −0.50 to −0.08). In fact, the three largest estimates of learning deficits in our sample are from middle-income countries (Fig. 3 ) 36 , 37 , 38 .

Two years since the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing number of studies examining the learning progress of school-aged children during the pandemic. This paper first systematically reviews the existing literature on learning progress of school-aged children during the pandemic and appraises its geographic reach and quality. Second, it harmonizes, synthesizes and meta-analyses the existing evidence to examine the extent to which learning progress has changed since the onset of the pandemic, and how it varies across different groups of students and across country contexts.

Our meta-analysis suggests that learning progress has slowed substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pooled effect size of d  = −0.14, implies that students lost out on about 35% of a normal school year’s worth of learning. This confirms initial concerns that substantial learning deficits would arise during the pandemic 10 , 39 , 40 . But our results also suggest that fears of an accumulation of learning deficits as the pandemic continues have not materialized 41 , 42 . On average, learning deficits emerged early in the pandemic and have neither closed nor widened substantially. Future research should continue to follow the learning progress of cohorts of students in different countries to reveal how learning deficits of these cohorts have developed and continue to develop since the onset of the pandemic.

Most studies that we identify find that learning deficits have been largest for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. This holds across different timepoints during the pandemic, countries, grade levels and learning subjects, and independently of how socio-economic background is measured. It suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities between children from different socio-economic backgrounds, which were already large before the pandemic 43 , 44 . Policy initiatives to compensate learning deficits need to prioritize support for children from low socio-economic backgrounds in order to allow them to recover the learning they lost during the pandemic.

There is a need for future research to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected gender inequality in education. So far, there is very little evidence on this issue. The large majority of the studies that we identify do not examine learning deficits separately by gender.

Comparing estimates of learning deficits across subjects, we find that learning deficits tend to be larger in maths than in reading. As noted above, this may be due to the fact that parents and children have been in a better position to compensate school-based learning in reading by reading at home. Accordingly, there are grounds for policy initiatives to prioritize the compensation of learning deficits in maths and other science subjects.

A limitation of this study and the existing body of evidence on learning progress during the COVID-19 pandemic is that the existing studies primarily focus on high-income countries, while there is a dearth of evidence from low- and middle-income countries. This is particularly concerning because the small number of existing studies from middle-income countries suggest that learning deficits have been particularly severe in these countries. Learning deficits are likely to be even larger in low-income countries, considering that these countries already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic, generally implemented longer school closures, and were under-resourced and ill-equipped to facilitate remote learning 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 45 . It is critical that this evidence gap on low- and middle-income countries is addressed swiftly, and that the infrastructure to collect and share data on educational performance in middle- and low-income countries is strengthened. Collecting and making available these data is a key prerequisite for fully understanding how learning progress and related outcomes have changed since the onset of the pandemic 46 .

A further limitation is that about half of the studies that we identify are rated as having a serious or critical risk of bias. We seek to limit the risk of bias in our results by excluding all studies rated to be at critical risk of bias from all of our analyses. Moreover, in Supplementary Figs. 3 – 6 , we show that our results are robust to further excluding studies deemed to be at serious risk of bias. Future studies should minimize risk of bias in estimating learning deficits by employing research designs that appropriately account for common sources of bias. These include a lack of accounting for secular time trends, non-representative samples and imbalances between treatment and comparison groups.

The persistence of learning deficits two and a half years into the pandemic highlights the need for well-designed, well-resourced and decisive policy initiatives to recover learning deficits. Policy-makers, schools and families will need to identify and realize opportunities to complement and expand on regular school-based learning. Experimental evidence from low- and middle-income countries suggests that even relatively low-tech and low-cost learning interventions can have substantial, positive effects on students’ learning progress in the context of remote learning. For example, sending SMS messages with numeracy problems accompanied by short phone calls was found to lead to substantial learning gains in numeracy in Botswana 47 . Sending motivational text messages successfully limited learning losses in maths and Portuguese in Brazil 48 .

More evidence is needed to assess the effectiveness of other interventions for limiting or recovering learning deficits. Potential avenues include the use of the often extensive summer holidays to offer summer schools and learning camps, extending school days and school weeks, and organizing and scaling up tutoring programmes. Further potential lies in developing, advertising and providing access to learning apps, online learning platforms or educational TV programmes that are free at the point of use. Many countries have already begun investing substantial resources to capitalize on some of these opportunities. If these interventions prove effective, and if the momentum of existing policy efforts is maintained and expanded, the disruptions to learning during the pandemic may be a window of opportunity to improve the education afforded to children.

Eligibility criteria

We consider all types of primary research, including peer-reviewed publications, preprints, working papers and reports, for inclusion. To be eligible for inclusion, studies have to measure learning progress using test scores that can be standardized across studies using Cohen’s d . Moreover, studies have to be in English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish or Swedish.

Search strategy and study identification

We identified relevant studies using the following steps. First, we developed a Boolean search string defining the population (school-aged children), exposure (the COVID-19 pandemic) and outcomes of interest (learning progress). The full search string can be found in Section 1.1 of Supplementary Information . Second, we used this string to search the following academic databases: Coronavirus Research Database, the Education Resources Information Centre, International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, Politics Collection (PAIS index, policy file index, political science database and worldwide political science abstracts), Social Science Database, Sociology Collection (applied social science index and abstracts, sociological abstracts and sociology database), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Web of Science. Second, we hand-searched multiple preprint and working paper repositories (Social Science Research Network, Munich Personal RePEc Archive, IZA, National Bureau of Economic Research, OSF Preprints, PsyArXiv, SocArXiv and EdArXiv) and relevant policy websites, including the websites of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, the World Bank and the Education Endowment Foundation. Third, we periodically posted our protocol via Twitter in order to crowdsource additional relevant studies not identified through the search. All titles and abstracts identified in our search were double-screened using the Rayyan online application 49 . Our initial search was conducted on 27 April 2021, and we conducted two forward and backward citation searches of all eligible studies identified in the above steps, on 14 February 2022, and on 8 August 2022, to ensure that our analysis includes recent relevant research.

Data extraction

From the studies that meet our inclusion criteria we extracted all estimates of learning deficits during the pandemic, separately for maths and reading and for different school grades. We also extracted the corresponding sample size, standard error, date(s) of measurement, author name(s) and country. Last, we recorded whether studies differentiate between children’s socio-economic background, which measure is used to this end and whether studies find an increase, decrease or no change in learning inequality. We contacted study authors if any of the above information was missing in the study. Data extraction was performed by B.A.B. and validated independently by A.M.B.-M., with discrepancies resolved through discussion and by conferring with P.E.

Measurement and standardizationr

We standardize all estimates of learning deficits during the pandemic using Cohen’s d , which expresses effect sizes in terms of standard deviations. Cohen’s d is calculated as the difference in the mean learning gain in a given subject (maths or reading) over two comparable periods before and after the onset of the pandemic, divided by the pooled standard deviation of learning progress in this subject:

Effect sizes expressed as β coefficients are converted to Cohen’s d :

We use a binary indicator for whether the study outcome is maths or reading. One study does not differentiate the outcome but includes a composite of maths and reading scores 50 .

Level of education

We distinguish between primary and secondary education. We first consulted the original studies for this information. Where this was not stated in a given study, students’ age was used in conjunction with information about education systems from external sources to determine the level of education 51 .

Country income level

We follow the World Bank’s classification of countries into four income groups: low, lower-middle, upper-middle and high income. Four countries in our sample are in the upper-middle-income group: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa. All other countries are in the high-income group.

Data synthesis

We synthesize our data using three synthesis techniques. First, we generate a forest plot, based on all available estimates of learning progress during the pandemic. We pool estimates using a random-effects restricted maximum likelihood model and inverse variance weights to calculate an overall effect size (Fig. 3 ) 52 . Second, we code all estimates of changes in educational inequality between children from different socio-economic backgrounds during the pandemic, according to whether they indicate an increase, a decrease or no change in educational inequality. We visualize the resulting distribution using a harvest plot (Fig. 5 ) 53 . Third, given that the limited amount of available evidence precludes multivariate or causal analyses, we examine the bivariate association between COVID-19 learning deficits and the months in which learning was measured using a scatter plot (Fig. 4 ), and the bivariate association between COVID-19 learning deficits and subject, grade level and countries’ income level, using a series of violin plots (Fig. 6 ). The reported estimates, CIs and statistical significance tests of these bivariate associations are based on common-effects models with standard errors clustered by study, and two-sided tests. With respect to statistical tests reported, the data distribution was assumed to be normal, but this was not formally tested. The distribution of estimates of learning deficits is shown separately for the different moderator categories in Fig. 6 .

Pre-registration

We prospectively registered a protocol of our systematic review and meta-analysis in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42021249944) on 19 April 2021 ( https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42021249944 ).

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

The data used in the analyses for this manuscript were compiled by the authors based on the studies identified in the systematic review. The data are available on the Open Science Framework repository ( https://doi.org/10.17605/osf.io/u8gaz ). For our systematic review, we searched the following databases: Coronavirus Research Database ( https://proquest.libguides.com/covid19 ), Education Resources Information Centre database ( https://eric.ed.gov ), International Bibliography of the Social Sciences ( https://about.proquest.com/en/products-services/ibss-set-c/ ), Politics Collection ( https://about.proquest.com/en/products-services/ProQuest-Politics-Collection/ ), Social Science Database ( https://about.proquest.com/en/products-services/pq_social_science/ ), Sociology Collection ( https://about.proquest.com/en/products-services/ProQuest-Sociology-Collection/ ), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature ( https://www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/cinahl-database ) and Web of Science ( https://clarivate.com/webofsciencegroup/solutions/web-of-science/ ). We also searched the following preprint and working paper repositories: Social Science Research Network ( https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/DisplayJournalBrowse.cfm ), Munich Personal RePEc Archive ( https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de ), IZA ( https://www.iza.org/content/publications ), National Bureau of Economic Research ( https://www.nber.org/papers?page=1&perPage=50&sortBy=public_date ), OSF Preprints ( https://osf.io/preprints/ ), PsyArXiv ( https://psyarxiv.com ), SocArXiv ( https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv ) and EdArXiv ( https://edarxiv.org ).

Code availability

All code needed to replicate our findings is available on the Open Science Framework repository ( https://doi.org/10.17605/osf.io/u8gaz ).

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Carlsberg Foundation grant CF19-0102 (A.M.B.-M.); Leverhulme Trust Large Centre Grant (P.E.), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) grant 2016-07099 (P.E.); the French National Research Agency (ANR) as part of the ‘Investissements d’Avenir’ programme LIEPP (ANR-11-LABX-0091 and ANR-11-IDEX-0005-02) and the Université Paris Cité IdEx (ANR-18-IDEX-0001) (P.E.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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Betthäuser, B.A., Bach-Mortensen, A.M. & Engzell, P. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nat Hum Behav 7 , 375–385 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01506-4

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research paper about education in pandemic

The pandemic has had devastating impacts on learning. What will it take to help students catch up?

Subscribe to the brown center on education policy newsletter, megan kuhfeld , megan kuhfeld senior research scientist - nwea @megankuhfeld jim soland , jim soland assistant professor, school of education and human development - university of virginia, affiliated research fellow - nwea @jsoland karyn lewis , and karyn lewis director, center for school and student progress - nwea @karynlew emily morton emily morton research scientist - nwea @emily_r_morton.

March 3, 2022

As we reach the two-year mark of the initial wave of pandemic-induced school shutdowns, academic normalcy remains out of reach for many students, educators, and parents. In addition to surging COVID-19 cases at the end of 2021, schools have faced severe staff shortages , high rates of absenteeism and quarantines , and rolling school closures . Furthermore, students and educators continue to struggle with mental health challenges , higher rates of violence and misbehavior , and concerns about lost instructional time .

As we outline in our new research study released in January, the cumulative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ academic achievement has been large. We tracked changes in math and reading test scores across the first two years of the pandemic using data from 5.4 million U.S. students in grades 3-8. We focused on test scores from immediately before the pandemic (fall 2019), following the initial onset (fall 2020), and more than one year into pandemic disruptions (fall 2021).

Average fall 2021 math test scores in grades 3-8 were 0.20-0.27 standard deviations (SDs) lower relative to same-grade peers in fall 2019, while reading test scores were 0.09-0.18 SDs lower. This is a sizable drop. For context, the math drops are significantly larger than estimated impacts from other large-scale school disruptions, such as after Hurricane Katrina—math scores dropped 0.17 SDs in one year for New Orleans evacuees .

Even more concerning, test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20% in math (corresponding to 0.20 SDs) and 15% in reading (0.13 SDs), primarily during the 2020-21 school year. Further, achievement tended to drop more between fall 2020 and 2021 than between fall 2019 and 2020 (both overall and differentially by school poverty), indicating that disruptions to learning have continued to negatively impact students well past the initial hits following the spring 2020 school closures.

These numbers are alarming and potentially demoralizing, especially given the heroic efforts of students to learn and educators to teach in incredibly trying times. From our perspective, these test-score drops in no way indicate that these students represent a “ lost generation ” or that we should give up hope. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic, and there is so much we don’t know about students’ capacity for resiliency in these circumstances and what a timeline for recovery will look like. Nor are we suggesting that teachers are somehow at fault given the achievement drops that occurred between 2020 and 2021; rather, educators had difficult jobs before the pandemic, and now are contending with huge new challenges, many outside their control.

Clearly, however, there’s work to do. School districts and states are currently making important decisions about which interventions and strategies to implement to mitigate the learning declines during the last two years. Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) investments from the American Rescue Plan provided nearly $200 billion to public schools to spend on COVID-19-related needs. Of that sum, $22 billion is dedicated specifically to addressing learning loss using “evidence-based interventions” focused on the “ disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups. ” Reviews of district and state spending plans (see Future Ed , EduRecoveryHub , and RAND’s American School District Panel for more details) indicate that districts are spending their ESSER dollars designated for academic recovery on a wide variety of strategies, with summer learning, tutoring, after-school programs, and extended school-day and school-year initiatives rising to the top.

Comparing the negative impacts from learning disruptions to the positive impacts from interventions

To help contextualize the magnitude of the impacts of COVID-19, we situate test-score drops during the pandemic relative to the test-score gains associated with common interventions being employed by districts as part of pandemic recovery efforts. If we assume that such interventions will continue to be as successful in a COVID-19 school environment, can we expect that these strategies will be effective enough to help students catch up? To answer this question, we draw from recent reviews of research on high-dosage tutoring , summer learning programs , reductions in class size , and extending the school day (specifically for literacy instruction) . We report effect sizes for each intervention specific to a grade span and subject wherever possible (e.g., tutoring has been found to have larger effects in elementary math than in reading).

Figure 1 shows the standardized drops in math test scores between students testing in fall 2019 and fall 2021 (separately by elementary and middle school grades) relative to the average effect size of various educational interventions. The average effect size for math tutoring matches or exceeds the average COVID-19 score drop in math. Research on tutoring indicates that it often works best in younger grades, and when provided by a teacher rather than, say, a parent. Further, some of the tutoring programs that produce the biggest effects can be quite intensive (and likely expensive), including having full-time tutors supporting all students (not just those needing remediation) in one-on-one settings during the school day. Meanwhile, the average effect of reducing class size is negative but not significant, with high variability in the impact across different studies. Summer programs in math have been found to be effective (average effect size of .10 SDs), though these programs in isolation likely would not eliminate the COVID-19 test-score drops.

Figure 1: Math COVID-19 test-score drops compared to the effect sizes of various educational interventions

Figure 1 – Math COVID-19 test-score drops compared to the effect sizes of various educational interventions

Source: COVID-19 score drops are pulled from Kuhfeld et al. (2022) Table 5; reduction-in-class-size results are from pg. 10 of Figles et al. (2018) Table 2; summer program results are pulled from Lynch et al (2021) Table 2; and tutoring estimates are pulled from Nictow et al (2020) Table 3B. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals are shown with vertical lines on each bar.

Notes: Kuhfeld et al. and Nictow et al. reported effect sizes separately by grade span; Figles et al. and Lynch et al. report an overall effect size across elementary and middle grades. We were unable to find a rigorous study that reported effect sizes for extending the school day/year on math performance. Nictow et al. and Kraft & Falken (2021) also note large variations in tutoring effects depending on the type of tutor, with larger effects for teacher and paraprofessional tutoring programs than for nonprofessional and parent tutoring. Class-size reductions included in the Figles meta-analysis ranged from a minimum of one to minimum of eight students per class.

Figure 2 displays a similar comparison using effect sizes from reading interventions. The average effect of tutoring programs on reading achievement is larger than the effects found for the other interventions, though summer reading programs and class size reduction both produced average effect sizes in the ballpark of the COVID-19 reading score drops.

Figure 2: Reading COVID-19 test-score drops compared to the effect sizes of various educational interventions

Figure 2 – Reading COVID-19 test-score drops compared to the effect sizes of various educational interventions

Source: COVID-19 score drops are pulled from Kuhfeld et al. (2022) Table 5; extended-school-day results are from Figlio et al. (2018) Table 2; reduction-in-class-size results are from pg. 10 of Figles et al. (2018) ; summer program results are pulled from Kim & Quinn (2013) Table 3; and tutoring estimates are pulled from Nictow et al (2020) Table 3B. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals are shown with vertical lines on each bar.

Notes: While Kuhfeld et al. and Nictow et al. reported effect sizes separately by grade span, Figlio et al. and Kim & Quinn report an overall effect size across elementary and middle grades. Class-size reductions included in the Figles meta-analysis ranged from a minimum of one to minimum of eight students per class.

There are some limitations of drawing on research conducted prior to the pandemic to understand our ability to address the COVID-19 test-score drops. First, these studies were conducted under conditions that are very different from what schools currently face, and it is an open question whether the effectiveness of these interventions during the pandemic will be as consistent as they were before the pandemic. Second, we have little evidence and guidance about the efficacy of these interventions at the unprecedented scale that they are now being considered. For example, many school districts are expanding summer learning programs, but school districts have struggled to find staff interested in teaching summer school to meet the increased demand. Finally, given the widening test-score gaps between low- and high-poverty schools, it’s uncertain whether these interventions can actually combat the range of new challenges educators are facing in order to narrow these gaps. That is, students could catch up overall, yet the pandemic might still have lasting, negative effects on educational equality in this country.

Given that the current initiatives are unlikely to be implemented consistently across (and sometimes within) districts, timely feedback on the effects of initiatives and any needed adjustments will be crucial to districts’ success. The Road to COVID Recovery project and the National Student Support Accelerator are two such large-scale evaluation studies that aim to produce this type of evidence while providing resources for districts to track and evaluate their own programming. Additionally, a growing number of resources have been produced with recommendations on how to best implement recovery programs, including scaling up tutoring , summer learning programs , and expanded learning time .

Ultimately, there is much work to be done, and the challenges for students, educators, and parents are considerable. But this may be a moment when decades of educational reform, intervention, and research pay off. Relying on what we have learned could show the way forward.

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Education and the COVID-19 pandemic

Affiliation.

  • 1 Acsenda School of Management, Vancouver, Canada.
  • PMID: 32313309
  • PMCID: PMC7167396
  • DOI: 10.1007/s11125-020-09464-3

The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge challenge to education systems. This Viewpoint offers guidance to teachers, institutional heads, and officials on addressing the crisis. What preparations should institutions make in the short time available and how do they address students' needs by level and field of study? Reassuring students and parents is a vital element of institutional response. In ramping up capacity to teach remotely, schools and colleges should take advantage of asynchronous learning, which works best in digital formats. As well as the normal classroom subjects, teaching should include varied assignments and work that puts COVID-19 in a global and historical context. When constructing curricula, designing student assessment first helps teachers to focus. Finally, this Viewpoint suggests flexible ways to repair the damage to students' learning trajectories once the pandemic is over and gives a list of resources.

Keywords: COVID-19; assessment; crisis; curriculum; learning; pandemic; teaching.

© UNESCO IBE 2020.

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New research finds that pandemic learning loss impacted whole communities, regardless of student race or income.

Analysis of prior decade shows that learning loss will become permanent if schools and parents do not expand learning time this summer and next year

(May 11, 2023) – Today, The Education Recovery Scorecard , a collaboration with researchers at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR) and Stanford University’s Educational Opportunity Project, released 12 new state reports and a research brief to provide the most comprehensive picture yet of how the pandemic affected student learning. Building on their previous work, their findings reveal how school closures and local conditions exacerbated inequality between communities — and how little time school leaders have to help students catch up.

The research team reviewed data from 8,000 communities in 40 states and Washington, D.C., including 2022 NAEP scores and Spring 2022 assessments, COVID death rates, voting rates and trust in government, patterns of social activity and survey data from Facebook/Meta on family activities and mental health during the pandemic.

They found that where children lived during the pandemic mattered more to their academic progress than their family background, income, or internet speed.  Moreover, after studying instances where test scores rose or fell in the decade before the pandemic, the researchers found that the impacts lingered for years. 

“Children have resumed learning, but largely at the same pace as before the pandemic. There’s no hurrying up teaching fractions or the Pythagorean theorem,” said CEPR faculty director Thomas Kane. “The hardest hit communities—like Richmond, VA, St. Louis, MO, and New Haven, CT, where students fell behind by more than 1.5 years in math—would have to teach 150 percent of a typical year’s worth of material for three years in a row—just to catch up. That is simply not going to happen without a major increase in instructional time.  Any district that lost more than a year of learning should be required to revisit their recovery plans and add instructional time—summer school, extended school year, tutoring, etc.—so that students are made whole. ”

“It’s not readily visible to parents when their children have fallen behind earlier cohorts, but the data from 7,800 school districts show clearly that this is the case,” said Sean Reardon, Professor of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford Graduate School of Education. “The educational impacts of the pandemic were not only historically large, but were disproportionately visited on communities with many low-income and minority students. Our research shows that schools were far from the only cause of decreased learning—the pandemic affected children through many ways – but they are the institution best suited to remedy the unequal impacts of the pandemic.”

The new research includes:

  • A research brief that offers insights into why students in some communities fared worse than others.
  • An update to the Education Recovery Scorecard, including data from 12 additional states whose 2022 scores were not available in October. The project now includes a district-level view of the pandemic’s effects in 40 states (plus DC).
  • A new interactive map  that highlights examples of inequity between neighboring school districts.

Among the key findings:

  • Within the typical school district, the declines in test scores were similar for all groups of students, rich and poor, white, Black, Hispanic. And the extent to which schools were closed appears to have had the same effect on all students in a community, regardless of income or race.
  • Test scores declined more in places where the COVID death rate was higher, in communities where adults reported feeling more depression and anxiety during the pandemic, and where daily routines of families were most significantly restricted. This is true even in places where schools closed only very briefly at the start of the pandemic.
  • Test score declines were smaller in communities with high voting rates and high Census response rates—indicators of what sociologists call “institutional trust.” Moreover, remote learning was less harmful in such places. Living in a community where more people trusted the government appears to have been an asset to children during the pandemic.
  • The average U.S. public school student in grades 3-8 lost the equivalent of a half year of learning in math and a quarter of a year in reading.

The researchers also looked at data from the decade prior to the pandemic to see how students bounced back after significant learning loss due to disruption in their schooling. The evidence shows that schools do not naturally bounce back: Affected students recovered 20-30% of the lost ground in the first year, but then made no further recovery in the subsequent 3-4 years.  

“Schools were not the sole cause of achievement losses,” Kane said. “Nor will they be the sole solution. As enticing as it might be to get back to normal, doing so will just leave the devastating increase in inequality caused by the pandemic in place.   We must create learning opportunities for students outside of the normal school calendar, by adding academic content to summer camps and after-school programs and adding an optional 13th year of schooling.”

The Education Recovery Scorecard is supported by funds from Citadel founder and CEO Kenneth C. Griffin , Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Walton Family Foundation.

About the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, seeks to transform education through quality research and evidence. CEPR and its partners believe all students will learn and thrive when education leaders make decisions using facts and findings, rather than untested assumptions. Learn more at cepr.harvard.edu.

Contact: Jeff Frantz, [email protected] , 614-204-7438 (mobile)

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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

The impact of school closures during the covid-19 pandemic on reading fluency among second grade students: socioeconomic and gender perspectives.

Shelley Shaul

  • Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Studies of Learning Disabilities, Department of Learning Disabilities, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Introduction: The acquisition of reading skills is a crucial milestone in early education, with formal instruction and practice playing pivotal roles. The outbreak of COVID-19 led to widespread school closures and a shift to remote learning.

Methods: This study aimed to investigate the effects of school closures on reading acquisition and fluency among a large sample of second-grade children, considering socioeconomic status (SES) and gender differences. In 2019, a cohort of 2228 second-grade students from 34 schools was assessed for word reading fluency and comprehension. In 2020, during the pandemic, 765 students from a subsample of 20 original schools were re-evaluated using the same measures. The study also collected school-related data.

Results: The findings from the entire sample indicated no significant differences in fluency and comprehension scores between children in the second grade in 2019 and 2020. However, a significant interaction emerged when analyzing low SES versus high SES children. Children from low SES backgrounds exhibited notably lower reading scores after a year of remote learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, the disparity in reading scores between low SES and high SES children nearly doubled in 2020. Gender differences were also detected.

Discussion: These results underscore the impact of remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis on exacerbating gaps in reading fluency and comprehension between children from high and low SES backgrounds. The implications of these findings highlight the critical role of in-person schooling and targeted support for disadvantaged students, especially during pivotal stages of reading development.

1 Introduction

The global outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 prompted widespread school closures across many countries, including Israel, resulting in a significant shift toward remote learning ( Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ; Lake and Dusseault, 2020 ; United Nations, 2020 ). This unprecedented situation led to changes in the educational landscape, with students adapting to shortened school days delivered through technological platforms ( Hall et al., 2020 ; Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ). Moreover, parents took on a more prominent role in delivering the curriculum in many instances ( Reimer et al., 2021 ).

A fundamental milestone in early elementary education is the acquisition of reading skills. The process of learning to read involves substantial formal instruction and practice ( Stanovich and West, 1989 ). However, the adverse impact of COVID-19 on reading acquisition was particularly pronounced among disadvantaged children who faced unequal access to educational resources ( UNESCO, 2020 ). This disparity is a significant concern, particularly with studies highlighting potential “Matthew Effect” dynamics during the pandemic, where existing gaps in reading ability between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds could be further exacerbated ( García-Muiña et al., 2021 ). The “Matthew Effect” concept underscores how initial advantages can magnify disparities over time ( Stanovich, 1986 ), which, in the context of reading, could suggest that children from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds might fall behind even more in their reading development. Furthermore, parents of elementary school children reported a reduction in learning-related activities during COVID-19 closures ( Andrew et al., 2020 ), potentially compounding challenges for struggling readers.

The second grade is a pivotal stage where children transition from decoding-based reading strategies to more fluent and accurate reading ( Chall, 1983 ; Bar-Kochva, 2013 ). Although studies on the impact of COVID-19 closures on reading have emerged, many have focused on later stages of elementary school (from 3rd grade onwards; Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ; Engzell et al., 2021 ; Kaffenberger, 2021 ; Relyea et al., 2023 ). Few large-scale studies have addressed the effects of COVID-19 school closures on reading development during earlier foundational stages ( Ardington et al., 2021 ). The Israeli Ministry of Education’s expert panel highlighted the need to investigate and comprehend gaps arising from COVID-19, particularly in early childhood, and emphasized the importance of empirical studies based on validated tools conducted at multiple time points ( Kesner Baruch et al., 2021 ).

This study aims to address a gap in the literature by examining reading acquisition among a substantial sample of Hebrew-speaking second-grade children—an age group that has received less attention during the early elementary years. Specifically, we investigate the trajectory of fluency development among children of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds over a year, encompassing both pre-COVID-19 conditions and the subsequent year, within the same district.

1.1 Reading fluency development

Reading fluency is a critical skill characterized by the ability to read with automaticity, speed, accuracy, proper expression, and appropriate phrasing ( National Reading Panel (US), 2000 ). As reading fluency advances, the cognitive load associated with decoding decreases, allowing more cognitive resources to be allocated to comprehending the text’s meaning ( Wolf and Katzir-Cohen, 2001 ; Perfetti, 2007 ; Stevens et al., 2017 ). The progression of oral reading fluency typically takes place between the second and third grades, persistently evolving throughout the elementary years ( Chall, 1983 ). Early elementary oral reading fluency contributes to proficient silent reading, which becomes crucial in later elementary school ( Price et al., 2016 ). Numerous studies across diverse languages underscore the significance of reading fluency, revealing its predictive role in reading comprehension, the ultimate goal of reading ( Klauda and Guthrie, 2008 ; Kim et al., 2010 ; Stevens et al., 2017 ; Nevo et al., 2020 ).

Assessing reading fluency frequently involves measuring the accurate pronunciation of words within a restricted timeframe. For instance, the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE) evaluates the ability to pronounce printed words both accurately and fluently, reflecting the comprehension of the read words ( Torgeson et al., 1999 ; Fuchs et al., 2001 ; Good et al., 2001 ). Proficient automatic sight-word reading is fundamental for fluid and natural text comprehension ( Miller and Schwanenflugel, 2008 ; Kuhn et al., 2010 ). Thus, tests gaging the number of correctly read words within a given duration serve as valuable tools for identifying potential reading difficulties ( Valencia et al., 2010 ). Research underscores that during early grades, reading fluency significantly contributes to comprehension, a principle that is particularly pronounced in second-grade readers ( Fuchs et al., 2001 ; Valencia et al., 2010 ). Reading in context demands the activation of semantics, as readers simultaneously process words while aiming to extract textual meaning ( Katzir et al., 2006 ). Consequently, the amalgamation of syntactic rules and semantic structures is essential for constructing cohesive units of ideas. Insufficient automation at lower processing levels (letters or words) could impede processing at higher levels (sentences or texts; Logan, 1997 ).

This study’s focus is on Hebrew-speaking children, with Hebrew characterized as an Abjad writing system. An Abjad writing system predominantly consists of consonantal representation with sporadic and incomplete vowel representation ( Eviatar and Share, 2013 ). Hebrew is available in two forms: pointed (shallow orthography) and unpointed (deep orthography). Early reading acquisition in first grade revolves around shallow pointed Hebrew, allowing for rapid association between letters and sounds due to comprehensive phonological cues ( Share and Levin, 1999 ; Shany et al., 2012 ). As such, most children become skilled decoders by the end of first grade, heightening the importance of speed and fluency ( Lipka et al., 2016 ). The progression to partially pointed texts, particularly in second and third grades, exposes readers to lexico-morpho-orthographic knowledge utilization ( Shany et al., 2012 ).

In nurturing reading fluency in first and second graders, the recommendation is for students to engage in daily reading aloud and silent practice, utilizing materials tailored to their level of competence ( National Reading Panel (US), 2000 ; The Israeli Ministry of Education, 2014 ). The shift to remote instruction is believed to have potentially hindered teachers’ ability to facilitate ample reading fluency practice opportunities.

1.2 The challenges of remotely teaching literacy to diverse learners

The abrupt shift to remote learning during the pandemic posed significant challenges for educators, particularly in teaching literacy to young children. These learners, who had not yet become independent readers, faced obstacles in navigating technological tools independently ( Sucena et al., 2022 ). As literacy development heavily relies on face-to-face interaction, the transition to remote learning presented hurdles in providing the necessary constant feedback and personalized attention required for learning to read and write ( Relyea et al., 2023 ).

Teachers were thrust into an unfamiliar landscape, requiring them to adapt and innovate in the realm of online instruction with limited prior experience. This shift was especially arduous for educators in the early elementary grades ( Giovannella et al., 2020 ; Kruszewska et al., 2020 ; Letzel et al., 2020 ; Dotan et al., 2021 ). A study in Israel conducted by Dotan et al. (2021) among first- and second-grade teachers revealed their struggles in remote teaching, including challenges in fostering reading fluency and comprehension, addressing the needs of struggling readers, and assessing literacy skills remotely. Beyond curriculum adaptation, teachers also encountered difficulties in teaching diverse learners. Notably, the digital divide was exacerbated by socioeconomic status (SES) disparities, with 75% of low-SES school teachers reporting unequal access to computers among their students, compared to 46% in middle-high SES schools ( Dotan et al., 2021 ).

Despite the hurdles, some positive outcomes were observed due to school closures. The increased involvement of parents in providing home support during remote learning potentially contributed to emotional and academic advancements ( Immerfall, 2020 ). Nonetheless, the prevailing sentiment from research indicates learning loss resulting from school absences ( Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ; Engzell et al., 2021 ; OECD, 2023 ).

In evaluating the pandemic’s impact on learning, the term “unfinished learning” becomes relevant—a concept encompassing missed instruction due to school closures ( Lambert and Sassone, 2020 ; The National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, 2023 ). Notably, this term does not imply a permanent deficit; instead, with proper support, students can attain the necessary mastery.

Additionally, the term “vulnerable children” takes on significance in this context, especially concerning children from low SES backgrounds. Their vulnerability extends to economic hardships, limited access to resources, reduced support, and heightened stress at home ( Drane et al., 2020 ; Masters et al., 2020 ). The literature review reinforces the imperative to attend to these vulnerable learners, particularly those from low SES backgrounds who are at risk of accumulating academic gaps, especially in reading, during the COVID-19 period ( Kaffenberger, 2021 ; Relyea et al., 2023 ).

In conclusion, the challenges of remotely teaching literacy to diverse learners during the pandemic were multifaceted. Teachers navigated the complexities of adapting to online instruction, while students faced barriers in receiving the personalized attention necessary for literacy development. The unequal access to technology further exacerbated disparities, with vulnerable learners from low SES backgrounds at greater risk of falling behind. Despite the potential benefits of home support, learning loss remained a prevalent concern. The educational community’s focus on addressing these challenges is essential for fostering equitable learning outcomes and supporting vulnerable children’s academic growth.

Several studies have attempted to estimate the extent of learning gaps resulting from school closures, drawing insights from previous instances of learning loss during periods like summer vacations or crises. Bao et al. (2020) predicted that kindergarten children in the United States would experience an average loss of 31% in their reading ability gained in 2020. Kuhfeld et al. (2020) expanded on this by demonstrating that third- to seventh-grade students could lose around 35% of their reading gains during the COVID-19 period compared to a typical school year. Furthermore, the impact was more pronounced among students with low socioeconomic status (SES). In their predictions about school achievement variability during the pandemic, they estimated a reading score decrease of 1.2 times lower than typical year scores ( Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ). Hevia et al. (2022) examined 10-15-year-old readers and indicated that the younger readers, as well as those with low SES, showed the greatest learning loss in reading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An interesting recent meta-analysis review ( Betthäuser et al., 2023 ) identified 42 studies from 15 countries on learning progress among primary and secondary school children during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was found that students experienced a loss of approximately 35% of a school year’s learning. On average, the learning advancement of school-aged children was significantly reduced during the pandemic. Furthermore, the review implies that the pandemic has intensified educational disparities among children from diverse SES, which have been found before the pandemic.

This trend receives support from research on regular periods, such as the summer vacation, during which the learning loss of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds is significantly more substantial than that of those from moderate to high socioeconomic backgrounds (e.g., Burkam et al., 2004 ; Downey et al., 2004 ; Kim and White, 2008 ; Allington et al., 2010 ).

A simulation study conducted across seven low- and middle-income countries by Kaffenberger (2021) projected that a school closure lasting one-third of a regular year during third grade could lead to a year-long loss in learning until tenth grade, disproportionately affecting students in lower-income countries.

These trends have been found not only in reading but also in mathematical abilities, Blaskó et al. (2022) sought to assess the potential impact of pandemic-related learning losses in mathematics across 22 European countries, surveying 4,400 4th graders. Their study was based on data from an international achievement survey conducted before the pandemic, namely the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2019. The findings revealed significant disparities among European countries regarding the availability of essential distance-learning resources, parental backgrounds, and school differences. These discrepancies in country standings are likely attributed to both the affluence of and inequalities within the respective countries, which, in turn, can impact the effect of learning loss.

A recent study conducted in the US by Relyea et al. (2023) found that the average reading achievement gain during the 2020–2021 school year was lower compared to the 2018–2019 school year. The observed effect sizes for learning loss were 0.54, 0.27, and 0.28 standard deviations for grades 3, 4, and 5, respectively. Similar gaps in reading skills were detected among second-grade students in South Africa ( Ardington et al., 2021 ). This study compared reading skills of students assessed before (2019) and during the pandemic (2020), revealing a reading gap ranging from 57 to 70% for English-speaking second graders.

A study focused on fifth-grade students in Germany, employing real-time assessments through a reading comprehension task in 2020 after school closures, highlighted a learning loss of 11–17% compared to previous measurements ( Schult et al., 2022 ).

A recent systematic review ( Panagouli et al., 2021 ), synthesizing data from 42 studies primarily conducted in Europe, Asia, and America, investigates the impact of online learning and modified educational methods on school-aged students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The review encompasses students aged 8 to 22 and revealed varied effects: The most prominent trend indicated that students experienced learning loss, especially in math and reading, though some benefited. Younger students and those with neurodevelopmental disorders or special education needs faced greater challenges. Additionally, parents reported similar trends, observing declines in their children’s performance, though some noted benefits from online learning. Teachers mainly reported academic gaps, particularly in mathematics and reading. Despite challenges, younger students showed enthusiasm for interactive learning materials, suggesting their positive effects should be considered.

Furthermore, a meta-analysis of 18 studies ( König and Frey, 2022 ) mainly from the United States and Europe (predominantly Germany and the Netherlands), assessed the impact of COVID-19-related school closures on student achievement. The analysis showed a negative effect, with a weekly learning loss of −0.022. It also tentatively suggested that younger primary school students were more adversely affected compared to older students, possibly due to their lower self-regulated learning capabilities and the vital role of teacher scaffolding in regular instruction. The analysis suggested that remote learning was more effective in later lockdown phases than initially, possibly due to the familiarity gained with established online learning apps.

A study spanning from third to ninth grade in Switzerland investigated the impact of COVID-19-related school closures and the effectiveness of in-person versus distance learning in math and language ( Tomasik et al., 2021 ). It was found that while older students could somewhat offset the effects of school closures, younger students faced significant challenges. Learning progress for younger children not only slowed down, potentially affecting future development, but also became more varied. While a small group of primary school students benefited from closures, others experienced severe declines in performance. These children are at risk of falling behind academically, emphasizing the importance of addressing their needs.

These studies collectively underscore the pervasive impact of COVID-19-induced school closures on students’ reading skills, transcending socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic boundaries. Overall, these findings emphasize that the pandemic’s repercussions on reading development have been particularly detrimental for children from low-SES backgrounds. Consequently, students returned to school with substantial and divergent learning gaps, necessitating targeted efforts from educators to address and mitigate these disparities. Notably, learning losses were more pronounced among students from less educated and low SES households ( Engzell et al., 2021 ; Kaffenberger, 2021 ; Betthäuser et al., 2023 ; Relyea et al., 2023 ).

1.3 Reading and gender

Gender constitutes another significant contextual factor within the realm of children’s reading development. Despite standardized literacy instruction in classrooms, disparities in reading achievement between boys and girls have been consistently observed. Numerous studies have consistently highlighted noteworthy gender differences in reading achievement across the entire spectrum of reading abilities within educational settings ( Chatterji, 2006 ; Mullis et al., 2007 ; Logan and Johnston, 2010 ; Robinson and Lubienski, 2011 ; Reardon et al., 2019 ).

Remarkably, girls consistently outperform boys in reading achievement ( Chatterji, 2006 ; Mullis et al., 2007 ; Logan and Johnston, 2010 ; Robinson and Lubienski, 2011 ; Katzir et al., 2018 ; Reardon et al., 2019 ), and these gender differences do not display a marked declining trend across elementary or secondary schooling ( Reardon et al., 2019 ; Reilly et al., 2019 ). Additionally, substantial gender imbalances exist in poor reading, with boys being disproportionately represented ( Reilly et al., 2019 ). Notably, prior empirical evidence ( Coles and Hall, 2002 ; Mullis et al., 2007 ) consistently indicates that girls report higher reading frequency compared to boys. Gender-linked disparities in reading frequency may indeed influence variations in reading performance.

Support for gender differences can be found in the latest PISA report, in which girls outperformed boys in reading by an average of 24 points across OECD countries, indicating a universal gender gap. Among low performers, boys outnumbered girls, constituting 31% compared to 22% in reading proficiency. Conversely, among top performers, girls slightly outnumbered boys, with 8% versus 6% on average across OECD nations. In Israel, ranked 30th out of 81 countries, girls achieved a mean reading score of 486, surpassing boys by 24 points (462). While girls’ literacy achievements declined compared to previous years, boys showed improvement. Despite this narrowing trend, the gender gap still favors girls in reading proficiency. The gender gap scenario in Israel closely mirrors the OECD average. The Israeli Ministry of Education emphasized, based on the PISA 2022 findings, that the gender gaps in reading proficiency translate to nearly a year of schooling.

While gender effects in remote learning have primarily been explored among older students, limited research has delved into gender-specific effects on young learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some studies suggest that females tend to exhibit greater adaptability to collaborative and technology-based instruction, while others find that males often display a higher comfort level with the technical aspects of remote learning platforms ( Jones et al., 2021 ).

It is vital to underscore that most existing studies have focused on older children rather than those in the early stages of elementary school, where reading acquisition begins. As such, this present study emphasizes reading acquisition among second-grade students, aiming to bridge a gap in the literature pertaining to reading development during COVID-19. This research particularly targets children from diverse backgrounds at this pivotal stage. Furthermore, the study’s focus extends to examining whether gender-related differences manifest differently among boys and girls.

Research Questions:

1. What is the effect of COVID-19 on second-grade children’s reading fluency, and is there an interaction between COVID-19, SES, and gender on reading fluency?

2. What is the effect of COVID-19 on second-grade children’s comprehension fluency, and is there an interaction between COVID-19, SES, and gender on comprehension fluency?

2.1 Participants

The study included primary school students from the Israeli public education system, all Hebrew speaking children with typical IQs, encompassing various socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds in the southern region of Israel. The participants’ age range was between seven and 8 years old, with a relatively equal distribution of boys (49%) and girls (51%). None of the children in the sample exhibited significant neurological difficulties. The division of children into SES groups was based on the Ministry of Education’s scoring system for schools, utilizing neighborhood and parental demographic information including education and income. A total of 20 schools were examined at both time points with 5% of the schools representing high SES, 55% medium SES and 40% of the schools from low SES. A comprehensive overview of sociodemographic characteristics is presented in Table 1 .

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Table 1 . Sociodemographic characteristics of the sample.

2.2 Measures

2.2.1 reading fluency.

Word reading fluency was assessed using the TOWRE test ( Katzir et al., 2012 , based on Torgeson et al., 1999 ). Administered individually, participants were tasked with orally reading 80 single words as swiftly and accurately as possible within a 45-s timeframe. The words were progressively ordered in terms of complexity. Scores were computed based on the number of correct words read in 45 s and the error percentage. The internal consistency reliability (α) of this assessment was 0.95.

2.2.2 Comprehension fluency

A group-administered task was employed to evaluate semantic comprehension fluency ( Yinon and Shaul, 2017 , based on Hutzler and Wimmer, 2004 ). This task consisted of 21 sentences spanning a range of everyday topics. Participants were required to read each sentence and promptly indicate whether it was semantically accurate or erroneous, all within a two-minute timeframe. The scores were calculated based on the number of accurately marked sentences within 2 min and the error percentage. The internal consistency reliability (α) for this task was 0.93.

2.3 Procedure

The necessary approvals were secured from the Ministry of Education and the relevant university’s ethics committee prior to data collection. All assessments were individually administered to participants in a designated quiet room within the school premises. Each assessment session lasted approximately 10 min. During the initial year of the study (October 2019), 1,460 children from 20 schools underwent testing. In the subsequent year (October 2020), 815 children were tested from the same 20 schools. All assessments were conducted individually during school hours in a controlled environment.

3.1 First research question: the effect of COVID-19, SES and gender on reading fluency

To answer the first research question regarding the combined effect of COVID-19, SES, and gender on reading fluency, a univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was run with COVID-19, SES, and gender as independent variables, reading fluency as the dependent variable, and school as a covariate variable. The descriptive statistics of the word reading fluency is presented in Table 2 . The analysis revealed no main effect of COVID-19 or gender, F’s < 1. The main effect of SES was significant, F (2, 1988) = 39.15, p  < 0.001, η 2  = 0.04, indicating that participants in the Low SES schools ( m  = 21.75, SE = 0.45) had lower reading fluency compared to medium SES ( m  = 25.67, SD = 0.35; p  < 0.001) which were lower than the High SES ( m  = 31.64, SE = 1.32; p  < 0.05). There were significant differences between all the different SES in reading fluency ( p  < 0.001).

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Table 2 . Mean and (SD) of word reading fluency in the among the different SES groups and gender in both years of the study.

The interaction between COVID-19 and SES was significant, F(2, 1988) = 3.99, p  < 0.05, η 2  = 0.01. Post-hoc analyses revealed that the negative effect of COVID-19 existed only in low SES schools, F (1, 761) = 6.89, p  < 0.01, η 2  = 0.01. Low SES Participants in year 2 (post-COVID-19) had lower reading fluency ( m  = 20.56, SD = 0.64) than year 1 participants (pre-COVID-19; m  = 22.66, SD = 0.47). There was no effect of COVID-19 on medium SES, F (1, 1,371) = 2.14, p  = 0.14, nor High SES ( F  < 1). See Figure 1 .

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Figure 1 . Word-reading fluency among the different SES levels in both years.

In addition, the interaction between COVID-19 and gender was significant, F (1, 1988) = 3.82, p  = 0.05, η 2  = 0.00. Post-hoc analyses revealed a marginally significant effect of gender on reading fluency in year 1, in year 1, F (1, 1,455) = 3.36, p  = 0.07, η 2  = 0.00, indicating that females’ reading fluency ( m  = 24.04) was slightly lower than that of males’ ( m  = 25.08, SD = 10.48). In year 2, there the performance of females was higher than the males.

The interaction between SES and gender, as well as the triple interaction between COVID-19, SES, and gender, were insignificant (F’s < 1).

Following this ANCOVA analysis, another ANCOVA analysis was run without school as a covariate variable. This analysis yielded similar trends: a significant main effect of SES, F (2, 1989) = 24.54, p  < 0.001, η 2  = 0.02, and interaction of COVID-19 and SES, F(2, 1989) = 3.99, p < 0.01, η 2  = 0.01; a marginally significant interaction between COVID-19 and gender, F (1, 1989) = 3.82, p  = 0.05, η 2  = 0.00; and the insignificant effects were the main effects of gender and COVID-19, and the interactions of SES × COVID-19, and SES × COVID-19 × gender (all F’s < 1).

3.2 Second research question: the effect of COVID-19, SES and gender comprehension fluency

To address the second research question concerning the combined impact of COVID-19, SES, and gender on comprehension fluency, two similar univariate analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) were conducted with COVID-19, SES, and gender as independent variables, comprehension fluency as the dependent variable, and with and without school as a covariate variable. The descriptive statistics of the reading comprehension fluency is presented in Table 3 . The analysis that included school as a covariate variable revealed a significant main effect of SES, F (2, 1958) = 14.46, p  < 0.001, η 2  = 0.02, indicating that participants in low SES schools ( m  = 5.82, SE = 0.17) had lower reading fluency compared to medium SES ( m  = 7.00, SD = 0.13; p  < 0.001) and high SES ( m  = 7.21 SD = 0.51). There were no differences in comprehension fluency between high SES and medium ( p  = 0.66) ( Figure 2 ). This analysis did not indicate main effects of COVID-19, F (1, 1958) = 2.58, p  = 0.11, or gender, F  < 1. An examination of the interactions indicated that all interactions were insignificant: COVID-19 × gender, F(1, 1958) = 1.87, p  = 0.17; and COVID-19 × SES, gender × SES, and COVID-19 × gender × SES, all F’s < 1.

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Table 3 . Mean and (SD) of reading comprehension fluency in the among the different SES groups and gender in both years of the study.

The ANCOVA analysis that was run without school as a covariate variable yielded similar trends: a significant main effect of SES, F (2, 1959) = 13.71, p  < 0.001, η 2  = 0.01. All other effects were insignificant: the main effects of COVID-19 m, F (1,1959) = 2.51, p  = 0.11, and gender F < 1, and the interactions of COVID-19 x gender, F(1,1959) = 2.02, p  = 0.16, SES × COVID-19, SES X gender, and SES × COVID-19 × gender (all F’s < 1).

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Figure 2 . Comprehension fluency among the different SES levels in both years.

4 Discussion

The acquisition of reading skills stands as a crucial milestone in early elementary education, a complex process that requires significant hours of formal teaching and practice ( Stanovich and West, 1989 ). Against this backdrop, this study aimed to scrutinize the impact of Coronavirus-related school closures on the development of reading fluency and comprehension among second-grade students. Additionally, it aimed to assess the differential impact of COVID-19 on reading skills among second-grade students with varying socioeconomic backgrounds and to explore potential gender differences. This research was spurred by the dearth of comprehensive large-scale studies employing validated reading assessment tools across distinct time periods among children of the same age ( Kesner Baruch et al., 2021 ). The examination of students from the same schools across both pre-pandemic and face-to-face learning periods allowed for a robust evaluation of the gaps in reading acquisition during the COVID-19 era among second-grade learners.

This study explored the influence of COVID-19 on reading and comprehension fluency in second-grade children. The assessment utilized measures of reading fluency for single words (TOWRE; Katzir et al., 2012 , based on Torgeson et al., 1999 ) and comprehension fluency at the sentence level (semantics; Yinon and Shaul, 2017 , based on Hutzler and Wimmer, 2004 ) in two distinct time frames among the second-grade cohort. The measurements occurred both before the onset of Coronavirus-related closures and after their resumption of face-to-face learning. Notably, the two groups of students were drawn from the same schools, exposed to the same educators and curriculum, with the sample adjusted for varying SES levels.

Surprisingly, the results demonstrated no significant disparities in reading fluency between second-grade students assessed before the pandemic in 2019 and those evaluated after the closures in 2020. A plausible explanation for the absence of discrepancies in fluency between these periods pertains to the characteristics of Hebrew orthography. The initial phases of reading acquisition in first grade encompass learning shallow pointed Hebrew, which facilitates the rapid assimilation of the correspondence between letters and sounds due to the provision of comprehensive phonological information ( Share and Levin, 1999 ). As a result, most children become proficient decoders by the end of first grade ( Lipka et al., 2016 ). Crucially, the two cohorts of second-grade students in this study had already acquired these foundational decoding skills during their first-grade year, preceding the pandemic’s advent. This suggests that while remote learning took place during their second-grade year, it did not notably impact the overall fluency and comprehension of these second graders as a whole.

When examining the SES effect, which focused on the differential effects of COVID-19 on reading among second-grade students of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, the study unearthed a significant SES impact on both word-reading fluency and comprehension at the sentence level. The findings highlighted that lower SES corresponded to lower reading and comprehension fluency. Moreover, a noteworthy interaction emerged specifically for reading fluency, rather than comprehension fluency, among students from diverse SES backgrounds. This interaction stemmed from a considerable decline in word-reading fluency and comprehension fluency within children from low SES during the pandemic, in contrast to their higher SES counterparts.

This decline is notable given the widely established SES-based disparities in reading fluency and comprehension ( Burkam et al., 2004 ; Christodoulou et al., 2017 ). The pandemic exacerbated these gaps, revealing that children from low SES backgrounds faced substantial challenges during remote learning, potentially due to limited access to digital resources, reduced parental support, and heightened familial stress. The substantial decrease in reading fluency and comprehension abilities among low-SES children underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions to mitigate the amplified disparities brought about by the pandemic.

To conclude, the study contributes to our understanding of the ramifications of COVID-19-induced school closures on reading acquisition. The investigation suggests that the impact on reading skills might be mediated by prior decoding proficiency and underlines the significance of mitigating socioeconomic disparities. The findings underscore the urgency of tailored educational support to bridge the gaps that have emerged during the pandemic, particularly among students from low-SES backgrounds.

The observed widening gap in reading fluency and comprehension between children of low SES and those of medium-high SES during 2020 underscores a significant concern within the educational landscape ( Burkam et al., 2004 ; Christodoulou et al., 2017 ). This finding highlights a pressing need for understanding the factors contributing to this phenomenon in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several plausible explanations for this widening disparity emerge from the current study’s findings.

One conceivable explanation for the increased gap is rooted in the altered learning environment precipitated by school closures due to the pandemic. The significant reduction in the school day’s duration, coupled with the reliance on digital learning platforms for curriculum delivery, has had varying consequences for different student populations ( Hall et al., 2020 ; Kuhfeld et al., 2020 ). Notably, the majority of second-grade children lack the autonomy required for effective engagement with digital tools, necessitating greater parental involvement. However, parents from low SES backgrounds, who might face financial concerns and time constraints, may have struggled to provide the necessary support for their children’s remote learning ( Giovannella et al., 2020 ; Kruszewska et al., 2020 ; Letzel et al., 2020 ). This lack of adequate support could potentially contribute to the observed widening gap.

Furthermore, households with low SES often face challenges related to digital access and availability ( UNESCO, 2020 ). Reports from teachers in low-SES schools corroborate this, revealing that many students lacked access to computers during remote learning ( Dotan et al., 2021 ). This digital divide could have amplified the gap in reading fluency and comprehension skills, as students without access to digital tools were likely further marginalized during remote learning.

The confluence of these factors, coupled with the abrupt transition to remote learning, might have compounded the challenges faced by students from low SES backgrounds. This combined effect likely contributed to the significant decline in reading fluency and comprehension abilities among these students. This explanation finds reinforcement in a study by Domingue et al. (2021) that revealed the impact of SES on oral reading fluency growth during the COVID-19 period, where low SES students experienced a decline compared to the previous year.

Interestingly, during the pandemic, reading comprehension fluency improved among children of medium-high SES. This could be attributed to the comprehensive support these students received at home, allowing them to capitalize on one-on-one learning opportunities with parents or older siblings. This observation emphasizes the advantages of tailored support in affluent households.

In addition, while no significant gender differences were found in general, an unexpected effect of the pandemic was observed on boys. Previous literature has highlighted gendered experiences in education, with girls often encouraged more to read and boys receiving more opportunities for computing ( Eccles et al., 1993 ). The pandemic-induced shift to remote learning could have impacted boys’ confidence and interest in computing-related learning, thereby affecting their academic performance. Conversely, the superior reading proficiency exhibited by girls on average ( Logan and Johnston, 2010 ) and their affinity for reading could have helped them adapt better to self-regulated, computer-based learning.

The findings underscore the significance of addressing the “Matthew effect” ( Stanovich, 1986 ) in the context of the pandemic-induced disparities. The trajectory of reading skill development may exacerbate differences over time, warranting strategic efforts to narrow these gaps. It is crucial to consider the varied impact of remote learning on different student populations and their unique challenges.

This study has several limitations, although there was a large diverse sample from different SES there were no boys in the high SES group and therefore gender differences were examined only in the medium and low SES groups. In addition, all the children were Hebrew speaking children thus the effect of school closure was not examined among bilingual children or children from different minorities, future studies should examine the long-term effect of the COVID and school closure among different types of population, and at various ages to examine the effect at different stages of reading. Furthermore, only one aspect of comprehension was examined which may limit our understanding of the effect of COVID and school closure, this topic should be further examined as well.

In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of targeted interventions to address the widening gaps exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly among students from low SES backgrounds, as well as gender differences. The repercussions of learning loss and increased stress and anxiety during the pandemic cannot be ignored. Educators and policymakers must channel resources and efforts toward supporting these vulnerable populations to ensure equitable academic outcomes. An exploration of the pandemic’s impact on diverse populations will be integral to comprehending its full educational implications.

Data availability statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics statement

The studies involving humans were approved by Ethics Committee University of Haifa Faculty of Education Chief scientist ministry of Education Israel. The studies were conducted in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. Written informed consent for participation in this study was provided by the participants’ legal guardians/next of kin.

Author contributions

SS: Writing – original draft, Methodology, Investigation, Formal analysis, Conceptualization. OL: Writing – review & editing, Methodology, Conceptualization. DT-C: Writing – original draft, Methodology. AB: Writing – review & editing, Data curation. SD: Writing – review & editing, Data curation.

The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This study was founded by the chief scientist of the ministry of education, Israel.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Edmond J. Safra Foundation for their generous support and Tami Katzir for her helpful insights. In addition, great appreciation is conveyed to the students and teachers who participated in the present study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Stevens, E. A., Walker, M. A., and Vaughn, S. (2017). The effects of reading fluency interventions on the reading fluency and reading comprehension performance of elementary students with learning disabilities: a synthesis of the research from 2001 to 2014. J. Learn. Disabil. 50, 576–590. doi: 10.1177/0022219416638028

Sucena, A., Silva, A. F., and Marques, C. (2022). Reading skills intervention during the Covid-19 pandemic. Human. Soc. Sci. Commun. 9, 1–6. doi: 10.1057/s41599-022-01059-x

The Israeli Ministry of Education (2014). Teaching program for the assimilation of Hebrew goals (language education) in grades , Jerusalem, Israel: The Israeli Ministry of Education. 1–2.

The National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education (2023). PISA 2022: Literacy in math, science, and reading among 15-year-old students in Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Education. Available at: https://meyda.education.gov.il/files/Rama/PISA-2022-report.pdf

Tomasik, M. J., Helbling, L. A., and Moser, U. (2021). Educational gains of in-person vs. distance learning in primary and secondary schools: a natural experiment during the COVID-19 pandemic school closures in Switzerland. Int. J. Psychol. 56, 566–576. doi: 10.1002/ijop.12728

Torgeson, J. K., Wagner, R. K., and Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Test of word reading efficiency . Austin, TX: Pro-ed.

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Valencia, S. W., Smith, A. T., Reece, A. M., Li, M., Wixson, K. K., and Newman, H. (2010). Oral reading fluency assessment: issues of construct, criterion, and consequential validity. Read. Res. Q. 45, 270–291. doi: 10.1598/rrq.45.3.1

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Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, reading acquisition, reading fluency, comprehension, socioeconomic status, gender differences

Citation: Shaul S, Lipka O, Tal-Cohen D, Bufman A and Dotan S (2024) The impact of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic on reading fluency among second grade students: socioeconomic and gender perspectives. Front. Psychol . 15:1289145. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1289145

Received: 05 September 2023; Accepted: 20 June 2024; Published: 05 July 2024.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2024 Shaul, Lipka, Tal-Cohen, Bufman and Dotan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Shelley Shaul, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Open Access

Peer-reviewed

Research Article

An observational study of engineering online education during the COVID-19 pandemic

Roles Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliations Department of Biomedical Engineering, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America, Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America

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Roles Conceptualization, Investigation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America

Roles Conceptualization, Investigation, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Management, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America

Affiliation Department of Chemical Engineering, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America

Roles Conceptualization, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

Affiliations Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Management, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America, College of Engineering, California State University, Long Beach, California, United States of America

  • Shadnaz Asgari, 
  • Jelena Trajkovic, 
  • Mehran Rahmani, 
  • Wenlu Zhang, 
  • Roger C. Lo, 
  • Antonella Sciortino

PLOS

  • Published: April 15, 2021
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041
  • Reader Comments

Fig 1

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled the global and abrupt conversion of conventional face-to-face instruction to the online format in many educational institutions. Urgent and careful planning is needed to mitigate negative effects of pandemic on engineering education that has been traditionally content-centered, hands-on and design-oriented. To enhance engineering online education during the pandemic, we conducted an observational study at California State University, Long Beach (one of the largest and most diverse four-year university in the U.S.). A total of 110 faculty members and 627 students from six engineering departments participated in surveys and answered quantitative and qualitative questions to highlight the challenges they experienced during the online instruction in Spring 2020. Our results identified various issues that negatively influenced the online engineering education including logistical/technical problems, learning/teaching challenges, privacy and security concerns and lack of sufficient hands-on training. For example, more than half of the students indicated lack of engagement in class, difficulty in maintaining their focus and Zoom fatigue after attending multiple online sessions. A correlation analysis showed that while semi-online asynchronous exams were associated with an increase in the perceived cheating by the instructors, a fully online or open-book/open-note exams had an association with a decrease in instructor’s perception of cheating. To address various identified challenges, we recommended strategies for educational stakeholders (students, faculty and administration) to fill the tools and technology gap and improve online engineering education. These recommendations are practical approaches for many similar institutions around the world and would help improve the learning outcomes of online educations in various engineering subfields. As the pandemic continues, sharing the results of this study with other educators can help with more effective planning and choice of best practices to enhance the efficacy of online engineering education during COVID-19 and post-pandemic.

Citation: Asgari S, Trajkovic J, Rahmani M, Zhang W, Lo RC, Sciortino A (2021) An observational study of engineering online education during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0250041. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041

Editor: Mohammed Saqr, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SWEDEN

Received: November 22, 2020; Accepted: March 30, 2021; Published: April 15, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Asgari et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: This research is partially supported by CSULB Champions program through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

1. Introduction

Engineering education has been traditionally content-centered, hands-on, design-oriented, and focused on the development of critical thinking or problem-solving skills [ 1 ]. Various pedagogical methodologies have shown efficacy in enhancement of engineering education including active learning [ 2 ], flipped classroom [ 3 ] and project-based learning [ 4 – 6 ]. Over the last decade, online education has become a viable component of higher education in engineering subfields such as electrical and computer engineering, computer science and information technology especially at the master’s or post-graduate level [ 7 ].

Although the online education has not been a new concept to educators in general, the COVID-19 pandemic introduced an unprecedented and global need to explore online teaching/learning opportunities within the entire spectrum of educational levels and majors. According to the UNESCO, since the onset of pandemic, more than 1.5 billion students worldwide (90.1% of total enrolled learners) have been affected by the COVID-19 closures and subsequent educational changes [ 8 ]. The sudden closure of most educational institutions around the world compelled the conversion of the face-to-face instruction into a fully online (or blended/hybrid) format in a short transitional time. As a result, academic institutions that were mainly focused on traditional face-to-face instructions encountered various challenges in this transition [ 9 ].

Urgent, careful and evidence-based planning is needed to mitigate the impact of pandemic on engineering education especially for vulnerable, disadvantaged and underrepresented students facing substantial challenges beyond their academic responsibilities, including family obligations, financial burden and additional employments [ 10 – 12 ]. Additional efforts need to be taken to guarantee that the online instruction of engineering courses still meets the rigorous requirements of the program accreditations such as Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Despite the existing literature on online engineering education, to the best of our knowledge, there has been no thorough (quantitative and qualitive) analysis of challenges and factors affecting the pandemic online engineering education in the universities that were mainly offering face-to-face classes pre-pandemic. This work is aimed for addressing this gap by considering the following two questions:

  • What are the main challenges influencing online engineering education during COVID-19 pandemic for institutions that were mainly focused on traditional face-to-face instruction pre-COVID?
  • What are the empirical insight and recommendations to address these challenges?

Sloan’s online learning consortium has defined the five pillars of high-quality online education as: learning effectiveness, student satisfaction, faculty satisfaction, access, scale, and cost [ 1 ]. Given these factors, we designed and conducted surveys among engineering faculty members and students at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) to systematically investigate the challenges encountered during the abrupt transition from face-to-face to the online mode of instruction in Spring 2020. This paper presents the results of the conducted surveys and propose solutions for the improvement of online engineering education. Sharing the results of this observational study with other educators can facilitate a more robust continuity of engineering education during ongoing pandemic. It can also aid with overall improvement and consequently further promotion of online engineering education in the post-pandemic era especially for universities that were previously focused on traditional face-to-face instruction. CSULB is one of the most diverse universities in the U.S. in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, financial and cultural characteristics (e.g. with a large percentage of first-generation or low-income students). Thus, the results of this study can especially help the institutions with similar demographics to enhance their online engineering education during and post-pandemic.

1.1. Related work

The existing literature has identified several challenges that need to be considered for the effective design and offering of online courses:

  • Converting a course from conventional face-to-face to the online format is time consuming and requires the instructor’s familiarity with (or willingness to learn about) online learning pedagogy and instructional tools, including the learning management system (LMS) [ 13 ].
  • Some students prefer to learn difficult concepts face-to-face [ 14 ] and believe that face-to-face instructions provide deeper level of learning compared to the online [ 15 ].
  • Designing a fair, equitable, and rigorous assessment to minimize cheating and plagiarism is difficult in online environment [ 16 ].
  • A successful education requires creating and maintaining a reliable and robust infrastructure that supports both faculty and students [ 7 , 17 – 19 ].
  • Hands-on training to work with equipment, instruments, and materials in a controlled laboratory setting is an inherent and necessary aspect of a successful engineering education [ 1 , 10 ]. Addressing this essential aspect within a fully online teaching platform is challenging particularly at the undergraduate level.

Recently, several studies have tried to identify the major factors and best practices that contribute to the acceptance, assimilation and success of online education including course design, course content support, instructor’s personal characteristics and students’ familiarity with and access to technical resources [ 20 – 22 ]. Due to sudden conversion to online instructions, caused be COVID-19, faculty and students at academic institutions, mainly focused on traditional face-to-face instruction, encountered various challenges. As the pandemic continues, a small body of literature on educational impact of COVID-19 is starting to emerge. A group of investigators conducted a U.S. nationwide survey study among faculty and students of STEM fields in June 2020. Their results highlighted the gender disparities in online learning during pandemic: female faculty and students reported more challenges in technological issues and adapting to remote learning compared with their male peers [ 12 ].They also found out that 35.5% of doctoral students, 18.0% of master’s students and 7.6% of undergraduate students would have a delayed graduation due to pandemic [ 11 ]. Hispanic and Black undergraduates were two times and 1.7 times more likely, respectively, to delay graduation relative to Whites.

Dhawan presented a comprehensive literature review on the existing pedagogical approaches for the online instruction while identifying the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of adopting each approach for the online education during the COVID-19 pandemic [ 9 ].

Vielma and Brey conducted a qualitative surveying from 170 students who took asynchronous classes within two engineering departments (biomedical engineering and chemical engineering) at a U.S. Hispanic-serving institution [ 10 ]. The goal was to assess the effectiveness of their online education during pandemic. Their results indicated the students’ need in having synchronous instructional content (in addition to asynchronous content) to enhance the social component of learning.

Almaiah et al. conducted a semi-structured interview (using a list of general topics as interview guideline instead of a structured list of questions) with 30 students and 31 experts in the field of information technology from six universities in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Their goal was to identify the challenges that impede the successful employment of online education during pandemic in developing countries and provide educational stakeholders with useful guidelines to enhance education efficacy.

Our work conducts a thorough ( quantitative and qualitive ) analysis of challenges and factors affecting the online education of engineering courses by conducting surveys among students and faculty members from various engineering subfields at one of the largest and most diverse four-year U.S universities (CSULB). Thus, the presented work has several unique aspects that distinguish it from the few existing studies focused on online education during pandemic, such as the use of both quantitative and qualitative survey questions, and participation of large number of engineering students and faculty from various subfields and diverse backgrounds. Our observational study provides empirical evidence for various solutions we propose to enhance online engineering education during and post-pandemic, especially for those universities with limited resources, or with a large population of minority, first-generation and low-income students.

2. Materials and methods

2.1. engineering education at csulb.

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is one of the largest and most diverse four-year universities in the U.S. Approximately 52% of CSULB student body are NSF-defined underrepresented minority including 59.2% female, 46.9% Hispanic, 4.5% African American and 1% Native American [ 23 ]. As a result, CSULB is recognized as a minority serving institution: namely Hispanic, Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. Also, more than half of our students are low-income or first-generation college students. CSULB College of Engineering (COE) currently has more than 250 faculty and 5000 students (undergraduate and graduate). COE offers a total of 11 programs that are hosted by six departments: Biomedical Engineering (BME), Chemical Engineering (CHE), Civil Engineering & Construction Engineering Management (CECEM), Computer Engineering & Computer Science (CECS), Electrical Engineering (EE), and Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE). The majority of the courses in COE were offered face-to-face prior to pandemic. Since 2010, CSULB has been using an LMS called BeachBoard (BB) – a customized version of "Brightspace" platform developed and supported by "Desire 2 Learn" company. BB provides various features to facilitate the course instruction, including a robust platform for communication between the instructor and students, sharing course materials and recorded lectures with students, discussion forums, design and management of assessments, assignments and grades. Prior to pandemic, while some CSULB faculty members had been employing (at least some of) BB features (e.g. gradebook) for their instruction on a regular basis, many others had opted out as its usage has not been mandatory.

The unprecedented circumstances of global COVID-19 pandemic forced the swift conversion of the mode of instruction from face-to-face to fully online for all CSULB engineering programs (including 349 courses for a total of 1004 sections) within a transitional period of 10 days in March 2020. Hence, the teaching materials and assessment methods had to be developed “on the fly”. CSULB advised instructors to mainly focus on learning/using BB (and Zoom videoconferencing) to convert their instructions to the online format. This recommendation seemed reasonable given the availability and practicality of BB features. However, both our students and faculty encountered various challenges during the online instruction in Spring 2020. By the end of the semester in May 2020, CSULB announced that Fall 2020 semester was also going to be in the alternative mode of instructions. Thus, 313 engineering courses were scheduled to be offered in synchronous fully online format. 18 additional classes were exempted and offered in hybrid/blended format. These were the classes where the face-to-face component is considered essential to meet the course learning outcomes and therefore could not be conducted fully online, (e.g. laboratories and senior design capstone projects).

2.2. Surveys

Our goal was to identify and study the magnitude of various issues that our faculty and students encountered during the six weeks of online instruction in Spring 2020 (March 23-May 8) and plan for an enhanced online instruction in Fall 2020. The faculty and student surveys were designed holistically considering the overall verbal feedback received from stakeholders during the Spring 2020 online instruction. The faculty survey consisted of 10 multiple-choice and 2 free-response questions, while student survey included 8 multiple-choice questions with fill-in or additional comment options for each question.

The faculty survey questions covered a variety of online teaching issues including, but not limited to, the lack of access to necessary hardware (e.g. computer/tablet, stylus, scanner/printer, microphone/headset, camera), software and reliable internet connection. Some questions focused on various learning assessment methods that instructors used in Spring 2020 (or the ones they were planning to use in Fall 2020) including open-book or closed-book exams, synchronous or asynchronous exams, fully-online exam (using randomized questions on BB) or semi-online exams (where students solve the assigned problems on a paper, then scan and upload their solutions on BB). Some questions focused on proctoring exams and the instructors’ perceived prevalence of cheating/plagiarism. Faculty were also asked to indicate the topics that they were interested to enhance their skills on, e.g., basic or advanced BB features, Zoom features, automatic grading, etc. The two open-ended questions provided instructors additional opportunities to comment about their online teaching experience and make any suggestion or request to COE that could help with improvement of online instruction in Fall 2020.

The student survey was designed to identify the challenges students confronted during online instruction in Spring 2020, including lack of access to hardware, software, reliable internet connection, quiet/private space to study, potential issues of balancing study with work and family duties, and stress management. The students were also asked about the difficulties they had during the synchronous classes on Zoom (e.g., lack of focus or engagement, instructor’s lack of familiarity with technology) or during the online exams (e.g., time management, issues with methods of proctoring using camera). Copies of faculty and student surveys are enclosed in the S1 Appendix for the readers’ further reference.

The faculty survey was conducted using Qualtrics over a three-week period (June 20-July 10). Similarly, the student survey was designed and conducted in Qualtrics afterwards (July 27-August 12). This later timeframe was decided based on the assumption that more students (including the incoming students) might be available to participate in the survey closer to the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester (August 21). Participation in both surveys were anonymous.

A total of 110 instructors took the survey where 43% of them were full-time including tenured/tenure track faculties and the rest were part-time lecturers. Also, 627 students participated in the survey: First-year students (4%), Sophomore (14%), Junior (30%), Seniors (35%) and graduate students (17%). Fig 1 shows the distribution of survey participants among various departments within the COE (question #1 on both surveys). We observe that all departments have relatively similar representations in terms of percentage of faculty and student participants in respective surveys (9% BME, 5–10% CHE, 15–23% CECEM, 19–22% CECS, 18–22% EE, and 21–26% MAE).

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Distribution of the survey participants among various departments within the college of Engineering: (A) Faculty participants; (B) Student participants.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.g001

These percentages are consistent with the size of our departments in terms of total number of faculty and students. Therefore, our survey sample population could be a good representative of the general COE populations in terms of existing majors.

3.1. Logistical challenges for both students and faculty

Fig 2 shows the percentages of survey respondents who indicated various logistical challenges they had during the online instruction period of Spring 2020 (question #3 on the faculty survey and question #3 on the student survey). Close to 15% of the faculty had issues with software license or no access to personal computer/tablet. About 20% of the faculty did not have access to microphone/headset or printer/scanner. 23% of faculty had no reliable internet connection, while 32% had no access to webcam or camera for the online instruction. Finally, 47% of the faculty indicated that they had no access to or had technical difficulties with online writing tools. Among the student respondents, 1% had no access to any computer/tablet, while close to 5% had only access to a shared computer at home. 3% had no internet connection, while 26% had issues with reliability of their internet. 28% indicated having issues with software access, while 26% had no printer/scanner at home.

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The horizontal access represents the percentage of survey participants who indicated the corresponding challenge. (A) Faculty respondents; (B) Student respondents.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.g002

3.2. Students challenges with online instruction

Fig 3 summarizes the prevalence of challenges students had with online instruction during Spring 2020 (questions # 3–6 on the student survey). About 70% of students indicated difficulty in maintaining their focus or experiencing Zoom fatigue after attending multiple online sessions. 55% of students felt social disconnection from their classmates/peers, while 64% did not feel engaged during the online classes. 60% of the students felt there was a lack of clear guidance or communication from the instructors. Also, a quarter of students had issues with online submission of assignments and exams, mainly due to the lack of access to printer/scanner as we learned from students’ optional comments. About 40% of students had technical difficulty and ineptness issues with using or navigating through Zoom or BB. 48% of the students experienced time management issues during the online exams. In optional comments, some students expressed their frustration with not being able to go back to previous questions (a BB feature for the instructors to limit cheating). 23% of the students indicated that the unavailability of the instructor during the online exam (in contrast to in-person exam) caused challenges.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.g003

48% of the students specified that they either do not have camera or feel uncomfortable turning the camera/microphone on during the class or online exams (question #7 on the student survey). Optional comments revealed that many participants have privacy concerns with usage of camera/microphone or being recorded, especially if they were living in a crowded home or shared space. Furthermore, some students experienced an increased level of anxiety being watched on camera that hindered their focus and lowered their performance during the online exams. 28% of the students indicated that they had difficulty with balancing work and study. From the optional comments, we understood that the latter issue has been escalated for many during pandemic. Some parents had lost their jobs and consequently the whole family was relying on the part-time jobs of the younger adults (students) to survive financially.

Our survey also indicated that more than 50% of our students did not have access to a private or quiet space to attend the online classes or to study. 55% of students also lacked motivation to study (question #3 on the student survey). The optional comments shed further light onto the lack of motivation: the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and loss of peer interaction/support were identified as the major contributing factors. Finally, 24% of the students rated their overall experience of online instruction (question #8 on the student survey) as satisfying, 37% found it dissatisfying, while the rest (39%) were neutral.

3.3. Assessment methods used during emergency online instruction

Table 1 shows the prevalence of various methods that the faculty used to assess students’ learning during the online instruction of Spring 2020. Semi-online refers to an exam where students solve the assigned problems on a paper, then scan and upload their solutions. Asynchronous exam refers to a take-home exam while a synchronous exam is the one conducted during the scheduled class or exam time. The survey allowed respondents to choose more than one assessment method per question (because faculty might have taught multiple classes, held more than one exam during the semester or applied multiple assessment methods in the same class), thus the sum of the percentages would not equal to 100.

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The respondents could choose more than one option for each question depending on the number of exams administered during the semester.

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We observe that the fully online exams such as the BB quizzes were used by 63% of the faculty. BB quizzes provides the faculty with the convenient option of randomizing the order and/or the parameter values of the questions. The instructor can also limit the view to one question per page for students and prevent them from going back to previous questions. The effectiveness of these options in limiting cheating/ plagiarism, and consequently the reduced need for further proctoring, might have contributed to the high popularity of this assessment method among the faculty.

The remaining assessment methods in the decreasing order of their prevalence were project/term paper (50%), semi-online synchronous exam (40%), oral presentation/exam (33%), and semi-online asynchronous exam (28%). Our survey also revealed that 70% of the faculty used the open-book/open-note exam while 33% tried closed-book/closed note exams. The preference of open-book/open-note exam among faculty could be also justified by the decreased need for proctoring tools. In fact, our data (faculty survey question #7) revealed that among those faculty who employed open-book/open-note exam, only 27% used Zoom camera and microphone for proctoring of the exam. 21% used lockdown browsers (e.g. respondus), while 61% did not have any proctoring. However, when the exams were closed-book/closed-note, 56% of the faculty decided to proctor the exam using Zoom camera and microphone, 18% chose to use the lockdown browsers and 35% did not proctor. We also evaluated the association of instructors’ perception of cheating/plagiarism with various assessment methods by calculating the Pearson correlation of faculty’s assessment methods with their trichotomized perception of online cheating (less cheating, the same, more cheating) relative to that of face-to-face (faculty survey question #9). The results revealed no statistically significant correlation between perception of cheating and assessment methods except for the following: Semi-online asynchronous exam (correlation = 0.23, p-value = 0.01) and Closed-note/Closed-book (correlation = 0.21, p-value = 0.03). This data analysis shows that semi-online asynchronous and closed-book exams were associated with an increase in the perceived cheating,

3.4. Perceived faculty skills that needed enhancement

Faculty indicated various topics that they were interested to enhance their skills in, as summarized in Table 2 .

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Respondents could choose as many topics as they were interested to learn.

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About 60% of the faculty needed to learn about the advanced features of BB (e.g. how to create online surveys or make quizzes with randomized questions or personalized parameter values). Also, more than half of the faculty were interested in learning about semi-automatic grading tools (e.g. Gradescope). Close to 40% of the faculty needed to learn how to create a syllabus for an online class or become more competent with using Zoom features. A similar percentage of participants indicated interest in enhancing their multimedia skills (e.g. working with Kaltura Capture, Camtasia or Snagit). Finally, 26% of the faculty needed more training to become familiar with basic features of BB. In the optional comments (faculty survey questions #11–12), some faculty members expressed their concerns about the delivery of the hands-on components of their courses and requested some general guideline on how to address this issue for an online instruction.

4. Discussion

In this section, we will discuss the challenges we identified and propose relevant interventions to improve the online delivery of engineering courses during pandemic.

4.1. Student challenges

Our results revealed that a quarter of our students did not have access to reliable internet connection, triggering a concern about widening of the digital equity gap among students due to COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 and the abrupt transition to online teaching, access to reliable internet connection and personal computer/tablet have become major factors affecting the learning outcomes for students. To address this issue, institution can provide WiFi access on campus’s open areas and well-ventilated buildings while monitoring for social distancing and sanitizing the surfaces frequently. For those who require computing devices, a loaner program can be implemented where students can borrow laptops for a certain period of time to access the course materials and complete the course requirements. The institution can also provide a virtual desktop environment for students to access all necessary software. Using free scanning applications on smartphones or tablets can address the lack of access to scanners.

Our survey also indicated that about 30% of engineering students had work-life balance issues, while 55% of students lacked motivation, and 50% did not have access to a private space to attend classes. These results are consistent with those reported in a recent study conducted at Biomedical and Chemical Engineering departments of a Hispanic-serving institution [ 10 ]. While the percentage of our students who had issues with lack of motivation or private space seemed to be higher, both studies highlight the necessity of providing more socio-emotional support for students during the difficult times of pandemic.

Students identified various challenges they experienced in online synchronous instruction of courses through Zoom including lack of peer-support/interaction, focus, engagement, and clear guideline from instructors. They also indicated difficulties with time management and Zoom fatigue. Peer-support/interaction has shown to improve the success rate of students especially those from underrepresented groups [ 24 ]. Lack of peer-support during the online instruction in the COVID-19 era negatively affects the motivation of the students. However, the remaining raised issues could be addressed in part by employing appropriate teaching techniques by faculty as follows: breaking down a long lecture into shorter segments with more frequent breaks, encouraging group discussion among students, making themselves available during the exams, providing students with a clear roadmap for the online course, making the recordings of the live lectures available after the lecture is over. The latest would help struggling students to learn at their own pace [ 10 ]. To assist with the time management issue during the exams, faculty can design practice exams to allow students to familiarize themselves with the questions’ setup and adapt with the exam’s style before the actual exam.

Pandemic has caused educational loss, delayed graduations, cancelled internships and lost job offers. The new generation of students who have been away from face-to-face instructions may lack certain learning experiences. For example, there might be a generation of engineering students who performed the majority of their lab activities virtually and thus, lacks true hands-on skills. While the pandemic educational gap will affect everyone, it is likely to impact under-privileged students (e.g. first generation, low income or care givers) more profoundly [ 25 ]. As a result, the socioeconomic factors would constitute key mediators in explaining the potentially large and heterogeneous educational gap. This gap may have long-lasting implications for income inequality and health disparities [ 26 ].

To reduce the educational gap, universities could adopt the practice of developing and implementing diagnostic tools to learn where and how large the deficiencies are. Based on the acquired knowledge, they could offer short remediation programs with long-term reorientation of curriculum to align with student’s learning levels [ 27 ]. For example, a summer session that deals with hands-on aspects of lab safety or experimentations could be implemented. In some cases, close coordination between the instructors who teach the courses in a sequence may be required, so they can develop extracurricular materials or propose activities that would help students bridge a gap in a specific topic. As the pandemic progresses, the flexibility of university policies could also help with narrowing down the educational gap especially for those students with lower socioeconomical status. Allowing students to adjust their course load, timing of assignments and tuition payment schedule would enable them to make reactive decisions to mitigate the educational loss [ 25 ]. A need for further research on this top is undeniable.

4.2. Faculty challenges

Establishment of institutional quality standards related to online education is of paramount importance in online education. Effective communication is the key factor in bridging the divide and reconciling administrator and faculty for an enhanced online education [ 28 ]. A considerable number of our faculty reported lack of access to hardware, software and necessary tools for online instruction. Especially, in the absence of traditional in-class whiteboard, many faculty members indicated lacking an online writing tool. This issue can be addressed by institution’s budget allocation to acquire necessary hardware and tools (e.g. personal computer/tablet with web camera, digital pen for touch screen devices, digital clipboard, document camera).

Development of online learning assessment methods as rigorous as in conventional face-to-face setting to prevent cheating/plagiarism is not straightforward [ 16 , 29 ]. While one cannot propose a single assessment method that would work ideally for all engineering courses and classroom sizes, it would still be interesting to study how various online exams and assessment methods (e.g. online quiz tools within the LMS, open-book or take-home examinations, student presentations, peer-reviewed activities, cooperative quizzes [ 30 ], oral assessments [ 31 ], course summary papers or online portfolios) stack up against each other. Since the onset of pandemic, a limited number of studies (mainly within the fields outside the engineering) have been conducted to evaluate the successes and challenges of the online assessments. The study in [ 32 ] revealed that although the majority of undergraduate Management students required more time and effort to prepare for the online exams (compared to the traditional exams), they regarded the clarity and prompt grading and feedback features of the online exams substantially advantageous. Another recent study revealed that cheating remains one of the major concerns for the online examinations and needs to be addressed using available techniques including online proctoring and randomizations of the exam questions [ 33 ]. Few other studies showed that the online examinations increased the level of stress and anxiety among medical students [ 34 , 35 ]. The added stress was in part caused by the lack of a robust examination platform (i.e., reliable LMS) as well as not providing students with sample online practice exams. Finally, a survey conducted among civil engineering students showed that high-achieving students performed significantly better than low-achieving students in online examinations and there was a significant increase in the students’ dropout rate in the 2020–2021 academic year relative to the previous ones [ 36 ].

Our student survey results indicated that the use of camera/microphone to proctor the online exams can raise equity concerns (for those who do not have access to camera and cannot afford it) and privacy concern (for monitoring students’ private space). To address these valid concerns, faculty are advised to choose alternative methods for reducing cheating during online exams. Randomizing the exam questions by shuffling both the problem statements and the multiple choices, and randomly selecting a subset of questions from a question library with individualized/randomized input variables are viable practical solutions. Fortunately, most LMS provide these options. However, although 99% of postsecondary US institutions have an LMS in use, only approximately half of faculty at those institutions have been using it on a regular basis [ 37 ]. As a result, many faculty members were not familiar with the basic or advances features of the LMS or other tools for effective online instruction. Our survey result confirmed this observation. In fact, our faculty identified a broad range of topics related to BB or other online teaching tools that they felt the need to enhance their skills in. Institutions could address this issue by organizing training workshops, webinars, short-courses, and discussion panels for the faculty to enhance their online teaching skills. At CSULB, stipends were offered in summer 2020 to further incentivize faculty participation in these professional development programs.

Hands-on training is an integral component of engineering education. Following the abrupt conversion of classes to the online format in Spring 2020, many instructors adopted simulations or processing of already acquired data for engineering students to complete their course projects. Our survey indicated the faculty’s need to learn about additional effective ways for providing hands-on training/experience. Depending on the content of the course, employment of “home lab kits” and recording of the lab experiments could partially help. However, design, preparation, distribution/collection of the lab kits or recording of the experiments can be extremely time consuming for faculty especially given all the access restrictions to on-campus labs and additional safety precautions imposed by COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual labs might be a more effective solution. Additionally, remotely accessible labs where the experiment setup is on campus and students use tools for remote control and managing of the setup can be employed, whenever possible [ 10 ].

4.3. Summary of proposed interventions

From the analysis of the survey results we propose several intervention strategies that can be employed by stakeholders at different levels to improve the online instruction of engineering courses. The proposed strategies (the targeted issues and the survey questions that identified them) are summarized as follows:

  • Budget allocation to provide basic equipment for the online instruction to both faculty and students in need. Examples of such equipment include personal computer/tablet preferably with webcam/camera, online writing tool, reliable internet connection (to address the logistical challenges indicated by students and faculty in response to question # 3 of both surveys)
  • Creating a virtual desktop environment and allowing faculty and students to access necessary software (addressing technical access challenges of online instruction indicated in response to questions # 3, #7 and # 11 from the faculty survey, and question #5 from the student survey)
  • Organizing training workshops for faculty/students to further familiarize with online teaching/learning technology and tools (addressing technical skills that were indicated in response to question #10 of the faculty survey and question #5 of the student survey)
  • Providing a syllabus template for online courses including all the important information needed for ABET accreditation (addressing lack of clear communication or instruction indicated in response to question #10 of the faculty survey and question #5 of the student survey)
  • Development and organization of systematic repository of resources pertinent to engineering online instruction (to enhance the faculty’s online teaching skills as the need was indicated in response to questions #10–12 of the faculty survey)
  • Leveraging on the institution’s LMS to manage the course, grades, forum discussions and exams (to enhance the faculty’s online teaching skills as the need was indicated in response to questions #10–12 of the faculty survey)
  • Breaking down a long lecture into shorter segments with more frequent breaks (addressing Zoom fatigue indicated in response to question #4 of the student survey)
  • Encouraging group discussion or problem-solving activities among students such as Zoom breakout rooms (addressing the lack of social interactions with peers as indicated in response to question # 4 of the student survey).
  • Being available during the exams (e.g. on Zoom) to answer students’ questions (addressing the lack of access to the instructors during exams as indicated in response to question # 4 of the student survey).
  • Providing students with a clear roadmap and instruction for the online course (addressing lack of clear communication or instruction indicated in response to question #5 of the student survey)
  • Making the recordings of the live lectures available after the lecture (addressing online instruction challenges and lack of access to reliable internet indicated in response to question #4 and question #3 of the student surveys, respectively)
  • Administering practice exams for students (addressing issues with the online exams indicated in response to question #6 of the student survey)
  • Using open-book/open-note and synchronous assessment methods that support academic integrity. Examples include randomized questions/ restricted time/ question pools on LMS. (addressing the challenges with online assessment methods indicated in response to questions # 4, #7–9 of the faculty survey)
  • Avoiding using camera/microphone to proctor exams (addressing privacy issues with the indicated in response to question #7 of the student survey)
  • Employment of “home lab kits”, recording of the hands-on experiments and virtual labs to partially address the hands-on training aspect of the course (enhancing online instruction as indicated in response to questions # 11–12 of the faculty survey)
  • Using free scanning applications on their smartphones (addressing lack of access to scanner as indicated in response to questions # 6 of the student survey).

Most of the proposed solutions were implemented at the CSULB college of Engineering in preparation for Fall 2020 semester. Our future work will include evaluation of the efficacy of the implemented interventions by conducting a post-intervention survey at the end of Spring 2021 semester.

This work contributes to the developing body of knowledge about the effect of pandemic on engineering education by investigating the challenges and obstacles faced by a large group of engineering students and faculty at CSULB which exemplifies an institution that previously taught face-to-face engineering classes (predominantly), with a large minority population and socio-economic gap. The recommended strategies for various educational stakeholders (including students, faculty and administration) aims to fill the tools and technology gap, enhance faculty skills in teaching online courses by taking full advantage of online learning management tools, and finally, propose effective assessment methods for online courses while considering the potential equity and privacy issues. These recommendations are practical approaches for many similar institutions around the world and would help improve the learning outcomes of online educations in all fields of engineering.

4.4. Potential limitations of the study

Some limitations should be addressed in this study. We investigated the challenges of engineering online education during Spring 2020 – when the pandemic started, and a global emergency occurred. Thus, the reported experiences and perceptions might have been affected by confounding factors related to the onset of pandemic. As the pandemic continues and various academic stakeholders explore and learn about new strategies to better adjust to the new normal , subsequent studies conducted in the near future might provide a more accurate picture of the online engineering education.

We advertised the surveys to all faculty and students of the CSULB college of Engineering by sending announcement emails to their university email accounts in summer 2020. While the faculty survey’s response rate was 44%, the student survey’s response rate was 12%. The low response rate of the students might have introduced some participation bias to the results.

Our main goal of conducting the surveys was to identify the urgent needs and challenges of the general body of our students and faculty without focusing on any specific underrepresented groups. Our assumption was that the demographics of survey participants are likely proportional to those of the college of Engineering. Further studies with inclusion of race, gender and socioeconomics demographics are needed to investigate the magnitude of educational challenges that underrepresented groups experienced during the pandemic in comparison with other groups. Consideration of some institutional data (e.g. grades, faculty/ student perception of learning, financial aid requests) from both pre- and during pandemic would enhance the study, as well.

The current work did not evaluate the degree of effectiveness and sustainability of each conducted intervention. It also did not compare the efficacy of various alternative assessment methods for engineering online education. A follow-up study is needed to address these limitations.

5. Conclusion

We conducted an observational study to identify challenges encountered due to abrupt transition to online instruction of engineering courses during COVID-19 pandemic by surveying (quantitively and qualitatively) students and faculty at our minority-serving institution. Various logistical, technical and learning/teaching issues were identified, and several interventions were proposed to address them. The results of this study add to the developing body of knowledge about the effect of pandemic on engineering education. This study also provides empirical evidence for the proposed strategies to enhance (and consequently further promote) the online engineering education during and post-pandemic. Our future work will include a thorough study on evaluating the efficacy and sustainability of each proposed intervention.

Supporting information

S1 appendix. questionnaire for both student and faculty surveys..

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.s001

S1 Data. Students survey data in response to multiple choice questions.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.s002

S2 Data. Faculty survey data in response to multiple choice questions.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250041.s003

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Dr. Daniel Whisler, Dr. Shabnam Sodagari and Ms. Asieh Jalali-Farahani for their help with designing the surveys.

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Coronavirus affects the education system in the world. Schools, colleges, and universities are closed to control the spread of the coronavirus. School closure brings difficulties for students, teachers, and parents. So, distance learning is a solution to continue the education system. However, the lack of network infrastructures, computers, and internet access is challenging distance learning in developing countries. This paper aims to review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education system in developing countries. Hence, countries design a strategy to use educational technology, zero-fee internet educational resources, free online learning resources, and broadcasts teaching. During closures, educational institutions design curriculum, prepare teaching-learning strategies for post-coronavirus. The educational institutions design strategies to recover lost learning, and return students to school when schools reopen. Coronavirus has been impacting the face-to-face education system of developing countries. Therefore, developing countries should enhance broadcast teaching, online teaching, and virtual class infrastructures.

Coronavirus , Developing Country , Distance Learning , Education System , Impacts of COVID-19

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1. Introduction

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is a pandemic disease that affects the education system of different income level countries (Wajdi et al., 2020) . The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been recognized that the coronavirus pandemic outbreak has impacted the education system in the world (UNESCO, 2020b) . A lot of pandemics have occurred in human history, and affected human life, education system, and economic development in the world (Editors, 2020) . The World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO, 2020a) on March 11, 2020, has officially announced that coronavirus (COVID-19) is a pandemic after it covers 114 countries in 3 months and infects more than 118,000 people in the world. The first COVID-19 case has reported by Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31, 2019, in the Hubei Province, China (WHO, 2020b) . The coronavirus pandemic is quickly spreading and affecting 213 territories and countries throughout the world. In the world about 30,086,319 of total cases, 21,833,645 of total recovered and 945,962 of total deaths were recorded until September 17, 2020 (Worldometer, 2020) . According to (Medical News Today, 2020), the researchers believe that coronavirus is spreading exponentially and many countries are locked in their education system, and enforcing their people strict quarantine to control the spread of this highly contagious disease. The governments focus on fulfilling equipment, organizing medical institutions, and laboratory centers, identification of the virus, training health workers, and creating awareness for their people (Haleem et al., 2020) . Education has been the pillar of development of every country, so education is principal to the development and growth of all countries. The education system has been affected by several challenges ranging from changes in the education curriculum to closing down the education system due to widespread pandemic diseases (Owusu-Fordjour et al., 2015) .

As UNESCO (UNESCO, 2020b) reports that 87% of the world’s student population is affected by COVID-19 school closures. UNESCO is launching distance learning practices and reaching students who are most at risk. According to the UNESCO, over 1.5 billion students in 195 countries are affected by COVID-19 pandemic school closures. In (Niranjan, 2020) studied that COVID-19 impacted not only the overall economy and our day to day life, but also emotional, mental, and physical health, also, losses in national and international business, poor cash flow in the market, locked national and international traveling; moreover, disruption of the celebration of cultural, and festive events, stress among the population, the closures of hotels, restaurants, religious, and entertainment places (Evans, 2020) . In many developing countries the economic shock has come first, as governments have locked down their economies to reduce the speed of infection. As a result, developing countries are suffering their greatest economic decline and closures of their education and transportation system (Haleem et al., 2020) . Distance learning solutions are containing platforms, educational applications, and resources that aimed to help parents, students, and teachers. Digital learning management systems, massive open online course platforms, and self-directed learning content (UNESCO, 2020a) . However, due to lack of internet connectivity, information technology, educational materials, and digital technology skill distance learning is difficult for teachers, students, and families in developing countries (Mustafa, 2020) . Some developing countries deliver classes through radio, television, and online platforms. However, the poorest families and students have not radio, television, and other devices to access the resources and to learn at their home. So, some developing countries provide resources such as textbooks, radios, equipment, and study guides to the poorest students (Mustafa, 2020) .

In this study, the impact of coronavirus on the education system, impacts of COVID-19 on children, students, teachers, and parents, the recommended solutions about the continuity of education system during COVID-19, online learning challenges, and opportunities, and education system after coronavirus related articles have been reviewed and discussed.

2. Impact of COVID-19 on Education System

In the world, most countries have temporarily closed child-cares, nursery, primary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic (TUAC Secretariat Briefing, 2020) . COVID-19 impacts not only students but also it affects teachers and parents across the world. UNESCO reported that over 1.5 billion students in 195 countries are out of school in the world due to the school closures (UNESCO, 2020b) . As (Pujari, 2020) COVID-19 affects all over the education system, examinations, and evaluation, starting of new semester or term and it may extend the school year.

2.1. Teachers, Students, and Parents

The pandemic of COVID-19 pandemic is affecting schools, students, teachers, and parents. The COVID-19 crisis increases social inequality in schools. Students from more advantaged parents attend schools with better digital infrastructure and teachers might have higher levels of digital technology skills. Some schools can be well equipped in digital technology and educational resources. Disadvantaged students are attending schools with lower ICT infrastructure and educational resources (Di Pietro et al., 2020) . Following COVID-19 more advantaged students are attending schools to adopt online learning. Schools in disadvantaged, rural areas lack the appropriate digital infrastructure required to deliver teaching at the remote. Also, there is a significant difference between private and public schools in technology and educational resources. In most countries, private schools are more effective than public schools. Students’ have not equal access to digital technology and educational materials. In the (Woday et al., 2020) survey, the study finds during schools closure the level of anxiety, depression disorders, and stress are high among students.

Distance learning is a solution to continue the education system, but it is difficult in developing countries because many parents have not themselves been to school and there is a lack of the necessary Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures, computers, radio, and television to provide distance learning. Access to computers and access to the internet is basic to successful distance teaching. This is not guaranteed for all students in developing countries (Zhang, 2020) . Also, staff and teachers should familiar with online teaching platforms. Teachers struggle with difficulties in the area of technology and lack of infrastructure availability. Some private schools may not pay their staffs’ salary and some schools may pay half salary. COVID-19 affects poor families since many students don’t have access to the equipment at home. The physical school closure and the implementation of distance education lead the student to spent less time learning, stress, and lack of learning motivation (Di Pietro et al., 2020) .

2.2. Unequal Access to Educational Resources and Technology

The school’s closure due to COVID-19 may not affect students equally. Students from less advantaged backgrounds highly suffered during COVID-19 than advantaged students (Di Pietro et al., 2020) . To control the coronavirus spread, most countries have been working to encourage parents and schools to help students continue to learn at home through distance learning (UNESCO, 2020a) . The governments advised students to learn from radio and television lessons that can be accessed at home. The radio and television lessons may work for some children and students in urban areas, but most parents in rural areas have not accessed to radios and television lessons. For example, in Ethiopia, more than 80% of the population lives in rural areas with limited or no access to electric power, so that it is challenging for students in rural areas to learn from radio and television lessons (Tiruneh, 2020) . The schools in urban areas are teaching their students from a distance by uploading assignments, books, and reading materials through Google Classroom, e-mail, social media, and other applications. In some urban areas, even if distance learning is provided due to a lack of monitoring strategies some students may not use it properly. Private schools sending learning materials directly to parents through social media platforms. There is a difference between rural and urban schools and the public and private schools to keep their students learning from home. Also, public school teachers and students have limited or no access to the internet (Tzifopoulos, 2020) .

The school closure brings difficulties for students, families, and teachers of developing countries. Students from poor families with lower educational levels and children with poor learning motivation suffer most during coronavirus. The children may have higher dependence than younger students on parents and they need guidance in their learning process, internet access, and usage of digital devices and applications (Tzifopoulos, 2020) . Furthermore, poor and digitally-illiterate families’ children are further suffering (Tiruneh, 2020) . There were already inequalities before coronavirus in access to quality education between students in urban and rural areas, and students from families with higher and lower socioeconomic status. School closures could further increase the inequalities between students (Owusu-Fordjour et al., 2015) . Students in rural areas and from disadvantaged families lack access to technology, internet access, and educational resources (Di Pietro et al., 2020) .

2.3. Assessment and Evaluation

Distance learning is a good opportunity for teachers, students, and families. In (Zhu & Liu, 2020) developed actions such as introduced online learning platforms, use Blackboard, Zoom, TronClass, Classin, and Wechat group platforms, and conducted online training, and collected information about all courses. Online teaching and learning are not a new mode of delivery for developed countries and some developing countries. However, shifting from face-to-face class to online learning is challenging for teachers, students, families, and the countries government due to lack of finance, skill, ICT infrastructure, internet access, and educational resources (Basilaia & Kvavadze, 2020) . Furthermore, computers and other IT equipment, at home are difficult for most parents, children, and students in developing countries (Sahu, 2020) . Additionally, some courses are difficult or impossible to teach and learn through online learning methods such as sport, nursing, laboratories, music, and art courses.

The shift from face-to-face class to online class has a serious impact on assessments and evaluation. Depending on the course nature and the assessment type applying assessments and evaluation online is a challenging task. So that teachers have enforced to change their assessment types to fit the online mode. Also, it is difficult to monitor the student how they are taking courses online and difficult to ensure that students are not cheating during online exams (Basilaia & Kvavadze, 2020) . Additionally, laboratory tests, practical tests, and performance tests are impossible to conduct online. Moreover, students who do not have internet access will suffer to take assessments and evaluations (Sahu, 2020) . In (Osman, 2020) the assessment and evaluation of students’ performance in online learning is difficult for both instructors and students particularly teaching practicum, technical competencies, and the assessment of practical skills is difficult. According to (UNESCO, 2020b) report, even for students, teachers, and parents in countries with reliable ICT infrastructure and internet access, the rapid transition to online learning has been challenging. Students, parents, and teachers also require training to deliver online learning effectively, but such support is particularly limited in developing countries. Education inequalities are a threat to education system continuity at a time of unexpected educational system closures (UNESCO, 2020b) . Because, there are a limited number of computers, internet access, mobile network access, and lack of ICT trained teachers in developing countries (O’Hagan, 2020) . Therefore, even if online teaching and learning are a good opportunity to continue education during the pandemic it is challenging for developing countries (Sun et al., 2020) .

2.4. Mental and Physical Health

The closures schools and higher education negatively affect the mental and physical health of children, students, parents, and teachers in the world, especially in developing countries (UNESCO, 2020b) . Since during school closures, both boy and girl students in most rural areas may be forced to fully support their families in cattle herding and farming. Girl students from low-income families and rural areas can be at a higher risk of sexual abuse, and forced labor, and early marriage. The infected cases rapid increase has created a sense of anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen (Tiruneh, 2020) . The lockdown due to coronavirus may people are feeling stress, fear, and anxiety, such as a fright of dying, a fear of their relatives dying (Sahu, 2020) . This stress may affect the students, mental, and physical health of students. The pandemic may have a serious influence on the careers or may have not to graduate of this years’ higher education undergraduate students (Niranjan, 2020) . All students may not have good interaction with online learning applications and platforms (Haleem et al., 2020) , because some of the students are active and some may take a longer time to familiarize themselves with the system.

3. Continuity Education System during COVID-19

UNICEF (UNICEF, 2020) stated that in the case of school, college, and university closures, support continued access to quality education. This can include the use of distance learning strategies, assigning reading and exercises for home study, radio or television teaching of academic content, assigning teachers to conduct remote follow-up with students, and develop advanced education strategies. The pandemic has made all the education system across the world to adopt distance learning since the pandemic pushes face-to-face learning to online learning. So, in most developed countries, courses, and exams are conducted online by using different applications, and social networks (Sun et al., 2020) . Used the situation as an opportunity to install network infrastructure and scale internet access across urban and rural areas (Viner et al., 2020) . Students are started to learn from home and stay at home as much as possible, to maintain physical distancing, and to save themselves. In some countries, before COVID-19 there was an online learning system available but traditional face-to-face learning had the power (Tiruneh, 2020) . But now online learning is going to be the first option. In many countries, teaching and learning progress is provided by using a distance learning method (Varalakshmi & Arunachalam, 2020) . Digital learning management systems such as Google Classroom, and Moodle. Massive Open Online Course Platforms such as Alison, Coursera, EdX, and Udemy. Self-directed learning content such as Khan Academy, and OneCourse (UNESCO, 2020a) .

The COVID-19 pandemic has not clear investigation when the virus will be controlled, but there is an indication it will at for two years and the virus will occur again and challenge the world. So, the countries should plan different strategies to continuity the education system through distance learning. Regarding this, the country designs a strategy to scale educational technology during pandemics, establish zero-rating educational resources on the internet, universal service funds and connecting schools to the internet, prepare online teaching and learning resources, utilizing free online learning resources, practice mobile learning, practice radio and television teaching and grow up ICT infrastructures (Tiruneh, 2020) . Then identify each distance learning challenges and opportunities for children, students, teachers, and families. This helps to determine and control the bottleneck of online teaching and learning challenges.

The countries should practice the use of educational technologies at scale and install ICT infrastructures (Chick et al., 2020) . Also, countries enable the students to access educational websites and applications without charge because the resources are zero-rated, in another word when the student access educational websites and applications don’t take data charges. Using universal service funds to scale internet access for students, teachers, and societies. But the pandemic is affecting the availability of funding for education (Niranjan, 2020) . So, governments should design education financing policies and strategies to minimize the impact (Al-Samarrai et al., 2020) . Access to online learning content from free open educational resources provided by non-profit publishers, and private companies (Wajdi et al., 2020) . Increase the accessibility of educational resources on mobile phones. The parent should keep track of their children and avoid bad practices in mobile learning. Use the radio and television teaching approach, particularly where students can’t access other technologies at home. Install ICT infrastructure, and educational technologies to reach students in rural and the most challenging areas (Tiruneh, 2020) . Use virtual classes to promote the progress and educational achievement of students. This helps to know about what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to the virtual class. The virtual class provides real-time interaction between nursing teachers and students (Ng & Or, 2020).

Education in Developed and Developing Countries during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the education community. The authors in (Crawford et al., 2020) discussed and analyzed the intra-period higher education’s responses of 20 countries in the world. They decided that to social distancing strategies on higher educations, needs a rapid curriculum redevelopment for fully online learning. In (Pujari, 2020) stated that due to the closure of school students, teachers, and parents fare facing various difficulties in India. So, online teaching is a better solution, feasible, and appropriate but it challenges poor parents and students. According to UNESCO reports the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the face-to-face class for at least 9 out of 10 students worldwide. Globally, 195 countries have closed all their schools, affecting over 1.5 billion students from pre-primary to higher education. In the worldwide 50% (826 million), 43% (706 million) of students do not have a computer and internet access at their home respectively. Also, about 56 million students cannot use mobile phones, because they are not covered by mobile networks. Sub-Saharan Africa Countries, about 89% (216 million), 82% (199 million), and 11% (26 million) of students do not have a computer, home internet access, and not covered by mobile networks respectively. Moreover, about 56 million students live in Sub-Saharan Africa not served by mobile networks. Furthermore, pandemic highlights the need for more ICT trained teachers. In developing countries, there is only 1 trained teacher for 56 students in primary education; and it is 1 trained teacher for 60 students (UNESCO, 2020b) , (O’Hagan, 2020) . This challenges to continue the education system during the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries.

The governments of different income level countries are using different distance learning methods to continue education during school closures (Vegas, 2020) . About 90% of high-income countries are delivered online learning and 20% are using a combination of broadcast and online learning. The upper-middle-income countries, over 70% provides a combination of broadcast and online learning. Also, about 66% of the lower-middle-income countries provide broadcast and/or online learning. Low-income countries, less than 25% are delivering education using television and radio education to their students. For instance, Europe, Central Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Latin America most countries are providing distance learning via online learning fully and the combination of broadcast and online learning to teach rural area students. In the North and Middle East Africa, about 28% of countries are providing only radio and television teaching, less than 40% provide only online learning, and 22% are providing a combination of broadcast and online learning. In South Asia, 40% of countries are providing broadcast education, and 50% are providing a combination of broadcast and online learning. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 11% of countries are providing only online learning, and 23% of countries are providing a combination of broadcast and online learning (Thomas, 2020) . However, low-income and middle-income countries offering broadcast and online learning are not reach most students (Winthrop, 2020) .

The country’s governments should provide training to teachers on technology-based education during the COVID-19 crisis. In South Asia, 50% of countries provide training and guidance to teachers. In Europe, Central Asia, North and Middle East Africa, over 50%, the Caribbean and Latin America 48%, and 40% in the Pacific and East Asia provide training to their teachers. But Sub-Saharan Africa countries are not provided training to their teachers (Vegas, 2020) . Finally, the report suggests that the pandemic will have a very large impact on the education system in the world. Particularly, the education system in low-income countries will be the most negatively affected and less able to provide distance learning and training to teachers (Winthrop, 2020) .

4. Education System Post-COVID-19

The researchers, curriculum designers, education officers, and educational institutions work together to transform the education system during the closures. Educational institutions should design curriculums, prepare learning strategies and techniques for post-COVID-19, and transform the education system itself. During closures curriculum design, collaborations, skill development, and educational institutions should focus on advancing the education system. After COVID-19, the school’s design strategies and methods to recover lost learning, ensure children return to school when schools reopen, preparing students, parents, and teachers, and to scale distance learning accessibility (Tiruneh, 2020) . School teachers in collaboration with education officers need to give awareness for parents and students to make sure that children are safe at home during school closures and trying to learn and read books as much as possible (Crawford et al., 2020) .

There is inequality among urban and rural students; students from low-income or high-income and literate or illiterate parents. So that the education system should design and implement some evidence-based actions that aim to facilitate the recovery of the lost portion when schools are reopened. Because of the lack of required support during the school closures, it could take a very long time for children from illiterate and low-income parents to recover their missed portion when they return to school. Some students from low-income parents may decide to work as daily laborers to support their families financially and may never return to school when schools reopen. Parents from rural areas may be unwilling to send their children back to school because they may prefer their children to continue to support them in cattle herding and farming. The schools should trace those students who do not return to school and also even if the countries recover from COVID-19, parents may fear to send their children back to school so that design strategies to encourage parents to send their children back to school (Tiruneh, 2020) . The education system needs strategies on how to prepare teachers and students to respond effectively and efficiently during and after COVID-19. Teachers may not teach all the time in a face-to-face classroom; students may not learn in the face-to-face class all the time. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the education system needs to prepare everyone to be flexible and adapt quickly to various learning platforms during a time of crisis. The global community may need to support the educational systems in developing countries in their efforts to prepare schools, teachers, students, and parents for the future (Zhu & Liu, 2020) .

5. Conclusion

The COVID-19 is a pandemic disease caused by a virus that affects the education system of both developing and developed countries. Education is the pillar of every country’s development. In the world, most schools, colleges, and universities are closed to control the spread of the COVID-19. The school closure brings difficulties for students, families, and teachers. So, distance learning is a solution to continue the education system. However, distance learning is challenging in developing countries because many parents have not themselves been to school, lack of ICT infrastructures, computers, radio, and television. The poor and digitally-illiterate families with lower educational levels children with poor learning motivation are more suffering in this situation and this increases inequality. Students in most rural areas may be forced to fully support their families in cattle herding and farming. Also, girl students from low-income families and rural areas can be at a higher risk of sexual abuse, and forced labor, and early marriage. The COVID-19 pandemic has made all the educational schools across the world to adopt teaching and learning online. So, governments should scale network infrastructure and internet connectivity across urban and rural areas. The countries should design a strategy to scale educational technology, establish zero-rating educational resources on the internet, prepare digital teaching and learning resources, utilizing free online learning resources, use mobile learning, use radio and television teaching, and grow-up ICT infrastructures. During closures researchers, curriculum designers, education officers, and educational institutions work together to transform the education system. Schools and universities should design curriculum, prepare learning strategies and techniques for post-COVID-19, and transform the education system itself. After COVID-19, the schools and universities design strategies and methods to recover lost portions, ensure children return to school when schools reopen, and scale online learning infrastructures. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has been impacting the face-to-face education system of developing countries. Therefore, developing countries should scale online teaching and learning infrastructures.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.

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The pandemic set younger kids back. Their struggle to recover is especially acute, data shows.

A student reads a textbook on a desk in a classroom.

Sign up for Chalkbeat’s free weekly newsletter to keep up with how education is changing across the U.S.

While older children are showing encouraging signs of academic recovery, younger children are not making that same progress, and are sometimes falling even further behind, especially in math.

New data released Monday points to the pandemic’s profound and enduring effects on the nation’s youngest public school children, many of whom were not yet in a formal school setting when COVID hit.

“It’s showing that these students — who were either toddlers or maybe in preschool — that their learning was disrupted somehow,” said Kristen Huff, the vice president for research and assessment at Curriculum Associates, which provides math and reading tests to millions of students each year and authored the new report. “It’s striking.”

Researchers and other experts have suggested several potential reasons for this trend. One is that the pandemic disrupted early childhood education and made it harder for many kids to learn foundational skills — gaps that can compound over time. Fewer children enrolled in preschool and kindergarten , and many young children struggled with remote learning. Increased parental stress and screen time may also be factors.

It’s also possible that schools targeted more academic support to older children and teens.

“We can see it as a call to action to make sure that we, as an educational community, are prioritizing those early grades,” Huff said. Those are critical years when children learn their letters and numbers and start reading and counting. “These are all the basics for being able to move along that learning trajectory for the rest of your schooling career.”

A slew of recent reports have examined students’ academic progress post-pandemic. Some researchers found that students in third to eighth grade are making larger-than-usual gains, but that most kids are still behind their pre-pandemic peers. Meanwhile, academic gaps between students from low-income backgrounds and their more affluent peers have widened.

The new Curriculum Associates report, which analyzed results from some 4 million students, is unique in that it includes data points for younger children who haven’t yet taken state tests. Researchers looked at how students who entered kindergarten to fourth grade during the 2021-22 school year performed in math and reading over three years, and compared that against kids who started the same grades just prior to the pandemic.

Children who began kindergarten in the fall of 2021, for example, scored close to what kindergartners did prior to the pandemic in reading. But over the last few years, they’ve fallen behind their counterparts. Kids who started first grade in the fall of 2021 have been consistently behind children who started first grade prior to the pandemic in reading.

In math, meanwhile, students who started kindergarten, first grade, and second grade in the fall of 2021 all started off scoring lower than their counterparts did prior to the pandemic. And they’ve consistently made less progress — putting them “significantly behind” their peers.

Younger children made less progress than their pre-pandemic peers regardless of whether they went to schools in cities, suburbs, or rural communities. And the students who started off further behind had the most difficulty catching up.

Schools may want to consider changing up their academic interventions to focus more on early elementary schoolers, researchers said. It will be especially important to pinpoint exactly which missing skills kids need to master so they can follow along with lessons in their current grade, Huff added. This year, many of the report’s struggling students will be entering third and fourth grade.

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In Charleston County, South Carolina, where younger students are outperforming others in their state , especially in math, the district is using a few strategies that officials think have helped.

The district made improving reading instruction a top priority . Officials purchased a new curriculum to better align with the science of reading, gave teachers extensive literacy skills training , and started providing families more information about their kids’ academic performance.

Crucially, said Buffy Roberts, who oversees assessments for Charleston County schools, the district identified groups of kids who were very behind and what it would take to catch them up over several years. Taking a longer view helped teachers break down a big job and ensured kids who needed a lot of help got more support.

“We really helped people understand that if our students were already behind, making typical growth is great, but it’s not going to cut it,” Roberts said. “It was really thinking very strategically and being very targeted about what a child needs in order to get out of that, I hate to call it a hole, but it is a hole.”

Kalyn Belsha is a senior national education reporter based in Chicago. Contact her at [email protected] .

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Ed Research Isn’t Always Relevant. This Official Is Trying to Change That

research paper about education in pandemic

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Classroom apps, tools, and programs, many driven by artificial intelligence, evolve faster than quality control efforts can keep up.

This more tech-driven and interconnected education landscape will require a different approach to research, development, and evaluation, according to the head of the U.S. Education Department’s research agency.

Matthew Soldner, the acting director of the Institute of Education Sciences, called for a faster and more robust “research and development ecosystem” to build structures to ensure new programs and tools are effective in the classroom.

For example, while IES traditionally awards grants for five-year studies, it has launched one new pilot called “Seedlings to Scale,” in which cohorts of research teams will compete for three rounds of progressively larger grants: first to create a prototype and indicators of success; next to develop the program or product and test its effectiveness; and finally to take successful programs to scale. Only about a quarter of the initial cohort will make it to full scale.

Soldner spoke with Education Week about how he sees education research changing. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you see technology changing the focus of education research?

Particularly when the product is educational technology, the pace of development just so rapidly outstrips not just the capacity of the [What Works Clearinghouse] but the capacity of traditional forms of impact research.

Look, for example, at the frequency with which districts change textbook adoptions, the textbook is changing every three or four years. It barely provides time for that textbook to get into the classroom, to have some sort of rigorous study done, and have the results looked at before it changes again, where that version of the product is no longer commercially available, and the publisher moves on to the next. The pace is nearly impossible to do the depth of research you might like, and so we have to continue to find models that will allow us to be responsive to that.

You’ve expressed interest in a “living evidence” model. How does that differ from the current research models?

The principle is that we should always be searching the literature to find the latest research on a topic, incorporating that new research into our understanding of what works, and giving that information out to our public as quickly as possible.

You might think that’s how everything operates currently, but actually, it’s not. If we want to, for example, work on struggling adolescent literacy, we will survey all the literature in that space, do our publication, and then not monitor that literature for a period of time until we decide to come back to that topic. [If] something is published, then let’s say 20 or 25 years go by, and people begin to wonder how things changed.

In many areas, the literature is changing so quickly, so dramatically that you would need to be updating a practice guide every two or three years. But at least you would be monitoring that literature ... and people would have confidence that you had in fact looked at the most recent research. It’s a real fundamental shift, in terms of this constant monitoring of the flow of incoming evidence.

How is IES’s new push for R&D scale-up different from prior initiatives?

It is thought to be a pipeline, a continuous [movement] upward in evidence building. In terms of scale, we really are getting a wealth of aligned investments around a shared topic, really investing time and energy in those. ... It’s a bit more structured, it’s a bit more hands on, with the expectation that if you are showing that your project is a good fit to what the market is looking for and is effective, that you will have the opportunity to move up.

It’s our intention that this really places the educator and the classroom at the center of the development effort in that first phase.

IES has made science education one of those priority areas. Why focus on science now?

Science [education] really is a space where perhaps even less is known than math, or at least we have less rigorous evidence about what works and we have the same kind of real dire performance gaps. If we look back at the data that we have from 2019, more than 40 percent of all 12th graders were below basic [in the National Assessment of Educational Progress for science]. And that’s so much worse for Hispanic students—about half—and Black students, about 70 percent. So that science proficiency gap is huge.

As a nation, we have chosen to make more and larger investments in the nation’s long-term competitiveness and our national security than ever before in [science, technology, engineering, and math]. That includes AI, clean energy, pandemic preparedness ... but if we’re going to realize that moment and, and turn those dollars into progress, we have to have increasing levels of science and math literacy amongst our students.

The pandemic massively disrupted education research. How much have we been able to recover that research capacity?

I think we are still in [the] throes of recovering from the pandemic. In some places, schools aren’t yet ready to return to having researchers on the ground or research being conducted in schools the way they once were. Recruitment, even for new studies, continues to be a challenge.

We have been talking with any group of researchers who will listen on ways in which researchers can think about really engaging communities with the work they’ve proposed to do. We’re suggesting strongly that researchers spend a lot of time on the ground with schools they are trying to recruit, trying to understand what problems they are trying to solve, … [and] making sure that the research is truly responsive to their needs.

Where do you see the biggest potential for paradigm-shifting research in education?

It is more often the case that folks want to understand basic pedagogy or test that in an intervention, than that they are bringing entirely new models of how we might structure teaching and learning. So, what if learning took place in a system or in a model that was very different from what we have today? What if the systems we have today were better connected and more seamlessly bridged education systems with social support systems?

I think if we’re looking for true paradigm shifts, it’s likely to be less some new intervention, some new ed tech product, but instead something that really disrupts how teaching and learning is delivered.

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Misy Sifre, 17, and others protest for transgender rights at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, March 25, 2022. On Tuesday, July 2, 2024, a federal judge in Kansas blocked a federal rule expanding anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students from being enforced in four states, including Utah and a patchwork of places elsewhere across the nation.

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“They’re coming in and they don’t know how to play.”

“I had some kids who went on to kindergarten who still did not know a triangle.”

“I can’t tell you the number of families who say their kids are anxious or depressed — and they’re little ones, 4 or 5.”

The Youngest Pandemic Children Are Now in School, and Struggling

Teachers this year saw the effects of the pandemic’s stress and isolation on young students: Some can barely speak, sit still or even hold a pencil.

Claire Cain Miller

By Claire Cain Miller and Sarah Mervosh

The pandemic’s babies, toddlers and preschoolers are now school-age, and the impact on them is becoming increasingly clear: Many are showing signs of being academically and developmentally behind.

Interviews with more than two dozen teachers, pediatricians and early childhood experts depicted a generation less likely to have age-appropriate skills — to be able to hold a pencil, communicate their needs, identify shapes and letters, manage their emotions or solve problems with peers.

A variety of scientific evidence has also found that the pandemic seems to have affected some young children’s early development . Boys were more affected than girls, studies have found .

“I definitely think children born then have had developmental challenges compared to prior years,” said Dr. Jaime Peterson, a pediatrician at Oregon Health and Science University, whose research is on kindergarten readiness. “We asked them to wear masks, not see adults, not play with kids. We really severed those interactions, and you don’t get that time back for kids.”

The pandemic’s effect on older children — who were sent home during school closures, and lost significant ground in math and reading — has been well documented. But the impact on the youngest children is in some ways surprising: They were not in formal school when the pandemic began, and at an age when children spend a lot of time at home anyway.

The early years, though, are most critical for brain development. Researchers said several aspects of the pandemic affected young children — parental stress, less exposure to people, lower preschool attendance, more time on screens and less time playing.

Yet because their brains are developing so rapidly, they are also well positioned to catch up, experts said.

The youngest children represent “a pandemic tsunami” headed for the American education system, said Joel Ryan, who works with a network of Head Start and state preschool centers in Washington State, where he has seen an increase in speech delays and behavioral problems.

Not every young child is showing delays. Children at schools that are mostly Black or Hispanic or where most families have lower incomes are the most behind, according to data released Monday by Curriculum Associates , whose tests are given in thousands of U.S. schools. Students from higher-income families are more on pace with historical trends.

But “most, if not all, young students were impacted academically to some degree,” said Kristen Huff, vice president for assessment and research at Curriculum Associates.

Recovery is possible, experts said, though young children have not been a main focus of $122 billion in federal aid distributed to school districts to help students recover.

“We 100 percent have the tools to help kids and families recover,” said Catherine Monk, a clinical psychologist and professor at Columbia, and a chair of a research project on mothers and babies in the pandemic. “But do we know how to distribute, in a fair way, access to the services they need?”

What’s different now?

“I spent a long time just teaching kids to sit still on the carpet for one book. That’s something I didn’t need to do before.”

“We are talking 4- and 5-year-olds who are throwing chairs, biting, hitting, without the self-regulation.”

Brook Allen, in Martin, Tenn., has taught kindergarten for 11 years. This year, for the first time, she said, several students could barely speak, several were not toilet trained, and several did not have the fine motor skills to hold a pencil.

Children don’t engage in imaginative play or seek out other children the way they used to, said Michaela Frederick, a pre-K teacher for students with learning delays in Sharon, Tenn. She’s had to replace small building materials in her classroom with big soft blocks because students’ fine motor skills weren’t developed enough to manipulate them.

Michaela Frederick, a preschool teacher, plays with a stacking toy with a student.

Michaela Frederick, a pre-K teacher in Sharon, Tenn., playing a stacking game with a student.

Aaron Hardin for The New York Times

A child plays with a plastic toy with his fingers.

Preschoolers do not have the same fine motor skills as they did prepandemic, Ms. Frederick said.

Perhaps the biggest difference Lissa O’Rourke has noticed among her preschoolers in St. Augustine, Fla., has been their inability to regulate their emotions: “It was knocking over chairs, it was throwing things, it was hitting their peers, hitting their teachers.”

Data from schools underscores what early childhood professionals have noticed.

Children who just finished second grade, who were as young as 3 or 4 when the pandemic began, remain behind children the same age prepandemic, particularly in math, according to the new Curriculum Associates data. Of particular concern, the students who are the furthest behind are making the least progress catching up.

The youngest students’ performance is “in stark contrast” to older elementary school children, who have caught up much more, the researchers said. The new analysis examined testing data from about four million children, with cohorts before and after the pandemic.

Data from Cincinnati Public Schools is another example: Just 28 percent of kindergarten students began this school year prepared, down from 36 percent before the pandemic, according to research from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

How did this happen?

“They don’t have the muscle strength because everything they are doing at home is screen time. They are just swiping.”

“I have more kids in kindergarten who have never been in school.”

One explanation for young children’s struggles, childhood development experts say, is parental stress during the pandemic .

A baby who is exposed to more stress will show more activation on brain imaging scans in “the parts of that baby’s brain that focus on fear and focus on aggression,” said Rahil D. Briggs, a child psychologist with Zero to Three, a nonprofit that focuses on early childhood. That leaves less energy for parts of the brain focused on language, exploration and learning, she said.

During lockdowns, children also spent less time overhearing adult interactions that exposed them to new language, like at the grocery store or the library. And they spent less time playing with other children.

Kelsey Schnur, 32, of Sharpsville, Pa., pulled her daughter, Finley, from child care during the pandemic. Finley, then a toddler, colored, did puzzles and read books at home.

But when she finally enrolled in preschool, she struggled to adjust, her mother said. She was diagnosed with separation anxiety and selective mutism.

“It was very eye-opening to see,” said Ms. Schnur, who works in early childhood education. “They can have all of the education experiences and knowledge, but that socialization is so key.”

Preschool attendance can significantly boost kindergarten preparedness, research has found . But in many states, preschool attendance is still below prepandemic levels. Survey data suggests low-income families have not returned at the same rate as higher-income families.

“I have never had such a small class,” said Analilia Sanchez, who had nine children in her preschool class in El Paso this year. She typically has at least 16. “I think they got used to having them at home — that fear of being around the other kids, the germs.”

Time on screens also spiked during the pandemic — as parents juggled work and children cooped up at home — and screen time stayed up after lockdowns ended. Many teachers and early childhood experts believe this affected children’s attention spans and fine motor skills. Long periods of screen time have been associated with developmental delays .

Heidi Tringali, an occupational therapist in Charlotte, N.C., holds hands with a child who is standing on a ball.

Heidi Tringali, an occupational therapist in Charlotte, N.C., playing with a patient.

Travis Dove for The New York Times

A child in a playroom holds a swing, with a bouncy ball in the foreground.

Children are showing effects of spending time on screens, Ms. Tringali said, including shorter attention spans, less core strength and delayed social skills.

Heidi Tringali, a pediatric occupational therapist in Charlotte, N.C., said she and her colleagues are seeing many more families contact them with children who don’t fit into typical diagnoses.

She is seeing “visual problems, core strength, social skills, attention — all the deficits,” she said. “We really see the difference in them not being out playing.”

Can children catch up?

“I’m actually happy with the majority of their growth.”

“They just crave consistency that they didn’t get.”

It’s too early to know whether young children will experience long-term effects from the pandemic, but researchers say there are reasons to be optimistic.

“It is absolutely possible to catch up, if we catch things early,” said Dr. Dani Dumitriu, a pediatrician and neuroscientist at Columbia and chair of the study on pandemic newborns. “There is nothing deterministic about a brain at six months.”

There may also have been benefits to being young in the pandemic, she and others said, like increased resiliency and more time with family .

Some places have invested in programs to support young children, like a Tennessee district that is doubling the number of teaching assistants in kindergarten classrooms next school year and adding a preschool class for students needing extra support.

Oregon used some federal pandemic aid money to start a program to help prepare children and parents for kindergarten the summer before.

For many students, simply being in school is the first step.

Sarrah Hovis, a preschool teacher in Roseville, Mich., has seen plenty of the pandemic’s impact in her classroom. Some children can’t open a bag of chips, because they lack finger strength. More of her students are missing many days of school, a national problem since the pandemic .

But she has also seen great progress. By the end of this year, some of her students were counting to 100, and even adding and subtracting.

“If the kids come to school,” she said, “they do learn.”

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​Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere

The pandemic changed families’ lives and the culture of education: “Our relationship with school became optional.”

By Sarah Mervosh and Francesca Paris

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The impact of coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on education: The role of virtual and remote laboratories in education

Rabab ali abumalloh.

a Computer Department, Community College, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, P.O. Box. 1982, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Shahla Asadi

b Centre of Software Technology and Management, Faculty of Information Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

Mehrbakhsh Nilashi

c Centre for Global Sustainability Studies (CGSS), Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800, George Town, Malaysia

d School of Computer Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran

Behrouz Minaei-Bidgoli

Fatima khan nayer.

e College of Computer and Information Sciences, Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia

Sarminah Samad

f Department of Business Administration, College of Business and Administration, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Saidatulakmal Mohd

h Centre for Global Sustainability Studies & School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

Othman Ibrahim

g Azman Hashim International Business School, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Skudai, Johor, 81310, Malaysia

To avoid the spread of the COVID-19 crisis, many countries worldwide have temporarily shut down their academic organizations. National and international closures affect over 91% of the education community of the world. E-learning is the only effective manner for educational institutions to coordinate the learning process during the global lockdown and quarantine period. Many educational institutions have instructed their students through remote learning technologies to face the effect of local closures and promote the continuity of the education process. This study examines the expected benefits of e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing a new model to investigate this issue using a survey collected from the students at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM) was employed on 179 useable responses. This study applied Push-Pull-Mooring theory and examined how push, pull, and mooring variables impact learners to switch to virtual and remote educational laboratories. The Protection Motivation theory was employed to explain how the potential health risk and environmental threat can influence the expected benefits from e-learning services. The findings revealed that the push factor (environmental threat) is significantly related to perceived benefits. The pull factors (e-learning motivation, perceived information sharing, and social distancing) significantly impact learners' benefits. The mooring factor, namely perceived security, significantly impacts learners’ benefits.

1. Introduction

Given the growing number of reported infected cases at Chinese and international locations, the WHO Emergency Committee announced a worldwide health crisis on January 30, 2020 [ [1] , [2] , [3] , [4] ]. Young and healthy grownups have comparatively fewer death risks, whereas those above the 60s, and especially 80s, are at disproportionately higher risks of death [ 5 , 6 ]. Particular care and efforts should be taken to save extremely susceptible people such as kids, medical staff, and older people [ 7 , 8 ]. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease have larger death rates [ 9 ]. The increased death rate among those groups is important to consider by supporting social distance interventions, which are ideal for protecting all population groups [ 10 , 11 ].

With COVID-19 spreading throughout the world, governments have imposed unprecedented quarantines and travel bans [ [12] , [13] , [14] ]. In the last week of March 2020, educational systems faced an important milestone in the national academic plan towards distance education. According to UNESCO, approximately more than 11 billion school students were affected by the pandemic closures, in which 191 countries had nationwide closures and five had regional locks, affecting about 91.3% of the global public of students [ 15 ]. Many remote learning platforms like Google Classroom, Coursera, Udacity, and many more are utilizing e-learning platforms to allow the learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic [ 16 ]. For example, Coursera has offered numerous free courses for students to learn at home. Still, electronic education demands conscientious investigation of how students and educators manipulate the shifting. It also requires a critical examination of whether the education manner continues to be efficient when it is based on electronic technological tools.

Societies meet unexpected and emerging obstacles, which have been indicated in previous studies as “grand challenges” [ 17 ]. Ferraro et al. [ 18 ] indicated that grand challenges could be characterized by their complexity as they support several communications. Grand challenges need to be addressed using scientific development through several technological tools. Previous studies indicated the significant part of scientific collaboration using advanced technologies among students, instructors, scientists, academics, and researchers to address these challenges [ 19 ]. Collaborative electronic learning provides timely solutions to obstacles linked to traditional learning. These obstacles should be resolved in the post-COVID-19 time. Collaborative electronic learning supports learners with the ability to conduct distance-based effective meetings, presents additional chances for electronic instructing and coordination, and it promotes knowledge sharing.

The sudden closure of educational institutions in Saudi Arabia, due to the current COVID-19 crisis, led to an unexpected transformation from traditional learning to a plan that particularly entails electronic monitoring and learning. The shutdown of educational institutions put the government under huge pressure with highly restricted choices. The Saudi Ministry of Education declared electronic learning as a replacement for traditional learning to keep students and families safe. This large unintended shift has allowed new methods to be applied in delivering the content of courses for learners. Among these educational institutions, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University has adopted electronic learning during this crisis, for the second academic term of 2019–2020 and the first term of 2020–2021. Faculty members were encouraged to utilize all available electronic services to continue the learning process in the online mode using the blackboard system supported by the university portal.

In light of the above, the goal of this study can be achieved by investigating the most influential factors that can impact the perceived expected benefits of virtual and remote laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve the goal of the study, two theoretical grounds were utilized, Pull-Push-Moring (PPM) theory and Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), to present the hypothesized relationships in the proposed model. Accordingly, based on the quantitative approach, data was gathered and analyzed using PLS-SEM. The theoretical contribution of this study can be indicated by integrating these theories in the current emerging context and by presenting the research variables to explore the expected benefits of e-learning during the COVID-19 crisis. Although many previous studies have explored the variables that impact the adoption of e-learning in several contexts [ [20] , [21] , [22] , [23] , [24] , [25] , [26] ], this unexpected switch from traditional to online education has presented an extraordinary context, which has not been explored in prior studies. People worldwide are questioning whether online education will proceed after the pandemic, and how this switch would influence the global education system. Considering the novelty of the research context, this study aims to tackle these issues by examining the factors influencing electronic education's success during the pandemic.

2. Theoretical background

2.1. pull-push-mooring (ppm) theory.

In the study presented by Lee [ 27 ]; it was found that people's migration is shaped by push and pull constructs. Adopting this idea, a Push-Pull model was developed according to Ravenstein's migratory laws. Push effects are negative factors, while pull effects are positive factors. Given that push-pull factors did not clarify how human beings can identify their movements on a social and individual basis, the mooring factor was later inserted into the Push-Pull model by Moon [ 28 ]. The ‘mooring’ factor presents further variables that influence the switching behavior and simplify it [ 29 ]. The mooring constructs intercommunicate with the push and pull constructs, which can help in deciding to move, referring to how easier or more difficult the movement is [ 30 ]. Following that, Bansal et al. [ 31 ] utilized the PPM framework successfully, as a dominant paradigm in human migration literature, to explore its applicability in consumers' behavior context. Bansal et al. [ 31 ] indicated the resemblance between migration and the shifting action in the service context. They incorporated several variables in the PPM model to explain the consumer's shifting action in the hairdressing and vehicle mend service context. Afterward, many studies have been using PPM to explore the individual's switching or shifting behavior as an effective theoretical framework. These studies indicated that although the PPM model originated from the migration theory, it can be used effectively to explain people's shifting actions [ 29 ]. The migration is not only considered as a shift from a specific physical region to another but it can also be expanded to several daily actions. Specifically, switching behavior can be considered as a special class of migration.

Previous studies have used the PPM model as a beneficial useful framework, as it can be inspected empirically, referring to a wide range of electronic service switching scenarios [ 32 ]. Hence, articles have investigated the switching activities in the IS field by adopting the PPM, such as blog applications [ 33 ], web browsers [ 34 ], mobile applications [ 35 ], and social platforms [ 36 , 37 ].

Lehto et al. [ 38 ] adopted the PPM framework to inspect visitors' intentions to switch in the context of travel and leisure business. In another context of social networks, Chang et al. [ 39 ] utilized the PPM theory to explore users’ intentions to switch. Ye and Potter [ 34 ] applied the PPM model to explore the switching activities of users of web browsers and indicated the impact of habit on shifting intentions and switching actions. Additionally, Sun et al. [ 40 ] deployed the PPM framework to inspect the switching activities of users of mobile instant messaging. Zhang et al. [ 33 ] explored customers' shifting intentions for weblog service vendors. The result of the study supported the theoretical ground of PPM theory and indicated that among the proposed variables, satisfaction is the most influential variable on shifting intention. On the other hand, Hou et al. [ 41 ] adopted the PPM model to the electronic role-playing game service field. Additionally, Hsieh et al. [ 36 ] utilized the PPM model to assess the crucial factors that impact the shifting intention from blogs to social media platforms.

Hence, building on previous literature, this study tries to use this theoretical ground by adopting push-pull-mooring factors to explain learners’ perceptions of the expected benefits from online learning during the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, this research aims to meet the research objective through the lens of the PPM framework. The PPM model works as an incorporated framework to explore various factors that impact users' switching actions, entailing push, pull, and mooring factors.

2.2. Protection motivation theory (PMT)

PMT is regarded as one of the most prominent theoretical grounds in the health-related action stimulus [ 42 , 43 ]. In the information system context, anticipating the intention to involve in protective actions has been investigated by many types of research [ [44] , [45] , [46] ]. PMT indicates two main directions in motivating the individuals to adopt protective actions: risk evaluation and coping evaluation [ 44 , 47 ]. Risk evaluation is one's estimation of the degree to which a potential risk is possible to happen and how serious it can be. Hence, in this research, the perceived threat imposed by COVID-19 and the perceived environmental risk can impact people's protective actions. PMT highlights that the coping assessment action only happens if a potential risk exists, and it occurs after the risk assessment procedure [ 44 ]. Coping assessment particularly entails the individual choice regarding if he can efficiently handle the risk or not [ 44 ].

Several factors can increase students' motivations in using electronic learning. If the risk linked to a particular action (continuing traditional learning) is regarded as serious, the user's motivation to use other safer choices will be high. Additionally, if the user can perceive the benefits of online learning to minimize the negative impacts associated with a specific situation, this can enhance his motivation to utilize the perceived benefits. Hence, if the user trusts that he can use electronic platforms to learn, his motivation will be high, and his switching action is more likely to happen, referring to PMT theory. Adopting this theory allowed us to hypothesize that two factors will influence the expected benefits from e-learning; environmental threat and perceived health risk. First, suppose if a student believes that restricting education to traditional learning can lead to an increased threat to the environment, this will impact his perception of the benefits of other choices. Environmental pollution can maximize the risk of other health-related serious problems (threat appraisal). The threat appraisal will motivate the learner to change towards other choices (e-learning) and his perception of the expected benefits will improve. This goes in line with a previous study by Langbroek et al. [ 48 ]; which indicated that users who perceive air pollution threats more seriously have more willing to shift to green transportation. Second, if the student believes that attending traditional classes and communicating with others (face-to-face) can maximize the threat of the infection of serious health disease (threat appraisal), his motivation to change will increase and his perception of the expected benefits will improve.

3. Research model and hypotheses development

In the development protocol of the research model, previous methods for assessing virtual and remote learning and previous IS literature were considered to provide a broad definition of the success of virtual and remote learning. Therefore, various perspectives were considered with the inclusion of pull factors (e-learning motivation, perceived information sharing, and social distancing); push factors (environmental threat and perceived health risk); and mooring factor (perceived security) based on their potentials to appraise the achievement of virtual and remote learning. These dimensions encompass the main components of the offered research model. We target to explore the impact of each factor on learners’ expected benefits of utilizing the virtual and remote learning system by developing a comprehensive research model and empirically testing it in light of the research context.

Push factors in this research focus on the negative characteristics of face-to-face learning in the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these factors may drive individuals away from traditional learning. Traditional learning's negative attributes are found in two main categories: psychological and situational variables [ 49 ]. Considering the study objective, environmental threat and perceived health risk are identified as the negative characteristics of traditional learning from psychological and situational aspects. The pollution of the environment and the risk of health are considered negative attributes of traditional learning in this study.

In this research, the relationships between the pull factors (e-learning motivation, perceived information-sharing, and social distancing) and perceived benefits are also investigated. The study assumes that people would rationally assess the advantages of virtual and remote laboratories, which are reflected by information sharing. Students also consider their aims from using the online portals for educational perspectives, which are reflected by their motivations to use the online portal. This study assumes that students will perceive social distancing as a positive feature of online learning that will pull them towards using online portals. In virtual and remote laboratories, rational and social perceptions emerge simultaneously. Hence, it is vital to examine the variables that can promote the expected benefits from virtual and remote learning with the consideration of e-learning motivation, information sharing, and social distancing. Finally, it is vital to examine the user's perception of the security of the electronic platforms to promote the switching process [ 50 ]. The hypothesized model is displayed in Fig. 1 . The hypotheses of this research are discussed in the following sections.

Fig. 1

The research model.

3.1. E-learning motivation and perceived benefits

One of the obstacles that confront people in the academic sector is encouraging learners to study [ 51 ]. Academic standards show that unconcerned or careless learners, who conduct the least effort in performing academic tasks, have been a center of worry agreed by educators and researchers [ 52 , 53 ]. Unconcerned learners provide less motivation in strengthening their academic levels and present more care about the grades than the learning process. The e-learning motivation variable reflects learners' tendency to perceive e-learning services as useful and simple to use and to get the required academic gains from using the system [ 54 ]. Previous studies have explored the impact of learning motivation based on several aspects related to the learning context [ 50 , 51 , 55 ]. The motivation variable has a vital impact on usage intention [ 56 , 57 ]. Ryan and Deci [ 58 ] categorized motivation as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation indicates the individual action to fulfill his enjoyment and satisfaction [ 59 ]. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is related to broad categories of actions that are committed to get other benefits rather than the individual self-interest [ 50 ]. In the context of this research, learners use the virtual system to gain the needed information, which is required to obtain the course grades. Hence, in this research, we focus on extrinsic motivation as a prerequisite to learners’ benefits. Hence, following the above discussion, we present the next hypothesis:

E-learning motivation has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

3.2. Environmental threat and perceived benefits

Environmental threats represent the degree to which the person thinks that the environmental-related challenges have negative implications [ 60 ]. Referring to the protection motivation theory, the individual conducts particular protective behaviors following the assessment of a specific threat related to a specific issue [ 61 ]. In the context of this research, protective behavior will be prompted by the individual perception of environmental threats [ 49 ]. People are more willing to perform eco-friendly movements when they have negative emotions considering environmental issues. The desire to preserve the environment arises when people gain awareness of potential threats [ 62 ]. As indicated by Kim et al. [ 63 ]; the potential risks of climate change affect people's readiness to behave favorably towards the environment positively. As people's behavioral patterns have converted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people's negative influence on the environment has decreased. Pollution degrees are presenting vital reductions regarding the quarantine rules. All these aspects have raised people's awareness of environmental issues. A study by Rousseau and Deschacht [ 64 ] has indicated the impact of COVID-19 on improving people's awareness of nature problems. It can be anticipated that the current crisis has raised individuals' perceptions of environmental risks. Thus, it can be hypothesized that when people sense environmental enhancement during and after the COVID-19, they will be more willing to perceive the virtual learning benefits. Accordingly, the next hypothesis can be presented:

The environmental threat has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

3.3. Perceived health risk and perceived benefits

The Health Belief Model (HBM) indicates that people who believe that there is a potential health risk are more willing to participate in healthy actions [ 65 ]. People with greater levels of perception of health-related threat have a higher desire to adjust their actions or to shift to health-based actions, such as following protective health actions [ [66] , [67] , [68] , [69] ]. Several studies have indicated the influence of perceived health risk on people's health-related behaviors [ 68 , 70 , 71 ]. The crisis we face has dramatically raised people's perception of health risks [ [72] , [73] , [74] ]. Hence, we suggest that health risks will participate in changing people's actions significantly. Consequently, following previous literature, we present the following hypothesis:

Perceived health risk has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

3.4. Perceived information sharing and perceived benefits

This research adopts the perceived information-sharing concept from Dewhirst's [ 75 ] to utilize the pull force that leads learners to exchange their knowledge with their colleagues. In the context of e-learning, sharing the information indicates learners' awareness of the collaborative e-learning process [ 76 ]. Thus, students in the e-learning scenario may develop firm norms of knowledge sharing if they have observed the desire for information exchange in a collaborative manner. The need to acquire the information to continue the learning process during the quarantine period impacts learners' perceptions of the expected benefits of the e-learning process and allows new modes of information sharing among students. While traditional learning restricts the learning process to direct interaction between the instructor and learners, virtual learning enables sharing of recorded lessons and digital materials. Thus, the next hypothesis is presented as follows:

Perceived information sharing has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

3.5. Perceived security and perceived benefits

Students are the most considerable part of the electronic learning portal's community [ 77 ]. Learners care about the security of the online system. They concern about their private data, as they need to trust the reliability of the electronic portal. Electronic mediums are considered as channels for private information exchange; hence, it is logical that general trust reduces security concerns. These security concerns entail external threats from cybercriminals, the misuse of the information by organizations, and other potential risks [ 78 ]. The electronic medium's perceived security is essential to increase learners' perceptions of the expected benefits, as indicated in previous literature [ [79] , [80] , [81] ]. Hence, we present the next hypothesis:

Perceived security has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

3.6. Social distancing and perceived benefits

Social distancing has been recommended and regulated by countries to face the spread of the COVID-19. Many countries have followed movement restrictions to decrease the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and the crisis's spread [ 82 ]. It is not yet recognized how much time the pandemic will continue, neither the influence it will leave on the education system. Based on the impact of the new regulations and social distancing rules that should be followed to restrict the distribution of the disease, educational organizations can adopt new plans that incorporate the online mode in their strategies. For several academic scholars and educators, the COVID-19 pandemic is regarded as an extraordinary chance to aid both learners and educational facilities in bridging the traditional learning gaps. Still, to properly shift to virtual learning, essential prerequisites should be achieved: access to the world wide web, the provision of suitable techniques, and the accessibility to suitable training to utilize online learning. The crisis has highlighted some of the advantages of electronic education; it enables both academics and learners to proceed with the learning process without disruption and allows the reach to teaching materials anytime and everywhere [ 83 ]. Social distancing can foster the shift to virtual learning and the utilization of its benefits. Hence, according to the above discussion, we present the next hypothesis:

Social distancing has a significant impact on perceived benefits.

4. Data collection

Determining the research sample is a significant step in quantitative research. Referring to the context of this research, college students were utilized as a research sample in several studies in information technologies’ adoption context in general [ [84] , [85] , [86] ], and in the context of electronic learning particularly [ 87 , 88 ]. College students constitute a huge portion of internet users and are represented by the term “Net Generation”. As common worldwide web users, they are usually used for large-scale internet surveys. Further reasons for choosing college students include their understanding of e-services, their familiarity with electronic media, and their usage of e-services for communication [ 89 ]. In light of the above, college students are considered to be representative of the study population.

A 5-point Likert scale has been adopted to evaluate the survey questionnaire, based on the research model and the research hypotheses. The data was collected through an online questionnaire, as we invited respondents through their e-mails in Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia to answer the survey. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has shifted the learning process from traditional learning to virtual classes through the blackboard system. The blackboard system has many tools that have been utilized in the e-learning process, such as online assessments, online exams, and blackboard collaboration. The data was gathered from Computing, Business Administration, and English departments. The survey was launched in June 2019, for one month. The period for distributing the data was chosen specifically at the end of the second semester of the academic year 2019/2020, to reflect students' experiences with online education after more than three months of the actual usage. The age of the students ranges from 18 to 23 years old. To avoid the occurrence of missing values and bias results, the elimination of observations was adopted. All subjects were asked to respond to the questionnaire and their responses were confidentiality guaranteed. Constructs and their measurement items are provided in Appendix A . Finally, to determine the least required sample size, G*power software was used. Referring to Faul et al. [ 90 ]; we adopted the following settings of the program (f 2  = 0.15 for effect size, α = 0.05 for error type one, and β = 0.20 for error type two) and for six independent factors, the least recommended sample size was 98. Hence, the sample size of this study is adequate.

4.1. Data analysis and results

Through running SmartPLS 3.0, the SEM approach was used to test the measurement model and the study's hypotheses. A partial least square is ideal for evaluating latent variables or high-level models of hierarchical content. Considering the recommendations proposed by Hair Jr et al. [ 91 ]; measurement models were tested separately before the structural model assessment. PLS algorithm by bootstrapping (5000 resample) was used to evaluate items' factor loadings, path coefficients of relationships, and their respective significance levels.

4.2. Measurement model testing

Measurement model evaluation is the first step in every SEM process. Three main criteria were used to assess the measurement model: reliability, convergent validity, and discriminant validity following Hair Jr et al. [ 91 ] and Asadi et al. [ 92 ]. As indicated in Table 1 , Cronbach α is above the recommended 0.70 value, indicating strong reliability of all measures. The composite reliability is between 0.846 and 0.905. This outcome goes beyond the recommended value (0.70) (Hair et al., 2010). AVE was used to test convergent reliability. The AVE value for all constructs is higher than 0.5, which confirms the latent model variables' confidence and validity [ 91 , 93 ]. The discriminant validity of the measurement model was assessed based on the correlation matrix or cross-loadings. The AVE's square root must be higher than the correlation between one construct and others, as determined by Fornell and Larcker [ 94 ] (see Table 2 ). The outcome of the test confirms the desired output of the Fornell and Larcker test.

Constructs’ reliability and convergent validity.

ConstructsIndicatorOuter loadingComposite Reliability (CR)Cronbach's Alpha (CA)AVE
BenefitsBN10.8240.9050.8680.657
BN20.854
BN30.855
BN40.8
BN50.712
E-learning motivationELM10.7130.8460.7630.58
ELM20.79
ELM30.781
ELM40.761
Environmental ThreatET10.880.8690.7710.689
ET20.87
ET30.732
Perceived Health RiskPHR10.8210.8840.8250.655
PHR20.839
PHR30.772
PHR40.804
Perceived Information-SharingPIS10.7590.8610.7840.608
PIS20.748
PIS30.837
PIS40.771
Perceived SecurityPS10.8150.8940.8510.628
PS20.848
PS30.827
PS40.754
PS50.712
Social DistancingSD10.8450.860.7550.672
SD20.866
SD30.743

Fornell-larcker criterion analysis.

BNELMETPHRPISPSSD
BN
ELM0.758
ET0.7320.653
PHR0.6290.6350.572
PIS0.7410.6920.6280.564
PS0.7910.7020.680.6790.686
SD0.7930.6620.690.6970.6590.762

Note: BN: Benefits; ELM: E-learning motivation; ET: Environmental Threat; PHR: Perceived Health Risk; PIS: Perceived Information-Sharing; PS: Perceived Security; SD: Social Distancing.

The assessment of the cross-loading values in reflective indicators is the next evaluation of the model's discriminant validity. We used the cross-loading method to evaluate the constructs' discriminant validity to test our research model [ 95 ]. As shown in Appendix B , each measurement indicator's load on its related variable is higher than its load on any other variable in the model. Thus these findings fulfill the cross-load assessment criteria and demonstrate the discriminant validity of the model adequately.

4.3. Structural model results

Fig. 2 demonstrates the β values and path coefficients for the relationships between the proposed model's constructs. The bootstrapping algorithm evaluates the path coefficient's importance in PLS by considering 5000 bootstrap samples in PLS-SEM. The p-values and t-values are employed to assess whether β value is statistically significant at a 5% error probability. To accept research hypotheses, a statistical significance level of 5% indicates that the p-value must be less than 0.05 and a t-value should be greater than 1.96. Table 3 and Fig. 2 provide a summary of the results of the examination of the hypotheses. The final model of this research is, therefore, provided in Fig. 3 .

Fig. 2

Structural model path coefficients.

Results of hypotheses testing.

HypothesesOriginal SampleSample MeanStandard Deviation (STDEV)T Statistics (|O/STDEV|)P ValuesResult
ELM - > BN0.2160.2110.0653.3020.001**Supported
ET - > BN0.1560.1560.0582.6770.007**Supported
PHR - > BN−0.054−0.0520.0710.7530.452Not Supported
PIS - > BN0.1770.1850.0722.4370.015*Supported
PS - > BN0.2280.230.0753.040.002**Supported
SD - > BN0.2910.2840.0773.7750**Supported

Note: Significance level = * <0.05, ** <0.01.

Fig. 3

Result of hypotheses testing.

5. Discussion

The main goal of this research is to examine the relationship between push, pull, and mooring factors and virtual and remote classes' expected benefits in the case of the COVID-19 crisis. According to the proposed hypotheses, the push factor, environmental threat (t = 2.677; p = 0.007; β = 0.156); is significantly related to perceived benefits, whereas the pull factors, including e-learning motivation (t = 3.302; p = 0.001; β = 0.216), perceived information sharing (t = 2.437; p = 0.015; β = 0.177), and social distancing (t = 3.775, p = 0; β = 0.291) have significant impacts on learners' benefits. Moreover, the mooring factor, namely perceived security (t = 3.04; p = 0.002; β = 0.228), significantly impacts learners’ benefits.

As H2 gained empirical support, student's perceived benefits are affected by perceived environmental threats. This result goes consistently with the result provided by Wang et al. [ 49 ]; in which the perceived environmental threats significantly influence the individual's willingness to shift. This study also confirmed the outcomes of a study by Fu [ 96 ] which indicated that the push factor “threat appraisal” has a significant influence on career commitment. On the other hand, the impact of perceived health risk on the expected benefits was not supported in this study. This outcome contradicts a study by Ahadzadeh et al. [ 70 ]; which demonstrated the impact of the perceived health risk on internet use. Still, the context of the study is relatively new, and different outcomes are expected.

The findings of this research demonstrated that the pull effect is a major power to switch to online learning and gain the expected benefits. The pull effect of this research is based on the user's perception of the e-learning platform and the perception of social distancing measures. As indicated by previous studies, e-learning motivations can play a major role in the technological acceptance context [ 32 , 54 ], which was highlighted by our results. Also, information sharing is found to be important to improve the perceived gains. The identified effect from the pull factors demonstrated that the need for information sharing impacts the expected benefits of virtual classes. Allowing cooperative actors to address the ambiguity they face can ensure that the process of coordination is understood and conflicts between communicative actions are reduced. The result of the study presented by Shih [ 76 ] is consistent with this result. Two examples from the previous studies indicated the importance of active interaction between involved parties in cooperative-based functions. First, Zack [ 97 ] indicated the importance of using effective technological tools within a shared scenario. Second, a study by Kraut and Streeter [ 98 ]; which emphasized the role of information sharing and collaborative actions on teamwork performance.

The results have also confirmed the influence of social distance on e-learning benefits. Social distancing plays an important part in the study's context, which has not been examined before. Virtual classes are vital tools for educators and students and valuable mechanisms for spreading the awareness of the public health issues for universities and educational organizations during the national and global restriction rules. Online learning enables the redirection of school and university educational services to homes, as well as routine learning services, in a way that reflects social distancing. Social distancing is a new factor in this emerging condition and it is anticipated that it imposes a vital influence on the user's perception of the e-learning benefits, as supported by research outcomes. This result is consistent with the finding presented by Liu et al. [ 99 ]; which emphasizes the significant impact of social distancing on online behavior.

Finally, perceived security has an important impact on perceived benefits. The security of an e-learning system is very important in order not to hinder the information sharing process in the system. Most e-learning systems offer the services needed to communicate regardless of time and space, including forums, e-mails, online evaluations, learning resources, and notices [ 77 ]. Since it is a web-based system, computer security threats are encountered. The research has shown that the expected benefits of e-learning systems are linked to the system's security level. This outcome supports the results of previous literature [ [79] , [80] , [81] ], which indicated that perceived security is important to increase learners' perceptions of the expected benefits.

6. Theoretical implications

This research examines the expected benefits focusing on individuals' shifting behaviors to virtual learning through the lens of the push-pull-mooring framework and PMT theory and highlights the importance of the push, pull, and mooring factors. The results of the research can provide several insights. As expected, learners' benefits are positively affected by one push factor (perceived environmental threat), three pull factors (e-learning motivation, perceived information sharing, and social distancing), and one mooring factor (perceived security). However, perceived health risk didn't impact learners' benefits positively.

Firstly, this research presents the PPM model to frame a comprehensive thought of the potential factors that can influence user's perceived benefits by shifting from traditional learning to online learning in the context of COVID-19. Besides, this research extends the deployment of the PPM model in the context of electronic services. Additionally, by adopting the PMT, the results indicated a significant link between the environmental threat and expected benefits, which presents additional support to the applicability of the PMT in new contexts. The outcome of the research supports the result by Langbroek et al. [ 48 ]; which adopted the PMT to explore users' adoption of electric cars as eco-friendly action.

This study's second contribution is to develop an important model for assessing the success of e-learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This model was designed to evaluate e-learning success based on an intensive review of the literature. The new model is considered comprehensive because various factors of environmental threats, perceived health risks, perceived security, the motivation of e-learning, information sharing, and social distancing, were incorporated. Additionally, the model is based on two basic theoretical aspects (PPM and PMT), to explore the perceived benefits of e-learning systems. The present research displays how these elements impact learners' perceptions, thereby extending prior studies in the context of shifting activities.

Third, this study offered an empirical exploration of the developed model that incorporates factors that affect the success of online learning systems. All factors (except health risk), which were hypothesized in the model, were important measures that can help to identify e-learning success factors and their expected benefits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current research examined the relationship between environmental threats and benefits, perceived health risks and benefits, social distancing and benefits, information sharing and benefits, e-learning motivation and benefits, and finally, security and benefits. These hypotheses were not incorporated and examined previously empirically in prior studies. The impacts of these variables were considered focusing on the acceptance of the system in previous studies in other contexts. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in which the success of e-learning has been thoroughly identified and empirically examined in one single model focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic. A summary of the theoretical implications of this study is presented in Fig. 4 .

Fig. 4

Theoretical implications.

7. Practical implications

The rapid spread of COVID-19 caused all educational institutions to shut down. Therefore, students who stay home need to be approached with solutions to continue their learning [ 100 ]. To maintain the educational process, many proposals have promoted online learning during the lockdown time. In some cases, the online session was streamed live by the instructor to reach learners using video conferencing. In other cases, lectures were recorded and sent to students through particular platforms. All these online education innovations have significantly assisted in directing students to follow lockdown rules. This experience can educate decision-makers to step up towards the use of virtual platforms and tools in the future. The study findings emphasize that continuous improvement of e-learning systems is necessary to be addressed to solve the learning issues and shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all learning can be conducted in the form of e-learning except practical teaching which involves mechanical manipulation, machinery, and chemical and biological specimens. Although clinical examination and treatment can be challenging to do via e-learning, clinical education can be manipulated to some degree through e-learning. Hence, during the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning technologies can be effective if appropriate strategies and initiatives are followed. Hence, decision-makers in the education field need to encourage instructors and students to effectively use these technologies in the quarantine period.

Hence, several practical implications can be concluded by the current study. First, how to attract individuals to use electronic platforms is of great significance for decision-makers. The pull influence, which is triggered by users' positive reactions to the motivation of electronic learning is important to increase the perceived benefits. Therefore, decision-makers should treat increased motivation as a basic planning aim, to empower students’ awareness of the benefits of the electronic platform. Effective communication between students and instructors promotes their engagement in the educational process and their social interaction. Hence, efforts should enhance the level of interaction among involved parties, which can enhance the information sharing among users. This can be enabled by indicating, recognizing, and rewarding users who interact most through the electronic platforms. Information sharing enables concerned parties to handle the uncertainty and assure effective cooperation and coordination processes, allowing minimizing challenges among communicative parties in the learning process. Active interaction linked with information-sharing allows all parties to meet desired goals and minimize cognitive gaps through e-learning platforms. Additionally, regarding the mooring influence, electronic interactions entail a security risk. Therefore, efforts should concentrate on enhancing the security of online systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown that although it's feasible to present the wide majority of education online, the fast and full switch to online learning has imposed vital stress on the parents of students. Families with parents who have full-time jobs have been struggled to manipulate their timings. Many have suffered and don't see a lengthy swift to online education as an attractive outlook. Decision-makers should address this issue in the future. Furthermore, online education has raised important questions about social skills, developing relationships, and interacting with others. The growth in technology can help partially to overcome these limitations. There is a need to address these aspects in the design of online learning platforms.

8. Limitations and future work

In this study, the proposed model can provide several foundations for future research. This research is based on the students' perspectives about e-learning benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, this study may be further utilized focusing on other groups within the educational systems. Besides, various online learning stakeholder groups (e.g. instructors and managers) could add further perspectives to the research and better understanding of the potential problems that might contradict the success of e-learning systems. The differences between the results can be explained, justified, and compared. Besides, longitudinal research into how the quality of e-learning portals can impact the students’ behaviors can reveal further interesting results with continuously evolving technologies. While the current research proved the impact of research variables, except the perceived health risk, on the perceived benefits, more investigation will be needed to explore other variables impacting the e-learning success.

Although distributing the questionnaire in one university can impact the generalizability of the survey outcomes, we believe that the study outcomes can be applied to public college students in Saudi Arabia, as they use comparable electronic platforms and they have to follow the same rules presented by the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia. This indicates that other educational institutions (schools, private educational institutions) should be careful in utilizing these outcomes, referring to possible variations that may influence the impact of these variables. Adopting the research outcomes to other countries may require further investigation regarding the tools used in online education, the mode of the study (fully online or partially online), and the period in which students used the online services.

In this study, we included three departments: Computing, Business Administration, and English language departments. Each has courses that can be thought by traditional lecturing and other teaching strategies such as speaking in the English Department, programming languages in the Computing Department, and practical training in the Business Administration Department. All the courses have been shifted to the online mode. Other studies can explore the differences between the nature of the course, the teaching strategy, and the expected benefits.

Credit author statement

Rabab Ali Abumalloh: Supervision, Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Software, Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, Validation. Shahla Asadi: Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Software, Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, Validation. Mehrbakhsh Nilashi: Supervision, Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Software, Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, Validation. Behrouz Minaei-Bidgoli: Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization. Fatima Khan Nayer: Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization. Sarminah Samad: Conceptualization, Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization. Saidatulakmal Mohd: Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization. Othman Ibrahim: Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization.

Appendix A. Constructs and their Measurement Items

ConstructItemReferences
Environmental ThreatEA1Human beings create traffic jams, carbon emissions, and noise.[ ]
EA2Human beings rise the problem of climate change
EA3The emissions of the transportation system pollute the air.
Perceived Health RiskPHR1There is a big opportunity that I will be infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19)[ , ]
PHR2One of my family members was infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
PHR3I am worried about getting infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
PHR4I have a higher risk of getting infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
E-learning motivationELM1I participate in virtual and remote laboratories because learning is significant to me.[ ]
ELM2I participate in virtual and remote laboratories because I think that e-learning will help me to enhance my academic competence.
ELM3I participate in virtual and remote laboratories because I understand that I have to refresh my information to enhance my academic practice.
ELM4I engage in the conversation in the virtual and remote laboratory forum because I know that I am being evaluated
Perceived Information-SharingPIS1I need to use the e-learning system to share information with my classmates.[ ]
PIS2I need to use the e-learning system to transfer documents to my classmates.
PIS3I need to communicate with my classmates through virtual and remote laboratories in coordinating my study.
PIS4I need to use virtual and remote laboratories to share information with my instructors.
Social DistancingSD1I encourage rescheduling, delaying, or avoiding public meetings to support social distance.[ ]
SD2I support the remote conferences, as a replacement to a face-to-face gathering.
SD3I avoid events with large numbers of people or crowds.
Perceived SecurityPS1Using virtual and remote laboratories is secure[ ]
PS2Security aspect influences using e-learning systems.
PS3E-learning provides safe interaction to protect all communications among the participants.
PS4Virtual and remote laboratories provide the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized intrusion.
PS5Virtual and remote laboratories provide firewall protection to restrict illegal interference.
BenefitsBN1Using virtual and remote laboratories has increased my knowledge.[ ]
BN2Virtual and remote laboratories are very efficient academic strategies and have aided me to enhance my education procedure.
BN3Virtual and remote laboratories make the interaction simpler between the educator and learners.
BN4Virtual and remote laboratories save my time in finding resources and reduce costs.
BN5Virtual and remote laboratories have aided me to reach my educational aims.

Appendix B. Loading and Cross-Loading Tests

Image 1

wishtvcom

New research shows that pandemic cost US trillions in economic losses

Jane king 07/09/24.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Here is a look at Tuesday’s business headlines with Jane King, where she discusses the economic impact of the pandemic, Americans attitude towards higher education and more.

Pandemic called most disruptive and costly event

A new report by the Heritage Foundation’s Nonpartisan Commission on China and COVID-19 found that the pandemic caused $18 trillion in economic losses to the U.S.

That figure includes more than $8.6 trillion caused by excess deaths; more than $1.8 trillion in lost income; $6 trillion due to chronic conditions such as long COVID-19; and mental health losses of $1 trillion and educational losses of $435 billion.

It added that the pandemic was the most disruptive and costly event of the 21st century.

Survey: Americans don’t have faith in higher education

Americans’ confidence in higher education has been on the decline for several years, and new data shows the trend is continuing.

New results from a poll conducted by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation released Monday show only 36% of U.S. adults have confidence in higher education, down from 57% in 2015.

For those who are not confident in higher education, the top reason cited was concerns over political agendas at 41%.

Report: Credit card balances are rising

U.S. consumer borrowing increased in May by the most in three months, reflecting a jump in credit card balances.

Many Americans who have spent their pent-up savings accumulated during the pandemic are relying on credit cards and other payment methods to spend.

Combined with the rise in the cost of living, that’s further straining household finances.

Hackers are targeting Apple IDs

A serious cyberthreat is targeting Apple IDs, and it’s more crucial than ever to be on guard. Security experts from Symantec have uncovered an advanced SMS phishing campaign designed to trick you into giving up your valuable Apple ID credentials.

Hackers send out text messages that look like they are from Apple. These messages urgently request that users click on a link for an important iCloud update or verification.

The message even has a Captcha, a response test to determine if users are human, to make it seem more legit.

NASCAR unveils prototype for electric race car

NASCAR unveiled its first prototype electric racer this weekend at the Chicago Street Race.

The $1.5 million electric crossover was developed in partnership with ABB, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota to call attention to sustainability efforts under the NASCAR Impact Program and show what they are capable of.

It does not mean NASCAR is moving away from gasoline-powered race cars just yet, but rather that it’s trying to gauge fan interest in electric racing.

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