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Factors and Recommendations to Support Students’ Enjoyment of Online Learning With Fun: A Mixed Method Study During COVID-19

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Understanding components that influence students’ enjoyment of distance higher education is increasingly important to enhance academic performance and retention. Although there is a growing body of research about students’ engagement with online learning, a research gap exists concerning whether fun affect students’ enjoyment. A contributing factor to this situation is that the meaning of fun in learning is unclear, and its possible role is controversial. This research is original in examining students’ views about fun and online learning, and influential components and connections. This study investigated the beliefs and attitudes of a sample of 551 distance education students including pre-services and in-service teachers, consultants and education professionals using a mixed-method approach. Quantitative and Qualitative data were generated through a self-reflective instrument during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings revealed that 88.77% of participants valued fun in online learning; linked to well-being, motivation and performance. However, 16.66% mentioned that fun within online learning could take the focus off their studies and result in distraction or loss of time. Principal component analysis revealed three groups of students who found (1) fun relevant in socio-constructivist learning (2) no fun in traditional transmissive learning and (3) disturbing fun in constructivist learning. This study also provides key recommendations extracted from participants’ views supported by consensual review for course teams, teaching staff and students to enhance online learning experiences with enjoyment and fun.
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ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 11 December 2020
doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.584351
Edited by:
Leslie Michel Gauna,
University of Houston–Clear Lake,
United States
Reviewed by:
Khalil Gholami,
University of Kurdistan, Iran
Manpreet Kaur Bagga,
Partap College of Education, India
*Correspondence:
Alexandra Okada
ale.okada@open.ac.uk
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Teacher Education,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Education
Received: 17 July 2020
Accepted: 13 October 2020
Published: 11 December 2020
Citation:
Okada A and Sheehy K (2020)
Factors and Recommendations
to Support Students’ Enjoyment
of Online Learning With Fun: A Mixed
Method Study During COVID-19.
Front. Educ. 5:584351.
doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.584351
Factors and Recommendations to
Support Students’ Enjoyment of
Online Learning With Fun: A Mixed
Method Study During COVID-19
Alexandra Okada*and Kieron Sheehy
Rumpus Research Group, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, The Open University, Milton Keynes,
United Kingdom
Understanding components that influence students’ enjoyment of distance higher
education is increasingly important to enhance academic performance and retention.
Although there is a growing body of research about students’ engagement with online
learning, a research gap exists concerning whether fun affect students’ enjoyment.
A contributing factor to this situation is that the meaning of fun in learning is unclear,
and its possible role is controversial. This research is original in examining students’
views about fun and online learning, and influential components and connections. This
study investigated the beliefs and attitudes of a sample of 551 distance education
students including pre-services and in-service teachers, consultants and education
professionals using a mixed-method approach. Quantitative and Qualitative data were
generated through a self-reflective instrument during the COVID-19 pandemic. The
findings revealed that 88.77% of participants valued fun in online learning; linked to
well-being, motivation and performance. However, 16.66% mentioned that fun within
online learning could take the focus off their studies and result in distraction or loss
of time. Principal component analysis revealed three groups of students who found
(1) fun relevant in socio-constructivist learning (2) no fun in traditional transmissive
learning and (3) disturbing fun in constructivist learning. This study also provides key
recommendations extracted from participants’ views supported by consensual review
for course teams, teaching staff and students to enhance online learning experiences
with enjoyment and fun.
Keywords: COVID-19, online learning, fun, higher education, academic performance, epistemic views,
responsible research and innovation, recommendations
INTRODUCTION
Online learning has been considered vital in 21st century to provide flexible education for students
as well to address the gap between demand for higher education and supply. Governments
have advocated increasing rates of completion of secondary and higher education in the face
of rapid population growth. However, they face financial pressure to support these larger
numbers directly through additional infrastructure, in addition to scholarships and student loans
(Cooperman, 2014:1).
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest
in distance online learning not only to educate students
who work but also who live too remotely or cannot access
traditional campus universities for other reasons. However,
literature shows that online distant education has dropout rates
higher than traditional universities (Xavier and Meneses,
2020). Studies also suggest that the students’ level of
satisfaction about their online learning and own academic
performance have significant correlation with their level
of persistence toward completion (Gortan and Jereb, 2007;
Higher Education Academy (HEA), 2015).
Understanding components that influence students’
enjoyment in distance higher education is fundamental to
promote student retention and success (Higher Education
Academy (HEA), 2015) during and post COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a growing body of research about students’ engagement
in virtual learning environments (Arnone et al., 2011). However,
there are key issues that whilst extensively researched in
traditional teaching, remain relatively absent from research
into distance education. For example, a long established
body of research exists that demonstrates a link between
students’ epistemological beliefs and their study, engagement,
and outcomes (Rodriguez and Cano, 2007;Richardson,
2013). The types of epistemological beliefs typically examined
fall into two broad categories. The first is derived from
Schommer’s research (Schommer, 1990), in which she elicited
dimensions that reflected students differing beliefs. This
included “simple knowledge” (knowledge as isolated facts vs.
knowledge as integrated conceptions) and “innate ability”
(ability to learn is genetically determined vs. the ability to
learn is enhanced through experience). The second category
of research is more directly aligned with pedagogy. This has
positioned epistemological beliefs in relation to traditional or
constructivist beliefs. Traditional views of learning see learning
occurring via the non-problematic transfer of untransformed
knowledge from expert to student (Chan and Elliott, 2004).
This contrasts with constructivist beliefs in which knowledge
arises through reasoning, which is facilitated by teaching (Lee
et al., 2013). This type of framing can be seen in large scale
international comparative research, such as the Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development’s survey of teachers’
epistemological beliefs across 23 countries (Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2010, 2013).
However, in relation to online and distance higher education,
epistemological research is relatively absent (Richardson, 2013;
Knight et al., 2017). Given the impact of epistemological
beliefs on students’ study experiences there is a need for
greater epistemologically focused research in the context of
online education.
Another underrepresented research area concerns fun
in online learning; in particular, because the meaning of
fun is unclear and controversial. There is no consensus
about the value of fun in learning and what a fun learning
experience means in higher education (McManus and
Furnham, 2010;Lesser et al., 2013;Tews et al., 2015;
Whitton and Langan, 2018). Tews et al. (2015) argue that
fun is a term used regularly in various contexts including
education. Yet there is no clear agreement about its
role and relationships with students’ learning experience.
Congruently, McManus and Furnham (2010) highlight
that fun has different meanings for different people and
literature is limited about what generally comprises fun
for learners. Similarly, Lesser et al. (2013) indicate that
views about fun among educators are ambivalent as fun
is perceived as too difficult or time-consuming to be
implemented and it may distract students from serious
learning. These three studies indicate that evidence about
fun and learning are circumstantial and subjective for
teaching staff to consider it as a compelling component
for making their students’ experience more impactful.
So that, further studies would be worthwhile to examine
the practical meaning and educational value of fun on
Distance Higher Education with a systematic and rigorous
methodological approach.
To explore this challenge, this paper investigates students’
reflective views about fun and online learning and whether
fun and enjoyment are interconnected components to enhance
enthusiasm to learn and excel in online distant education.
This investigation considers a critical question framed by
the authors from Whitton and Langan (2018:11)’s work.
How can we explore the impact of fun in higher education
in view of the complexity of factors involved? To explore
this question, this work is based on Responsible Research
and Innovation (RRI) approach to understanding the what,
how and why fun might be a valuable key in education
with and for distinctive representatives: learners, educators,
researchers, consultants, and policy makers. “For pedagogic
innovation to succeed, learners must personally perceive the
benefits of learning activities” designed to be fun and also
“these gains must be translated into outcomes that are
viewed positively within the institution quality monitoring
by teaching staff.” Whitton and Langan (2018) also explain
that there is a negative influence from the competitive
job market that values “serious” performance – as the
opposite of fun – so potentially this make course teams less
likely to embed playful and fun approaches in the higher
education curriculum.
The RRI approach implies that community-members and
researchers interact together to better align both its process and
outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society
(European Commission, 2013;von Schomberg, 2013). The
purpose of RRI is to promote greater involvement of societal
members with research-authors in the process of research to
increase knowledge, understanding and better decision-making
about both societal needs and scientific research through eight
principles: diversity and inclusion; transparency and openness,
anticipation and reflexivity, adaptation and responsiveness (RRI-
Tools, 2016;European Commission, 2020). These principles
were used to adapt, implement and refine a self-reflective
instrument about learning and fun. So that, the following section-
“Previous Studies about Fun and Learning” present Learning
and Fun views from literature. Section-“Methodology” shows
the self-reflective instrument, which was used integrated with
the methodological approach. Section-“Findings” shows the
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findings and section-“Discussion and Final Remarks” discussion
with final remarks.
PREVIOUS STUDIES ABOUT FUN AND
LEARNING
Studies that appear to research fun and learning, typically focus
on types of activity and the extent to which these are seen as
enjoyable and indicated as being fun, rather than drilling down
to examine or define fun. While fun is consistently recognized
as an important part of the lived experience of children, youth
and adults, relatively few seek a deeper understanding of what the
construct of fun means (Kimiecik and Harris, 1996;Harmston,
2005;Garn and Cothran, 2006). This situation is in stark contrast
to how fun is generally positioned with regard to the domain of
learning and education.
There are different views in the literature about fun and
learning, in terms of meanings and its effects. Negative
perspectives describe fun as the opposite concept of meaningful
“work” and consider it as an unnecessary distraction for learning.
Fun is a term that has changed over time. In the 1900s, it
came to indicate an absence of seriousness, work, and labor.
“Fun can be seen both as a resistance to the rigid demarcation
between work and leisure and also as a means of reproducing
that dichotomy” (Blythe and Hassenzahl, 2018, p92). As it took
on these meanings, fun became a loaded term that challenges the
status quo (Beckman, 2014). It can be positioned as a challenge
to the traditional split between fun and learning; welcomed by
those who embrace social views of the learning process but seen
as an unnecessary distraction for those who hold a traditional
transmission view of how learning takes place.
The etymological meaning of fun (fonne and fon from
Germanic), which refers to “simple, foolish, silly, unwise
(Etymonline, 2020) have still influence on the meanings
attributed by people and researchers nowadays. The argument
that fun can have a negative influence on learning was highlighted
in newspaper reports of research by the Centre for Education
Economics (CEE): “Making lessons fun does not help students
to learn, a new report has found. The widely held belief that
learners must be happy in order to do well is nothing more than
a myth” (Turner, 2018). Likewise, Whitton and Langan note in
their analysis of fun in United Kingdom that many educators
believe fun to be unsuitable in the “serious” business of higher
education (Whitton and Langan, 2018, p3). They also highlight a
need to research whether students believe that there is any place
for fun in their university studies. So, for many, fun is seen as
having little or no place within learning. Within the context of
education, “fun” is often a derogatory term used to refer to a
trivial experience (Glaveanu, 2011).
Some researchers have identified a more positive relationship
between fun and learning for children and adults. An analysis
of outcomes from the United Kingdom’s “Excellence and
Enjoyment” teaching initiative concluded that “Learning
which is enjoyable (fun) and self-motivating is more
effective than sterile (boring) solely teacher-directed learning”
(Elton-Chalcraft and Mills, 2015, p482; Tews et al., 2015). In the
context of informal adult learning, fun has been linked to
positive learning outcomes, including job performance and
learner engagement (Francis and Kentel, 2008;Fine and Corte,
2017;Tews et al., 2017). This raises the question of why this
conflict and controversy might exist.
The positive effect is not due to fun being an integral part of the
learning process, but rather because it has physiological effects
such as reducing stress and improving alertness which enhance
“performance” (Bisson and Luckner, 1996).
Similarly, Whitton and Langan (2018) describe fun as
a “fluid state” (Prouty, 2002) which makes learners feel
good (Koster, 2005: 40) to engage with learning. This fluid
state allows learners to take healthy risks beyond existing
personal boundaries (Ungar, 2007). This is because learners
are attracted to participate in learning activities that they
enjoy and can “fail forward” and feel safe. In addition,
Feldberg (2011:12) indicate that fun has a positive effect on
the learning process for creating a state of “relaxed alertness”
(Bisson and Luckner, 1996) which enables the suspension
of one’s social inhibitions and the reduction of stress. The
author highlights fun may contribute to the maintenance of
cognitive functioning and emotional growth (Crosnoe et al., 2004
cited by Feldberg).
Dismore and Bailey’s (2011, p.499) study indicates positive
feelings associated with enjoyment, engagement and optimal
experience. The authors described fun and enjoyment
underpinned by the concept of “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi,
2015) which refers to “an optimum state of inner experience
incorporating joy, creativity, total involvement and an exhilarating
feeling of transcendence.” The optimum state is a key component
to lead students to enjoyable accomplishment and optimal
learning when their perceived skill and challenge are balanced
and suitable. Flow is an important concept for educators to
be aware that students’ anxiety caused when their challenge
becomes higher compared to their skill, and boredom when
challenge becomes too little compared to their skill will reduce
their enjoyment and have a negative effect on their learning. Fun
learning with flow experiences is relevant for learners to grow
with positive opportunities where their skill meets their effort
producing intrinsic rewards (Dismore and Bailey, 2011;Chu
et al., 2017;Whitton and Langan, 2018).
Literature about the meaning of fun in online learning is
very limited. A set of studies about engaging e-learning games
highlight that fun and challenge are essential for promoting
students’ enjoyment and making them want to learn (Fu et al.,
2009). An engaging e-learning game facilitates the flow of
experiences of students by increasing their attention, achieving
learning goals and enjoyment with their learning experience
(Virvou et al., 2005;De Freitas and Oliver, 2006).
This study focuses on fun and learning in the context of
Distance Higher Education supported by RRI. To explore what
fun is, its meaning and the effects of the phenomenon need to
be understood with learners. As a first step, there is a need to
identify how the relationship between fun and online learning
is conceived by learners based on their own learning experience.
A second step is to examine whether this relationship connection
has any connection with their epistemic views.
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
The aim of this study is to address the following questions:
What are the relationships between fun and online learning
practices identified by students?
What are the connections between students’ epistemic
views about online learning and fun?
What are the recommendations for students, teaching staff
and course teams?
METHODOLOGY
This work is part of a research program OLAF – Online Learning
and Fun led by Rumpus Research Group. The methodology used
in this study adopts the established epistemological questionnaire
approach (Feucht et al., 2017), and provides an opportunity
to facilitate participants epistemic reflectivity (Feucht et al.,
2017). In this way the study is underpinned by the concept of
reflective practitioners, by which participants “think in action”
about principles and practices to share their reflective views
(Schon, 2015).
This study is based on a mixed-method approach.
Quantitative and qualitative data were generated through
a self-reflective instrument (Feucht et al., 2017) constituted
by two parts, both developed in Qualtrics. The first
part was a Likert-scale survey with 25 statements about
learning and fun. The second part was an open question
(see “Instruments”).
The approach used for qualitative analysis was a systematic
and novel multi methodical procedure that combined: word
cloud visualization in Qualtrics (Figure 2); automated thematic
analysis map (Figure 3) and sentiment analysis (Figures 46)
in NVivo 12. This integration of visualizations enabled us to
identify seven themes to analyze the value of fun; and 26 themes
of relationships between fun and learning. The quantitative
analysis was supported by PCA – Principal Content Analysis
(see “Relationships Between Fun and Learning Supported by
Quantitative Analysis”). This approach enabled us to group our –
multi-method qualitative analysis categorized by themes – into
three groups (see “Relationships Between Fun and Learning
Supported by Quantitative Analysis”) as well present our
findings (section-“Findings”) with global recommendations
underpinned by students’ needs, priorities and expectations,
which were revealed in the qualitative data and grouped by
quantitative analysis.
This study acknowledges 8 principles (Box 1) of RRI
(von Schomberg, 2013;RRI-Tools, 2016) in the context of
open educational research (Okada and Sherborne, 2018) by
which all participants reflect about practices and beliefs for
better alignment between learners’ needs and research-based
recommendations. The instrument with a special code to allow
the withdrawal of participation without the collection of personal
data was approved by the Ethics Committee and the Student
Research Project Panel of the Open University-United Kingdom.
Participants
The OU offers flexible undergraduate and postgraduate courses
and qualifications supported distance and open learning for
174,898 people from the United Kingdom, Europe and some
worldwide. Approximately 76% of directly registered students
work full or part-time during their studies; 23% of Open
University United Kingdom undergraduates live in the 25%
most deprived areas and 34% of new OU undergraduates
are under 25, 14% with disabilities and 32% with lower
qualification at entry.
This study focused on one of the largest introductory
modules offered by the Wellbeing Education and Language
Studies – WELS Faculty of The Open University. Currently this
module has more than 4,300 students and is part of various
qualifications. So that, participants were students from all
levels and qualification’ interests with different occupations,
include novices, undergraduates who had just completed
secondary education, pre-service and in-service teachers;
as well professionals interested in Education, Psychology
and Social Care.
A balanced and representative sample were constituted by a
total of 625 students who participated in this study as volunteers,
551 completed a self-reflective questionnaire to reflect about fun
and learning and 206 provided their reflective views by answering
an “optional” open question. The response rate (40%) for the
open views about fun and learning was higher than expected.
In terms of students’ previous study experience 48.55%
students completed pre-A levels or equivalent (secondary
school), 26.81% had already finished other OU course modules
(level 1, level 2, and level 3) and 24.64% reported other different
experiences. In terms of qualification pathway targeted by
students: 28.80% are interested in childhood studies; 34.24% in
psychology; 27.17% Education primary, 4.53% Open and 1.81%
do not know and 3.44 other qualification such as Social Care.
BOX1|RRI in the context of open education (Okada, 2020).
Prinicples Recruitment Implementation Analysis
Diversity and inclusion Voluntary basis with no personal
data requested
Completely anonymous Diverse participants (SEND, workers, novices,
teachers, . . .)
Transparency and
openness
Objectives and process open to all
participants
Open Online data Open access to results
In Open Repository (ORO) and OpenLearn
Anticipation and
reflexivity
No implications for participants’
studies
Reflexive instrument with open
question
Peer-reviewers with distinctive roles were
co-authors
Adaptation and
responsiveness
Variety of approaches needed
(news, email and course team
support)
Optional withdrawal with a coded
survey developed in Qualtrics
Mixed methods, analytical database available in
an Open data Repository (ORDO).
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
Procedures
This study focuses on a 9-month-module course with twenty-four
weekly units and four assessment activities. The course integrates
reading materials, online audio-visual materials, a YouTube
channel “The student hub live” and radio-style broadcast audio
repository. Students have also access to a set of library resources,
news and special “quick guides” to provide extra-support for
developing activities successfully. Students’ interaction with peers
and communication with tutors typically occur asynchronously
in the online discussion forum and synchronously in online
tutorials (in Adobe Connect) and face-to-face tutorials organized
in a specific period and locations. In addition, the course provides
a channel in social media (Twitter and Facebook) for students’
social engagement. This course module presentations are opened
3 weeks prior to the start in order to provide time for students to
smoothly engage in their initial activities including a series of fun
and friendly online workshops to promote interaction.
Recruitment
Students’ recruitment occurred at the middle of the online
module. It was supported by the course chair and the module
course tutors through an invitation shared in course news page
and via central email sent to all students. Recruitment and data
generation occurred during 5 weeks (February–March 2020) and
was more effective after an email invitation sent to all students.
Instruments
The use of self-report questionnaires is well established as
a methodology within research examining epistemological
beliefs (Feucht et al., 2017). The self-reflective instrument
was underpinned by previous work led by the second author
(Sheehy et al., 2019b) and adapted to the context of online
learning and fun.
Box 2 indicates the questionnaire statements:
1. Statements 1–4, 13–17 relate to models of learning (Social
Constructivist, and Banking) and are taken from Sheehy
and Budiyanto’s (2015) development of the Theoretical
Orientation Scale (Hardman and Worthington, 2000).
2. Statements 5–7, 8, 10–12 relate to Constructivist and
Traditional views of learning, from the OECD internation-
al survey (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), 2010, 2013).
3. Statements 9, 18–21 elicit beliefs about fun and happiness
and emerged as stable items from Budiyanto et al.’s (2017)
epistemological research.
The adapted questionnaire was implemented in Qualtrics
with consent forms, study objectives and a novel embedded
code to enable students’ withdrawal. This is the first study
that provides anonymous withdrawal in Qualtrics. It was
then tested in two pre-pilots to check its reliability and the
embedded code.
In the first phase of implementation, the self-reflective
instrument was used by online students to reflect about the topic
“Fun and Learning” through a series of 21 statements using
Likert-scale to indicate the level of agreement.
In the second phase, students were invited to complete an
optional open-ended question (What is your opinion about fun
in online learning?) to provide their reflective views and freely
express their feelings on this topic.
BOX2|Self-reflective instrument about epistemic views related to Online Learning and Fun.
Theoretical Principles Variables Statements
Socio-constructivism 1. SocialActivities 1. Meaningful learning takes place when individuals are engaged in social activities.
2. CollaborativeActivities 2. Students learn best through collaborative activities.
3. SocialProduction 3. Learning can be defined as the social production of knowledge.
4. TalkProductively 4. Helping students to talk to one another productively is a good way of teaching
Traditional 5. TeachHowtoSolve 5. Effective/good teachers demonstrate the correct way to solve a problem.
6. TeachingProblemAnswer 6. Teaching should be built around problems with clear, correct answers.
7. TeachingFacts 7. The teacher’s role is to teach facts.
15. LearnOwnEffort 15. How much students get from their learning depends mostly on their effort
Constructivism 8. TeachInquiry 8. The teacher’s role is to facilitate students’ own inquiry.
10. LearnFindSolution 10. Students learn best by finding solutions to problems on their own.
11. LearnThinkSolve 11. Students should be allowed to think of solutions to practical problems themselves
before the teacher shows them how they are solved.
12. LearnReasoning 12. Thinking and reasoning processes are more important than specific curriculum content.
Banking 13. AbilityNotFixed 13. Students’ educational potential is not fixed at birth.
14. AbilityMayChange 14. Students who begin university with “average” ability do not remain “average” throughout
their studies
16. TeachHomogenous 16. All students should be taught in classes according to their intelligence.
17. TeachSingleWay 17. I believe there should be a single teaching method applicable to all learning situations.
Fun 18. LearnersHappy 18. To learn effectively students must be happy
19. LearnWithFun 19. Learning should involve fun
09. EnjoyLearning 09. To learn effectively, students must enjoy learning
20. FunHampers 20. Fun activities can get in the way of student learning
21. EnjoyOnlineLearning 21. I am enjoying studying online
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FIGURE 1 | Four levels of Online Learning and Fun (Source: Okada, 2020).
FINDINGS
Preliminary outcomes of this study (Figure 1) were presented
to all participants through an article published in OpenLearn
(Okada, 2020) and also in a journal paper (Okada and Sheehy,
2020: 608). The framework ‘Butterfly of fun’ including four types
of fun in online learning was developed underpinned by Piaget
and Inhelder (1969),Vygotsky et al. (1978),Csikszentmihalyi
(2020), and Freire (1967, 1984, 1996, 2009) and supported by
students’ views. Optimal fun is the joy of being fully involved in
learning, moving toward full capability and creativity. Individual
fun is the happiness of fulfilling accomplishments, supported by
clear goals and strategies. Collaborative fun is the happiness
of making connections with others, creating social bonding and
developing group identity. Emancipatory fun is the joy of being
curious, able to search and discover whilst being critically aware
(Okada and Sheehy, 2020).
Relationships Between Fun and Online
Learning Supported by Qualitative Analysis
This study started with a content analysis in NVivo 12 after
importing from Qualtrics a csv file with 206 responses about
students’ views related to fun and learning (qualitative data). The
word cloud visualization in Qualtrics (Figure 2) about students’
views indicated the most frequent words: 148 fun, 123 learning,
50 enjoy/enjoyed/enjoyable/enjoyment, 45 students, 40 distance,
31 tutorials, 29 activity, and 26 time.
The automated thematic analysis map (Figure 3) in NVivo 12;
represented in Cmap tools provided 89 codes grouped through
seven themes: fun, learning, students, tutorials, material, online
and activities, which enabled to identify connections between fun
and learning presented as following.
NVivo12 sentiment analysis tool (Figure 4) indicated a
significant amount of neutral and positive comments associated
to narratives that included learning and fun. A small percentage
of negative and mixed views emerged across all categories apart
from course module “material.” Three largest clusters emerged
focused on fun, learning and activities. Four medium clusters
were online, tutorials, fun activities, and students. Two small
clusters were material and group.
FIGURE 2 | The word cloud visualization in Qualtrics about Online Learning
and Fun.
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
FIGURE 3 | Thematic analysis map about Online Learning and Fun with codes generated by NVivo 12.
FIGURE 4 | RRI sentiment analysis about Online Learning and Fun in NVivo 12.
NVivo 12 sentiment analysis were used to obtain an overview
about students’ negative views (Figure 5) and positive opinions
(Figure 6) which were highlighted in red and green by the authors
to show the students’ responses with a significant narrative.
These visualizations were useful to identify two sets of themes
and sub-themes (Box 3) related to value and relationships
between learning and fun as well review the automated sentiment
analysis code manually to check nuances and recode it based on
the meaning of narratives.
A total of 206 students’ testimonials were coded with
these themes and the frequency of codes were represented by
percentages (Box 3). The first set of themes was used to code
the value of fun for students; a total of 43% students indicated
positive values about fun in learning, 24% indicated neutral, and
23% mixed. Only 10% indicated negative views about fun in
learning. The second set of themes were used to explore the value
and relationships about fun and learning. Approximately 18% of
students indicated that fun is valuable, 12% fun is important, 13%
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FIGURE 5 | Sentiment analysis about students’ negative views related to Online Learning and Fun.
FIGURE 6 | Sentiment analysis about students’ positive views related to Online Learning and Fun.
fun is useful, 24% fun is needed, 11% fun is difficult, 12% fun
depends, and 10% fun is unnecessary.
Relationships Between Fun and Learning
Supported by Quantitative Analysis
Quantitative data analysis (Graph 1) revealed largely positive
views about fun and learning. Most students agreed that fun
(as enjoyment) had value in supporting learning. The majority
of students agreed with the following statements: 98% To learn
effectively, students must enjoy learning; 91% To learn effectively,
students must be happy to learn. 88.77% Learning should involve
fun. However, a small group of students 16.66% beliefs that Fun
activities can get in the way of student learning.
The questionnaire data about 21 statements using Likert scale
(1–5) were analyzed through SPSS 24. Cronbach’s alpha 0.717
confirmed that the principal components analysis (PCA) was
supported (Cohen et al., 2007). The instrument proved to be
reliable for both PCAs (Tavakol and Dennick, 2011). The Kaiser-
Meyer-Olkin score of 0.756 indicated sample adequacy and the
Bartlett’s sphericity test (Chi-square = 2329.046 with 210 degree
of freedom, Sig. 0.000 <0.5) confirmed consistency.
Table 2 illustrates factor analysis with principal components,
with Varimax rotation and Kaiser Normalization indicated
six groups emerged: (1) socio-constructivist perspective,
(2)traditional perspective (3) fun and learning perspective,
(4)constructivist perspective, (5) banking perspective, and
(6) Emancipatory Learning. Table 1 using the same method
but unrotated solution, indicated three relevant groups: (1)
Socio-constructivist learning with traditional teaching and fun;
(2) Banking model, transmissive learning and no fun and (4)
Constructivist learning and disturbing fun; This approach was
selected to examine students’ views and beliefs in order to
develop recommendations. Therefore, based on the testimonies
of the students grouped with PCA unrotated, twenty-one
recommendations were listed and grouped according to three
groups: apprentices, teaching professionals and the online course
team. Three indexes were generated using the variables from the
PCA to get an average among each group related to Fun, No Fun
and Bad fun:
C1 Fun = (V19 + V09 + V03 + V18 + V02 + V05 +
V04 + V01 + V08)/9;
C2 No fun = (V17 + V07 + V16 + V06 + -V21)/5;
C3 Fun bad (hampers learning) = (V10 + V20 + V11)/3.
These indexes (above 3.5 – 5) allowed to group participants’
testimonies, select a variety of views and elaborate a
representative list of recommendations to enhance students’
enjoyment with online learning. NVivo 12 was used to carry out
a thematic qualitative analysis with an interpretative approach
to extract 21 recommendations supported by inductive mapping
(Tables 35). A consensual review (Hill et al., 1997) through
three systematic checks between the recommendations against
qualitative data were developed with two experts and a student:
individually, in pairs and in group. Five types of feedback enabled
reviewers to suggest improvements: 1. Reduce (too long, use
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
BOX3|Themes about Online Learning and Fun to analyze qualitative data.
Theme1
Sentiment
Analysis
Theme2
V = Value of Fun
Theme3
R = Relationship of fun and online learning
Qualitative data
Examples of Students’ views about fun and online learning Extracted from 206
participants
Positive
43%
7. FUN Valuable
18%
7. Fun: helps to feel good A person’s perspective when learning is quite important. To be able to cope and show
self-competence will make you feel good. Fun, to have a non-serious outlook helps for
some and at different times through their learning experience (Student 291)
7. Fun: enables to reduce stress pressure Being able to connect with other students who have chosen the same life path with you,
they have lots in common with me and I have found they have more passion than students
at brick university. Tutors have passion as well and stress has been relieved as they are
more approachable (In my case so far) (Student 615)
7. Fun: helps to enjoy the experience Fun in distance learning is key to enjoying the module and keeping people focused and
engaged with their studies. (25)
7. Fun: enjoy, make effort, achieve People put more effort in if they enjoy or are having fun (Student 84).
7. Fun: enables to learn best Having fun interactive learning maintains interest allowing the student to learn effectively and
efficiently (Student 579)
6. FUN Important
12%
6. Fun: engage, participate, learn I believe that having fun and enjoying your studies improves motivation and helps you to
remember what you have learned. However, I feel that not all enjoyment comes from
interacting with other students (although that is also very important). I would personally
enjoy quizzes, word/diagram games or flash cards that track your progress on remembering
definitions. I think things that help set small learning goals enable fun as it helps people to
see their progress and hopefully encourage them to want to learn more (Student 480).
6. Fun: enables to gather and recall Knowledge I think having fun within learning is essential, as you sometimes don’t realize the information
your brain has gathered within this time (Student 423)
6. Fun: supports interest and motivation Distance learning is what you make of it. The amount of fun had is determinate on the
person’s own enjoyment and interest of their studies (Student 548).
5. FUN Useful
13%
5. Fun: supports learning Like anything if there is not an element of fun you would not do it (Student 356)
5. Fun: enables to connect with others I think for me I cannot attend the face: face tutorials I don’t get to meet others so when I do
talk to others it’s always through the online tutorials. I think it’s important that there’s some
light-heartedness and maybe a forum where tutors are not on allowing students to feel
more comfortable expressing their ideas and frustrations (Student 211).
Neutral
24%
4. FUN Needed
24%
4. Fun: is hard when feeling isolated There is little “fun” in distance learning as you are more often a “lone” learner. I do enjoy face
to face learning and wish there was more of it, I learn better that way and it maintains my
interest (Student 533).
4. Fun: is needed in a reading-based course Learning should be fun, just read and writing from textbooks is not what a call learning, I’m
an active learning with dyslexia and find it hard from textbooks (Student 170)
Reading and answering online questions isn’t enjoyable and isn’t helpful for learners who
prefer to be practical which will aid their learning. Student (196)
(Continued)
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
BOX3|Continued
Theme1
Sentiment
Analysis
Theme2
V = Value of Fun
Theme3
R = Relationship of fun and online learning
Qualitative data
Examples of Students’ views about fun and online learning Extracted from 206
participants
4. Fun: elements must be embedded There needs to be an element of fun in order to maintain motivation (Student 19)
4. Fun: enables to break the intensity of learning Those who chose to learn distance learning may still need some form of fun element to
break up the intensity of learning (Student 265)
4. Fun: means managing flexible time Fun is Great. Teaches independence, time management and flexibility (Student 461)
4. Fun: requires interactive learning Meeting other students doing the same course is good, and feels supportive, but not many
take up the opportunity (Student 162)
Mixed
23%
3. FUN Difficult
11%
3. Fun is not possible when I struggle I think being to be able to meet the weekly online tasks and reading takes up so much time,
I wouldn’t expect any more. Seeing results is fun, but there needs to be concerted effort
involved. So it is hard to keep fun at high levels because of periods of stress (Student 288).
3. Fun needs face-to-face interaction It’ hard to get it across when you are using online facilities and textbooks to do a majority of
learning. I’m quite a light-hearted person and am finding it difficult not having that
face-to-face humor! (Student 232)
3. Fun online is limited You may have to make your own fun but the tutors can help too with in the tutorials
(Student 31)
2. FUN Depends
12%
2. Fun activities require different approaches Readers like to read the module books, other learners like to watch videos and other
people thrive in the tutor forum. Development of resources that suit a wide range of learning
styles would make it more fun for adult learners who don’t attend classes on a campus
(Student 142)
2. Fun is ambiguous and subjective I think “fun” is subjective. Some people find the online activities fun, others find reading
about a subject that interests them is fun. Some may find engaging with other students at a
tutorial to be fun, for others it may be the opposite of fun (Student 59)
2. Fun must be sensible for productive time If the fun remains relevant and helps to highlight a point or theory then I believe it would be
well received. Students do not want fun activities if they do not add benefit to their current
learning, it would be deemed a waste of study time (Student 391).
2. Fun must not be forced I find the forced fun activities, ones that start with “now, just for fun let’s try X” to be in many
cases an annoying distraction (Student 380)
Negative
10%
1. FUN Unnecessary
10%
1. Fun is not needed nor expected There is no fun in it at all but you don’t have to have fun to learn (Student 191)
1. Fun must not affect Individual productivity Fun is not an option studying without the cost of the course. Students should be focused
(Student 232).
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
GRAPH 1 | Descriptive analysis about Online Learning and Fun in Qualtrics.
short sentence), 2. Specify (very broad, use specific words),
3. Connect (unrelated, focus more on the data), 4. Simplify
(complicated, use familiar vocabulary), 5. Clarify (confusing,
revise the meaning). The results of the analysis from mixed
methods are presented as follows.
TABLE 1 | FA Varimax without rotation in SPSS.
Component Matrixa
Component
1 2 3 4 5 6
v19LearnWithFun 0.598
v09EnjoyLearning 0.587
v03SocialProduction 0.559
v18LearnersHappy 0.552 0.416
v02CollaborativeActivities 0.549 0.516
v05TeachHowtoSolve 0.540
v04TalkProductively 0.536 0.440
v06TeachProblemAnswer 0.527 0.505
v01SocialActivities 0.470 0.442
v08TeachInquiry 0.416
v17TeachSingleWay 0.610
v07TeachFacts 0.459 0.557
v16TeachHomogenous 0.504
v21EnjoyOnlineLearning 0.408
v13AbilityNotfixed
v10LearnFindSolutions 0.593
v20FunHampers 0.471
v11LearnThinkSolve 0.407 0.470
v12LearnReasoning
v14AbilityMayChange 0.539
v15LearnOwnEffort
Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. NO ROTATE.
a. 6 components extracted. SPSS 27.
In addition, the graphical comparison between
recommendations and full set of qualitative data both auto coded
(Figure 3) in NVivo 24 (Graph 2) ensured diversity with a variety
TABLE 2 | FA with Varimax rotation in SPSS.
Rotated Component Matrixa
Component
123456
v02CollaborativeActivities 0.812
v04TalkProductively 0.764
v01SocialActivities 0.717
v03SocialProduction 0.583
v06TeachProblemAnswer 0.833
v07TeachFacts 0.780
v05TeachHowtoSolve 0.718
v18LearnersHappy 0.851
v19LearnWithFun 0.731
v09EnjoyLearning 0.709
v10LearnFindSolutions 0.729
v11LearnThinkSolve 0.695
v12LearnReasoning 0.625
v08TeachInquiry 0.520
v17TeachSingleWay 0.731
v20FunHampers 0.637
v16TeachHomogenous 0.588
v14AbilityMayChange 0.688
v15LearnOwnEffort 0.665
v21EnjoyOnlineLearning 0.504
v13AbilityNotfixed 0.471
Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with
Kaiser Normalization.
a. Rotation converged in 6 iterations.
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
TABLE 3 | Recommendations about Online Learning and Fun for students supported by mixed methods.
FINDINGS Consensual Review Qualitative Data Qualitative Quantitative code
Recommendation
for students
Expert1 Expert2 Student, Expert1
& Expert2
Students’ views about learning
and fun
Code
(Theme3)
C1:
Fun!!!!
C2:
No fun
C3:
Fun bad
R7. Enjoy fun learning activities, feel
motivated, focused and engaged in
studies aiming at positive results in your
learning.
ok ok ok Fun in distance learning is key to
enjoying the module and keeping
people focused and engaged with
their studies. Student-25
7. Fun: helps to enjoy
the experience
4.3 1.8 3.3
R6. Be open-minded to experience
interactive activities might be helpful to
overcome loneliness and isolation.
ok ok ok Having fun interactive learning
maintains interest allowing the
student to learn. Student-579
6. Fun: supports
Interest and motivation
4.2 3.2 3.7
R5. Make your online learning fun and
pleasant by identifying the factors that
affect your involvement and interest
with your studies.
clarify
how
clarified,
but reduce
clear Distance learning is what you make
of it. The amount of fun had is
determinate on the person’s own
enjoyment and interest of their
studies. Student-548
6. Fun: supports
Interest and motivation
4.9 3.4 4.0
R4. Identify what in your learning is very
difficult (causes anxiety) or very obvious
(causes boredom) and discuss
alternatives with your peers and
teaching staff.
clarify what clarified
but specify
clear I find that including lots of video and
audio resources helps to stop
boredom. Student-91
4. Fun: is needed in a
reading-based course
4.3 2.0 3.7
R3. Study with autonomy, flexibility and
good time management to enjoy your
learning with fun and work-life balance.
Specify
why
clear clear (Fun is) Great. Teaches
independence, time management
and flexibility. Student-461
4. Fun: means
managing flexible time
4.0 2.4 3.7
R2. Communicate with other students
on online tutorials who are doing the
same course may be fun and
supportive.
Specify
what
clear clear Meeting other students doing the
same course is good, and feels
supportive, but not many take up
the opportunity . . . Student-162
4. Fun: requires
Interactive learning
3.6 1.6 2.0
R1. Apply your learning to your real
world by selecting activities that are
enjoyable and useful in your life.
ok ok ok Students do not want fun activities
if they do not add benefit to their
current learning, it would be
deemed a waste of study time.
Student-391
2. Fun must be sensible
for productive time
4.3 2.4 3.0
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
TABLE 4 | Recommendations about Online Learning and Fun for teaching staff supported by mixed methods.
Findings Consensual Validation Qualitative Data Qualitative Quantitative code
Recommendation
for teaching staff
Expert1 Expert2 Expert1
Expert2 Student
Students’ views about learning
and fun
Code
(Theme3)
C1:Fun!!!! C2:No fun C3:
Fun bad
R14. Allow students to discuss any
topic (coffee chat), without the
presence of teaching staff for them to
find common interests and build
relationships
Clarify why clear clear I don’t get to meet others, maybe a
forum where tutors are not on,
allowing students to feel more
comfortable expressing their ideas
and frustrations. Student-211
5. Fun: enables to
connect with others
4.4 3.7 3.3
R13. Enhance students’ engagement
with a variety of fun learning activities
that are meaningful in their lives.
Simplify
how
Simplified
but,
Reduce
clear Learning should be fun, just read
and writing from textbooks is not
what a call learning. Student-170
4. Fun: is needed in a
reading-based course
4.3 2.0 2.7
R12. Teach with a sense of humor (joy)
in forums or tutorials, with fun activities
as it might enthuse students with the
learning topic.
ok Reduce clear I’m quite a light-hearted person and
am finding it difficult not having that
face-to-face humor! Student-232
3. Fun needs
face-to-face interaction
4.9 2.6 3.7
R11. Understand the needs and
expectations expressed by students
and propose choices.
ok Specify
“needs”
clear I find the forced fun activities, in
many cases an annoying distraction
that slows learning down showing
an obvious point. Student-380
2. Fun must not be
forced
3.4 1.4 4.3
R10. Investigate students’ preferences
and ways of learning to promote more
personalized and fun online education.
Connect
what
clear clear It doesn’t suit all personality types
or individual learning styles. I
myself, for example, like to just get
down to getting the job done.
Student-15
2. Fun must be sensible
for productive time
4.2 2.0 4.3
R09. Design different types of activities,
individual and collective, for students to
choose freely.
ok ok ok Distance learning can be very lonely
and isolating but sometimes that is
good for individual productivity
Student-120
1. Fun must not affect
Individual productivity
4.3 2.4 3.7
R08. Plan icebreaking activities carefully
with clear and transparent purposes as
part of learning
ok ok ok I find icebreakers and fun stuff feels
like I’m taking part in a social
experiment rather than learning
Student-11
1. Fun is not needed
nor expected
3.1 2.2 3.7
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
TABLE 5 | Recommendations about Online Learning and Fun for course teams supported by mixed methods.
Findings Consensual Validation Qualitative Data Qualitative Quantitative code
Recommendation
for course teams
Expert1 Expert2 Expert1
Expert2 Student
Students’ views about learning
and fun
Code
(Theme3)
C1:Fun!!!! C2:No fun C3:
Fun bad
R21. Link free choice fun activities to
small learning goals for students to
visualize their progress
ok ok ok I think things that help set small
learning goals enable fun as it helps
people to see their progress and
hopefully encourage them to want
to learn more. Student-480
7. Fun: enjoy, make
effort and achieve
3.8 3.0 3.3
R20. Offer a selection of material with
interactive tasks (audio, video, quizzes,
graphics, word diagram, maps, games,
flash cards).
ok ok ok People put more effort in if they
enjoy or are having fun
Student-84
6. Fun: engage,
participate and learn
4.8 2.2 3.7
R19. Integrate “real life” activities with
content that are useful and practical for
meaningful online learning.
Simplify
what
Connect
why
clear Reading and answering online
questions isn’t enjoyable and isn’t
helpful for learners who prefer to be
practical which will aid their
learning. Student-196
4. Fun: is needed in a
reading-based course
4.4 3.0 4.3
R18. Elaborate a course content that is
clear with a balanced mix of reading
text, interactive resources and practical
projects for students who find reading
boring.
ok ok ok The module is boring it’s just
reading and then answering
questions it’s very dull and not what
I expected Student-175
4. Fun: is needed in a
reading-based course
4.2 3.8 2.3
R17. Support online learning
experiences that are engaging and
meaningful for students to gain skills
and knowledge and develop
themselves at their own pace.
ok ok ok Gaining skills and knowledge in
isolation. Developing yourself
without interference. Working at
your own pace with module
materials. . .Student-41
2. Fun must be sensible
for productive time
4.2 3.0 4.3
R16. Create a personalized learning
environment with adaptive fun materials
to help students with different needs.
Clarify how Specify
why
clear Development of resources that suit
a wide range of learning styles
would make it more fun for adult
learners. Student-142
2. Fun activities require
different approaches
4.2 1.8 3.3
R15. Design a variety of engaging
learning activities for individuals and
groups to select based on their
preferences and abilities.
ok Reduce clear Being able to work on my own as I
don’t have the time to sit and wait
around for other people to be able
to do group work. Student-432
1. Fun must not affect
Individual productivity
3.1 2.6 3.0
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
GRAPH 2 | Evidence-based recommendations about Online Learning and Fun supported by consensual review.
of views and consistency with a proportional representation
among qualitative themes and quantitative components.
DISCUSSION AND FINAL REMARKS
The value of students’ enjoyment with online learning has
become fundamental in today’s world. The World Bank (2020)
and UNESCO (2020) emphasized that more than 160 countries
are facing a crisis in education due to the COVID-19 pandemic
with loss of learning and in human capital; and over the long
term, the economic difficulties will increase inequalities. Various
factors will affect educational systems; in particular, low learning
outcomes and high dropout rates in secondary school and
higher education.
Students’ confidence and satisfaction with online learning
are highly relevant in a world in which distance education has
rapidly become a necessary practice in response to the global
the pandemic. This mixed-methods research revealed significant
online students’ opinions about fun for enjoyable and meaningful
learning. Fun is as an important part of the lived experience;
however, its meaning is underexplored by literature.
This paper provided a methodology to examine fun in
online learning supported by students’ epistemic beliefs,
underpinned by RRI – Responsible Research and Innovation.
A self-reflective instrument with valid and reliable measurement
scales with epistemic constructs of online learning and fun helped
participants to think about their views about how learning occurs
and its relationship with fun. An open database with a three sets
of code scheme was generated and shared with all participants
during the covid-19 pandemic.
In this study, light is shed on the elements, meaning and
relationships about fun and learning considering the students’
“nuanced views” that integrate fun and learning in different ways.
Our results provided evidence that a large majority of higher
education students (88.77%) value fun because they believe it has
a positive social, cognitive and emotional effects on their distance
online education. A small group (16.66%) highlighted that fun
impairs learning.
This study confirmed that students should experience
enjoyable learning so that learning should involve joy. Freire
(1996) highlight that the joy of the “serious act” of learning does
not refer to the easy joy of being inactive by doing nothing.
“Emancipatory fun” (Okada and Sheehy, 2020) underpinned
by Freire’s pedagogy of autonomy is related to the hope and
confidence that students can have fun by acting, reflecting and
learning with enjoyment and consciousness. They can search,
research and solve problems, identify and overcome obstacles as
well transform and innovate their lives with knowledge, skills and
resilience to shape a desirable future.
A key contribution of this study is that different
epistemological beliefs are associated with different
conceptualizations of the relationship between fun and learning
(Sheehy et al., 2019a;Okada and Sheehy, 2020). Principal
component analysis revealed three groups of students who
found (1) fun relevant in socio-constructivist learning (2) no
fun in traditional transmissive learning and (3) disturbing
fun in constructivist learning. A set of 21 recommendations
underpinned by systematic mixed methods and consensual
review is provided for Higher Education community including
course teams, teaching staff and students to enhance online
learning experiences with optimal fun, emancipatory fun,
collaborative fun and individual fun. Creating opportunities for
students to voice and reflect on their own views and values is
fundamental to develop more effective online course designs
aligned with their needs.
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Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
Congruent with the positive effects of optimal experience in
some online environments’ studies (e.g., Esteban-Millat et al.,
2014;Sánchez-Franco et al., 2014), this study confirmed that fun
creates an opportunity and expectation for students to experience
positive feelings in learning such as good mood, enthusiasm,
interest, satisfaction and enjoyment that are all relevant for
“optimal” learning.
Researchers who see fun as having a close relationship with
learning have proposed different types of fun. Lazzaro (2009)
highlighted “easy fun” in activities such as games and role play
that stimulate curiosity and exploration. Papert (2002) identified
“hard fun” within goal-centered and challenging experiences,
where the difficulty of the task is part of the fun. Tews et al.
(2015:17) examined fun in two contexts, fun in learning activities
developed by students and fun in teaching delivery by the
staff. The former was characterized as “hands-on” exercises and
activities that promoted social engagement between students. The
latter concerned instructor-focused teaching that included the
use of humor, creative examples, and storytelling. Their findings
indicated that fun delivery, and not fun activities, was positively
associated with students’ motivation, interest and engagement.
Notably, their findings indicated fun delivery, but not
fun activities, was positively related to student’ motivation,
interest and engagement. Prior examining activities and delivery,
our study highlights the importance of investigating students’
epistemic views. There is therefore the opportunity for novel
research to examine factors and effects of fun and student
learning experience including epistemic-guided learning design.
Our study highlights the importance of investigating students’
epistemic beliefs and its connections with the essence of their
views. There is therefore the opportunity for novel research to
examine factors and effects of fun and within student learning
experience including the influence of epistemic-guided learning
and teaching design.
A series of studies with Indonesian teachers (Sheehy et al.,
2019a) suggested that their beliefs about how learning occurs are
influenced by their views about happiness and, by implication,
fun in relation to learning. These teachers often commented on
the relationship between happiness and learning, and many saw
happiness as an essential feature of good classroom teaching.
However, they described a relationship between happiness and
learning that was different in nature to that found in Western
educational research. There is a tendency for Western educators
to see happiness as “a tool for facilitating effective education” (Fox
et al., 2013, p1), and as something that is promoted alongside
educational excellence. In contrast, many Indonesian teachers
see learning not as separate from happiness but as part of it
(Budiyanto et al., 2017;Budiyanto and Sheehy, 2019).
Other research has implied that this belief in separation arises
when people see teaching as a simple transfer of “untransformed
knowledge” from expert to student, in a traditional model of
learning (OECD, 2009) also known as the “banking model of
education” Freire (2000). This separation may be reflected in
the balancing act between happiness with fun and academic
achievement described in the CEE report mentioned above.
In contrast, those who believe that learning is a social
constructivist process are more likely to see happiness with fun
as important to the process of learning. The situation remains
that we have an incomplete understanding of fun in the domain
of learning (Tews et al., 2017) and it remains to be clarified by
empirical research (Iten and Petko, 2016); in particular under
the lens of epistemological beliefs (Sheehy et al., 2019a) and
practical experiences.
Our study also complemented a previous research about fun
on traditional university’ campus whose students highlighted that
fun in learning must integrate stimulating pedagogy; lecturer
engagement; a safe learning space; shared experience; and a
low-stress environment (Whitton and Langan, 2018). Some
key effects of fun, for example, pleasant communication and
creation of a relaxed state to reduce stress (Bisson and Luckner,
1996) are important factors to support learners during the
isolation. Fun as an inner joy of wellbeing and engagement is
an important component to propitiate learning with the creation
of new patterns that are interesting, surprising and meaningful
(Schmidhuber, 2010) to involve students with formal education
during uncertain time of post-pandemic.
As indicated by the research-authors and collaborators,
further studies are important based on the RRI approach
to construct new questions and also explore the issues
indicated by preliminary studies (Okada and Sheehy, 2020).
New issues must be also examined on the effects of fun on
online learning, also considering age, gender, socio-cultural
aspects, accessibility, digital skills, and geographical differences.
Developing further recommendations at broader institutional,
national and international levels about effective and engaging
online learning is also important to empower individuals and
society to face, innovate and reconstruct a sustainable and
enjoyable world.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The open database can be accessed, downloaded and reused:
Okada and Sheehy (2020) OLAF PROJECT data set. Open
Research Data Online. The Open University. https://doi.
org/10.21954/ou.rd.12670949 (November 2020). The Open
Questionnaire can be accessed from the supplementary material
Qualtrics Survey OLAF project.pdf.
ETHICS STATEMENT
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and
approved by The Open University, HREC – Human Research
and Ethics Committee. The patients/participants provided their
written informed consent to participate in this study.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
AO wrote the first draft of the abstract and prepared
the manuscript. KS provided the instrument and feedback
about the final version. AO was responsible for the survey
Frontiers in Education | www.frontiersin.org 16 December 2020 | Volume 5 | Article 584351
feduc-05-584351 December 5, 2020 Time: 21:12 # 17
Okada and Sheehy Online Learning With Fun During COVID-19
implementation in Qualtrics, data generation, instrument’s
tests, data analysis through mixed methods, and validation
supported by collaborators with consensual review. Additionally,
AO created the figures, graphs, and tables. Both authors
contributed to manuscript revision, read, and approved the
submitted version.
FUNDING
This study was funded by the Open University UK and is
part of the international project OLAF – Online Learning and
Fun. http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/rumpus/index.php/projects/
olaf/.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We are grateful to our collaborators who supported the
recruitment of participants, our expert colleagues Prof. Dr.
Daniela Melaré Barros; Prof. Dr. Maria Elizabeth de Almeida;
Dr. Victoria Cooper, and Miss Ana Beatriz Rocha who
provided valuable feedback and our external reviewers for
useful suggestions.
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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.
Copyright © 2020 Okada and Sheehy. This is an open-access article distributed
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author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication
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distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Frontiers in Education | www.frontiersin.org 18 December 2020 | Volume 5 | Article 584351
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