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Purpose – The current study debates and highlights the challenges faced by university students regarding e-learning during the global pandemic emergency. Furthermore, it sketches the solutions of e-learning using a theoretical lens of Emergency Management Theory (EMT). Finally, the study argues a case for improvement in existing e-learning systems to enable higher education systems, particularly in a developing country, to recover the losses and increase education quality. Methodology – A qualitative research design and phenomenology research approach were applied to conduct the current study. A total of 10 in-depth online interviews were recorded from students studying in Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Verbatim transcriptions were analysed using the reflexive thematic analysis approach. Findings – The current study results explained in detail the numerous challenges, including lack of preparedness (students and institutions), low quality of interaction, lack of motivation, lack of class activities, and forceful adoption of e-learning. Alternatively, few opportunities also emerged through a set of suggestions such as a comprehensive emergency management plan, introduction of strong student counselling programs, and a strategic plan for quality of online learning content. Originality – This study’s contribution stands out in crucial times global pandemic. Emergency management theory is applied to understand the different dimensions of preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery from a students’ perspectives. Furthermore, considering students as important members of higher education institutions and understanding students’ opinions regarding quality assurance during the global pandemic was imperative. Keywords Challenges; e-learning; students; the global pandemic emergency; Pakistan; United Kingdom
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Understanding the challenges of
e-learning during the global
pandemic emergency: the
Mohsin Abdur Rehman
Department of Marketing, Management and International Business,
Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Saira Hanif Soroya
Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab,
Lahore, Pakistan
Zuhair Abbas
Department of Business Administration, Tomas Bata University in Zlin,
Zlin, Czech Republic
Farhan Mirza
Knowledge Unit of Business, Economics, Accountancy, and Commerce,
University of Management and Technology, Sialkot Campus, Sialkot, Pakistan, and
Khalid Mahmood
Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab,
Lahore, Pakistan
Purpose This study aims to debate and highlight the challenges faced by university students regarding e-
learning during the global pandemic emergency. Furthermore, it sketches the solutions of e-learning using a
theoretical lens of emergency management theory (EMT). Finally, the study argues a case for improvement in
existing e-learning systems to enable higher education systems, particularly in a developing country, to
recover the losses and increase education quality.
Design/methodology/approach A qualitative research design and phenomenology research
approach were applied to conduct the current study. A total of 10 in-depth online interviews were recorded
from students studying in Pakistan and the UK. Verbatim transcriptions were analysed using the reexive
thematic analysis approach.
Findings The current study results explained in detail the numerous challenges, including lack of
preparedness (students and institutions), low quality of interaction, lack of motivation, lack of class activities
and forceful adoption of e-learning. Alternatively, few opportunities also emerged through a set of
suggestions such as a comprehensive emergency management plan, introduction of strong student
counselling programmes and a strategic plan for quality of online learning content.
Originality/value This studys contribution stands out in crucial times of the global pandemic. EMT is
applied to understand the different dimensions of preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery from a students
The current study was not part of any funding. Kindly ignore both funding and acknowledgment.
Thank you!
Challenges of
Received 14 February2021
Revised 10 May 2021
Accepted 10 June2021
Quality Assurance in Education
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-02-2021-0025
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
perspective. Furthermore, considering students as important members of higher education institutions and
understanding studentsopinions regarding quality assurance during the global pandemic was imperative.
Keywords Pakistan, United Kingdom, Students, Challenges, E-learning,
The global pandemic emergency
Paper type Research paper
Social interaction and well-being have been heavily impacted due to the rapid spread of the
novel coronavirus global pandemic. Declaration of the global pandemic as a global
emergency (Sohrabi et al., 2020), mainly social distancing, became a new normal (Weeden
and Cornwell, 2020). Due to this global emergency, higher education institutions face
hurdles to support students and teachers in learning (Rieley, 2020). As a result, profound
changes are incorporated into the education delivery processes (Murphy, 2020). As social
and physical distancing is imperative; therefore, higher education institutions have been
closing and moving towards virtual systems to support global safety initiatives. This
situation brings e-learning an alternative to a physical class environment (Liguori and
Winkler, 2020). However, this transformation came with implementation and management
hurdles. As for some universities, this was more difcult than others. Similarly, it is more
difcult for some students to adapt to the new normal for some students.
Although digital technologies have become a new mode of studying around the globe
(Singh and Thurman, 2019), even before the global pandemic emergency and the delivery to the
masses is becoming possible through digital technologies (Henderson et al., 2017). However,
higher education is still considerably disintegrated by the experience of the students.
According to Wright et al. (2014), students get empowered through these digital technologies
with the fundamental interaction challenges. More importantly, face-to-face and digital
contexts got different perceptions from teachersperspectives, too (Jensen et al.,2019). It has
been challenging to move into online education for regular face-to-face classes (Murphy, 2020;
Bacow, 2020). This challenge becomes more critical for developing countries, as comparatively,
these countries face more challenges regarding infrastructure, affordability and readiness. Risk
reduction involves relatively less focus in developing countries (Kreft et al.,2013). However,
there is a limited body of knowledge exploring hurdles faced by the educational institutions in
the developing nations regarding e-learning (Ramaiah, 2014).
During global health crises, virtual learning is the only option to continue education with
fewer consequences. Therefore, regardless of different types of hurdles, virtual education is
implemented around the globe. On one side, educational institutions are trying to minimize
the potential damages through virtual learning, but on the other side, academics,
particularly, are facing serious challenges. Thus, there is a dire need to study the problems
and challenges they face toreach out for some workable suggestions for improvement.
In this regard, contextual differences are there; every country responded to this emergency
according to their preparedness. Therefore, a study is considered important to dig out the students
experiences during the global pandemic emergency regarding e-learning. Furthermore, a
comparison of developed and developing countries could be helpful to understand the phenomena
better. For this reason, the current study is designed to explore higher education challenges and
prospects through the student lens and translated it into the following research questions:
RQ1. What type of challenges did the students from a developing country face during
the current emergency (global pandemic)?
RQ2. What type of challenges did the students from a developed country face during
the current emergency (global pandemic)?
RQ3. What could be the possible contextual solutions for higher education institutions?
To answer the questions mentioned above, emergency management theory (EMT) provided a
theoretical basis to conduct the study. Emergency management can be viewed as the area and
profession that involves the application of the concepts of planning, management, science and
technology to counter the effects of extreme circumstances that have the potential to incur
extensive harm, injury and damage to the lives and property of a large number of people and
which may result in the disruption of everyday community life (Soroya et al., 2020).
Underpinning emergency management theory
According to EMT, timely implementation of emergency management can effectively handle
the situation (Knox and Haupt, 2015). The predicted and unpredicted emergency events need to
be addressed by efcient strategies, policies, technology and people through emergency
management (Prasolova et al., 2017). The global pandemic is an alarming situation for every
walk of life, especially the education sector. The profession and eld of emergency
management have progressed into more collaborative activity since the 1940s and 1950s.
Figure 1 displays four stages of EMT, preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery.
Preparedness develops operational capacities through activities, i.e. exercises and training,
resource management plans, public information in an emergency, mutual aid agreements and
communications. In a crisis, the response is an appropriate set of actions to save people and
avoid property damage and casualties (Wang et al., 2005).Atthesametime,thelevelofthe
continuing threat to human life and property from human-made and natural vulnerability can
be minimized by adopting mitigation activities. For example, safety codes, risk mapping,
insurance of disaster, building codes, land-use management, disincentives and tax incentives.
Recovery is quickly taking activities of response before, during or directly after the emergency.
It helps save lives and curtail property damage and recovery by, e.g. shelter evacuation,
emergency medical support, reception and care, manning emergency operations centres and
rescue. Recovery consists of short-term activities, including minimum operating standards and
long-term activities, bringing life to be normal and restore vital life-support systems.
Literature review
E-learning comparison of developing and developed country context
Allama Iqbal Open University introduced the trends of e-learning in Pakistan in 1974. The
Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has encouraged higher education
Figure 1.
Stages of emergency
management theory
Adapted from Wang
et al. (2005)
Challenges of
institutions to incorporate e-learning platforms. Along with AIOU, the Virtual University of
Pakistan was established in 2002 to initiate distance learning. Out of 225 HEC, Pakistan-
recognized universities, only 2 (0.88%) universities offer e-learning (HEC, 2021). However,
the global pandemic has changed the scenario and all universities in Pakistan started to
build e-learning platforms to practice safety measures for all stakeholders in the educational
environment. Recent studies focused on advanced educational technologies such as
augmented reality in the adoption intentions of e-learning (Saleem et al., 2021) and mobile
learning technologies (Asghar et al.,2021) in Pakistan during the global pandemic.
Contrary to Pakistan, concerning increased digital technology usage, digital technology,
including personal digital devices and information communication technology (ICT), has
helped transform UK higher education (Pimmer, 2016). Whilst the global pandemic has
accelerated the switch to digital technology, it is important not to see this as the only driver
in the movement to new forms of education because this shift has taken time in the UK
(Zhou and Milecka-Forrest, 2021). According to STATISTA (2020), students with age 16 to
34 are accessing online courses (37%) and e-learning materials (70%) in the UK. It seems the
e-learning adaptability trends are quite high compared with Pakistan (emerging educational
technology context), where Pakistan is facing numerous challenges in adopting e-learning
education (Saleem et al.,2021).
Recent renewed interest in online and distance learning in developing and developed
countries has become a new paradigm shift (Simpson, 2018). More importantly, the
mechanism of distance education among the developing and developed countries (Saavedra,
2020) speculates on the technological divide and students from different countries face
various yet severe challenges. At the same time, in developing countries, e-learning systems
transform moderately in the current global pandemic crisis via the emerging native
technologies sectors (Affouneh et al.,2020). Muries and Masele (2017) suggested a need to
explore the factors of embracing e-learning in developing countries, especially in higher
education institutions.
The students at large were not prepared in the developing countries to adopt the changes
in the upcoming educational reforms in the form of computer technology (Shehzadi et al.,
2020). Apart from the technology accessibility, there is still a need for a stable electricity
connection, reliable access to the internet and appropriate infrastructure to adopt e-learning
(Adnan and Anwar, 2020). Besides, there is a gap in digital knowledge among developed
and developing countries based on different adaptability levels among students and
teachers (Eltahir, 2019;Affouneh et al.,2020). Hence, it would be greatly attractive to
understand different mechanisms of rapid e-learning adoption in developing and developed
E-learning and student adoption perception
Education technology is becoming increasingly central, but the demand for e-learning is
highly relevant to simulated learning experiences and authentic learning opportunities
(Eltahir, 2019). At the beginning of e-learning implementation, teachers have focused on
sustaining classical learning (Basilaia, 2020). As e-learning has proven to be an ideal
response to the global pandemic (Siron et al.,2020). E-learning has been demonstrated by the
technologiesfeatures such as perceived utilityand friendly use(Renda dos Santos and
Okazaki, 2016;Al-Samarraie et al.,2018). Transforming higher education through online
education enables students to share a sense of responsibility and responsibility (Bond et al.,
2018). So, it will be plausible to explore key challenges faced by students during the online
learning environment and its adaptability.
Moreover, COVID-19 and online teaching in higher education have a tremendous change
in the adoption given numerous challenges, online learning experience, online learning
technological support and contextual understanding for higher education to sustain social
distancing (Bao, 2020). Considering the growing importance of e-learning due to pandemics
worldwide, the prevailing feature of virtual education is more interactive; however, online
learning could move towards self-paced programmes for students (Fisher and Coleman,
2001). The current study explores studentslife experiences in a global pandemic context
regardless of the essence of theoretical differences between virtual and online educational
platforms. These experiences inuence student satisfaction, loyalty, word-of-mouth
communication and re-enrollment intentions (Rehman et al.,2020). The outcome of the
present study revolves around identifying diverse challenges such as lack of ICT
infrastructure, technical skills gap and nancial hurdles in the adoption of e-learning
platforms. In this vein, students lacked accessibility to attend their online classes during a
pandemic emergency in Pakistan. There are several barriers such as the non-availability of
e-learning systems, lack of technical support, poor quality of security and privacy, the low-
quality curriculum in the adoption of e-learning in Pakistan (Shehzadi et al.,2020). In
contrast, the e-learning system is well-established in developed countries (Sharpe and
Beneld, 2005). Given the adequate technology infrastructure and high adaptability, UK
students might have adopted fewer consequences to the emergency learning strategies
implemented at their university (Zhou and Milecka-Forrest, 2021).
Study setting
In the global pandemic, the importance of e-learning has increased for universities and
university students. The current study looks at higher education school studentschallenges
and prospects in the UK and Pakistan. In the global pandemic, contextual understanding of
student experiences in terms of online learning is crucial. In the study in hand, a description
of the experiences of e-learning during this global pandemic has been given to the students.
As a developing country, Pakistan has a different response to this emergency than the UK
for e-learning. To date, Pakistan has only two universities that offer e-learning. However, in
the UK, all higher education institutions established the e-learning model for higher
education. Phenomenology, as a research approach, was used for this study (Mayhew, 2004).
Moreover, the current study explores the various dimensions of a lived experience about
a phenomenon through the application of phenomenology (Cresswell and Poth, 2007) that
enabled researchers to comprehend the challenges and prospects of e-learning. According to
Fuster Guillen (2019),phenomenology as a research method helps explore life through
experiences and improves contextual understanding. Based on the research objectives,
participants were expected to share their real-life experience about e-learningexperience and
contextual understanding, given the UK (technologically advanced) and Pakistan
(technologically emerging) contexts. Following the core of studentse-learning experiences,
exploring the conscious connectivity with the global pandemic, comparison in the thought
processes of before and during the global pandemic as stages of emergency experiences,
how higher education institutions in the UK and Pakistan have been approached and
addressed. The contexts of developed and developing countries were chosen to understand
similarities and differences for higher education institutionspolicymakers, as comparative
studies give more cross-cultural comparisons and adaptation of best practices (Saeed, 2007).
Cross-cultural represents a developing countrys socio-cultural adaptability to a developed
country (Hamutoglu et al.,2020). Even higher education institutions are well established in
the UK. The emergency implementation of online education will open a new window of
Challenges of
practice, a developing country such as Pakistan. Higher education policymakers can adapt
the best practices to recover the losses due to this global pandemic.
Sampling and data collection
A convenience sampling technique was adopted to recruit participants for this study. Email
communication has been sent out to conveniently available those 10 students from the UK
and 10 from Pakistan who were enrolled in public and private universities in the master
programmes. However, collectively 10 students approved an online interview (details are
given in Table 1). Approachable students were information-rich and knowledgeable about
the student experience phenomenon, considered primary criteria for this studys
participants (Patton, 2002;Cresswell and Clark, 2011). The interview method was used
considering the new higher education student experience during this global pandemic.
Social and physical distancing supported the online nature of interviews. EMT helped to
craft an interview protocol.
Upon student conrmation about the day and time, virtual meeting applications (ZOOM
and Hangouts) were used to conduct semi-structured interviews. The interview had two
stages; the rst stage covered demographic attributes such as gender, age, country and
discipline. In the second stage, participants were asked a series of questions probing
wherever research felt appropriate; how did your university plan to respond in this
emergency? What are the facilities provided by your university in this emergency? What
kind of teacher-student relationship did you experience during online classes? How would
your expectations vary between physical and digital interaction during classes? What kind
of change has e-learning brought into your learning processes? What are your suggestions
for your university to be proactive for such emergencies? On average, every interview lasts
for 2025 min. Table 1 shows the sample prole of both study contexts (Study 1 for the
Pakistani context and Study 2 for the UK context), gender (two women and eight men), age
ranged between 20 and 40 and disciplines including management sciences and ad science
and technology.
Data analysis
After verbatim transcription, the data were analysed using an inductive thematic analysis
approach. Codes and themes were developed from the contents of the data semantically. The
six phases (familiarization with the data, coding, generating initial themes, reviewing
themes, dening and naming themes and writing up) of the thematic analysis were adopted
Table 1.
Sample prole
Participant No. Context Gender Age Discipline
PK case 1 Study 1 Male 20 Management sciences
PK case 2 Study 1 Female 23 Management sciences
PK case 3 Study 1 Male 23 Management sciences
PK case 4 Study 1 Male 25 Management sciences
PK case 5 Study 1 Female 22 Management sciences
UK case 1 Study 2 Male 23 Management sciences
UK case 2 Study 2 Male 21 Management sciences
UK case 3 Study 2 Male 26 Science and technology
UK case 4 Study 2 Male 40 Social sciences
UK case 5 Study 2 Male 28 Management sciences
Notes: Study 1= Pakistan; Study 2 = UK
following a recursive approach. The graphical presentation is done to make the results more
transparent and comparable. To report the challenges and solutions, data are presented in
tabular form.
Appropriate steps taken before establishing a crisis to enhance its response and operability
are known as preparedness in EMT (Wang et al., 2005). It includes pre-crisis training,
resource management plans, public information in an emergency, etc. Emergency
preparedness is essential to minimize the losses during an emergency. A research question
was designed to examine the studentsperceptions regarding emergency preparedness by
higher education institutions (HEIs). The students believe that there was no preparation
from the Pakistani context, not infrastructure, training or mental preparedness.
For example, one student mentioned that:
No, they were not prepared; we were just told that we will take classes online from now onwards.
However, they did not train us (PK case 1, 20, male, management sciences (translated)).
Similarly, another student mentioned:
No, there was no preparation for any emergency not in terms of training nor infrastructure(PK
case 2, 23, female, management sciences (translated)).
All the interviewees agreed on one point in terms of preparedness; one of them tried to
highlight the reason as under:
I do not think that they were prepared. I mean only those universities who are doing online
education already like VU in Pakistan. Probably they had the system but not the other
universities (PK case 4, 25, male, management sciences).
The participant indicated that only one university [virtual university (VU)] is prepared for
infrastructure and training, which is meant for online educational purposes. However, the
other universities were not prepared. Therefore, due to unawareness of the e-learning
process and technology use, students were initially reluctant to join online classes. The
researcher also observed that students showed their concerns on the Facebook pages of the
HEC and the concerned university ofcials.
In the beginning, we opposed this system as we had no expertise in the respective eld. The
session continued continuously, but it is disturbed and weird and the university has not planned
for this continuous session (PK case 5, 22, female, management sciences).
The students adopted this mode of learning forcefully. Firstly, they felt that it was difcult,
but now in terms of using e-tools, they feel that they are self-sufcient.
We were confused at the time when we were told about online classes. Therefore, we did not
agree; however, after using this medium, I found no issue (PK case 2, 23, female, management
sciences (translated)).
Another insight was that the students who were already familiar with the technology found
it easy to adopt online classes:
Since we are familiar with the technology and have learned many related skills during our 1st
semester, it is not a big deal for us to adopt e-learning. Still we are not happy with this mode (PK
case 3, 23, male, management sciences (translated)).
Challenges of
If I talk about myself, I am very much familiar with the software. I have been practising a lot on
them. So it is easy for me. Well, I am not very sure that everyone is familiar with the use of this
software. Because everyone is not an expert, for those who belong to rural areas, I would say it is
dicult for them to cooperate (PK case 4, 25, male, management sciences).
The UK has a diversied student body; especially, the current study focuses on international
students. Highlights from the students interviews are as under:
I appreciate my university that they responded in a very professional way. They give us an option to sit
at home and join lectures through online media (UK case 5, 28, management sciences).
University provided access to online classes through Microsoft teams application and reading
material through Moodle (website) (UK case 4, 40, male, social sciences).
However, two of the participants showed reservations:
My University responded very late to this emergency and my classes shifted online from 23rd
March 2020 before we received only emails from University about the regular situation which we
are already aware of (UK case 1, 23, male, management sciences).
We do not have any plan; we did not know what is going to happen? We have been informed that
you need to stay home and we are online conducting classes. That is what going on; the situation
is not in control, though (UK case 3, 26, male, management sciences) (Figure 2).
In a crisis, appropriate steps taken to save people and avoid property damage and casualties
are called responses, according to EMT (Wang et al.,2005). The response is the
management of available resources. In this case, universities and HEIs are supposed to place
all efforts and resources on implementing online classes, having technical support, etc.
Therefore, it was inquired from students how HEIs responded to the global pandemic.
The interview data analysis shows that Pakistani students were satised with the short-
term response from HEIs. For example:
I think they are very active and they realize how important the time is for students (PK case 4, 25,
male, management sciences).
Figure 2.
Student perspective
regarding emergency
We are informed of online classes that immediately after lockdown (within one week) and we were
provided with LMS accounts on which the classes started (PK case 5, 22, female, management
As soon as the government announced lockdown, with the gap of one week our classes were
started (PK case 2, 23, female, management sciences (translated))
However, they showed concerns regarding providing any infrastructure (hardware, internet
devices) and low data packages from the HEC.
The university did not oer us any infrastructure or training (PK case 1, 20, male, management
sciences (translated)).
The university oered no training or infrastructure; we were just told about online classes
through social media accounts (PK case 3, 23, male, management sciences (translated)).
As far as the equipment was concerned, I do not think that the university had enough time
to even think about that because it all happened so quickly. The students have to manage all
this equipment such as laptops, internet connections and many other factors to keep things
going. It is totally up to the students they are doing all by themselves (PK case 4, 25, male,
management sciences).
The respondents were further asked to suggest a long-term policy to meet any
potential emergency. The students suggested that there must be a few mandatory
online classes to have a blended experience during academic sessions. The data
themes exposed that students understand that it is a new experience for their
teachers, so strategic actions must make the virtual interaction effective. Although
they believe that they can use e-tools, they still think e-learning is a different
education model, requiring specialized training.
Here are a few verbatim examples:
Universities should train students and should come up with a system that is user friendly (PK
case 3, 23, male, management sciences (translated)).
Specialized support should be planned for the students from rural areas and the libraries should
be prepared for this kind of emergencies integrating their services with university portals (PK
case 2, 23, female, management sciences (translated)).
It is about making things easier for scholars also. Now we must ensure that the faculty members
have the good skills on this software in delivering their lectures online (PK case 4, 25, male,
management sciences).
On the other hand, the UK student believed that delayed response(short term) and
improved quality of interaction(long term) are key challenges faced by the students.
One of the students mentioned the response:
My University responded very late to this emergency and my classes shifted online (UK case 1,
male, management sciences).
Moreover, prospectively, international students in the UK perceive positively the short-term
actions taken by their universities, including; social distancing through online classesand
systematic response (awareness, shut down, social distancing). However, universities
must put extra weight on implementing a robust training systemand strategies to
implement(frequent breaks, during classes, printed material and fee discounts).
Challenges of
University announced that your students would stay at home and you will receive updates regarding
your lectures, your assignments and the academic work (UK case 4, male, social sciences) (Figure 3).
Adequate actions are taken to reduce the severity of the crisis, minimize its effects and
predict other future crises are known as mitigation (Wang et al.,2005). In the COVID
pandemic, school closure was critically important. Modelling studies suggest that school
closure has its greatest benets in reducing transmission when schools are closed early in an
outbreak (WHO). Strategies to address personal safety and well-being are also important.
However, to minimize the educational loss, HEIs have taken certain actions. In response to
our questions related to mitigation efforts carried out by HEIs, the research participants
from Pakistan mentioned that they are receiving live lectures followed by discussion
sessions, lecture recordings and contents shared with the students. They can ask any
question through the hand raise option in Zoom or through the chat option. Teachers ask
personalized questions, take attendance and assign graded activities to ensure all students
The student-teacher relationship depends on the internet connection; we use the chat option for
discussion as if everyone switches on the mike, there is much noise (PK case 3, 23, female,
management sciences (translated)).
Data were collected from three different universities and all students mentioned that the
students from remote areas could not join online classes.
I live in an area where I have to get good signals and connectivity (PK case 3, 23, female,
management sciences (translated)).
As everyone is not, I would say it is dicult for those who belong to rural areas to cooperate (PK
case 4, 25, male, management sciences).
Students were not receiving any services from the library remotely (all cases agreed); they
also mentioned that all students have different intellectual levels; a few students learn
during group activities which are impossible nowadays. In addition, all of the students
reported non-satisfactory student-teacher interaction as compared to the physical
We try to take notes and ask questions, but the lecture goes on, whereas, in the physical
environment, we can stop our teacher to clarify the concepts (PK case 3, 23, female, management
sciences (translated)).
I think communication is the main hurdle during this e-learning (PK case 5, 22, female,
management sciences).
International students at UK universities expressed more concern in terms of mitigation
activities initiated by universities. Notably, limited time for student-teacher consultancyis
shredding the student-teacher relationship. Furthermore, lack of interaction,lack of
motivation,lack of class/group activitiesand socialization touch towards learning are
missing out here.
Teacher and student relationship are very important. However, it is disturbed because of social
distancing (UK case 5, male, management sciences).
Figure 3.
Student perspective
regarding emergency
Challenges of
Alternatively, a few positive afrmations came out during the interview, including time
and cost saveras students can be available through a distance (no travelling cost, no formal
dress). Specically, one student expressed that teacher empathetic behaviouris creating a
positive space in the following words:
That is a virtual relationship, though; in the virtual type of education, I do not think so that
relationship can be built like this as the relationship we have now in the epidemic. However, I
mean, my supervisor, she is more sympathetic now, more kind and careful (UK case 4, male,
social sciences) (Figure 4).
Recovery is the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or
lost. Recovery relates to building capacity and stabilizing efforts. It is equally important to
investigate how a response to the emergency mitigates recovery. Being optimistic, the
students were also taking the current option (online classes) as an opportunity and
mentioned that they would learn the technologys optimal use; they were feeling more
responsible. Furthermore, they are not wasting their time and their semesters are going on,
which keeps them busy in the current panic situation.
That is a great initiative to ensure that students are making their time productive at home; we are
eventually saving much time (PK case 4, 25, male, management sciences).
Students reported that due to the studentsproblems from the remote areas, low-quality
interaction with the teachers, poor internet connections, insufcient skills in using
technological e-learning tools, affordability concerns and lack of concentration (due to home
environment) are big challenges the students. The students further noted that e-learning
efforts could not be the same for all kinds of subjects.
Figure 4.
Student perspective
regarding emergency
I enjoyed the e-Learning education experience and the relaxing situation, but after it grew very
hectic, nothing sits around and feels that online classes break down mental health, but we do not
have an option. I learned how to explore lectures on dierent platforms (google, dierent
websites). I learned how to read before the particular topic; usually, before, I only depend on the
class lecture and notes provided to us by the lecturer, but now due to the communication gap, I
had to take the responsibility on my own (PK case 5, 22, female, management sciences).
International students at UK universities are curious about market exposure. Here, market
exposure is the understanding of the open market. Due to lockdown, social distancing and e-
learning got dominance and this situation has made the students afraid to miss the
opportunities to interact with people in the open market. However, the current situation of a
global pandemic is limiting the scope of market exposure. The expectations of
international students at UK universities were up; however, they face downtime in terms of
learning opportunitiesand a pressurized learning environmentwhere creativity is
getting challenged. One of the participants mentioned about limitations of onlineclasses:
Online delivery of classes is getting more hike now and the dierence is that we are suering
somehow (UK case 2, male, science and technology).
I am an international student, I came here for exposure. I am here for face-to-face meet up, events
and other things. In my opinion, e-learning is not for me (UK case 1, male, management sciences).
In contrast, few students see positive prospects of this time, opportunity to adopt new
learning strategiesand virtual education a big push to be responsible. This can be
comprehended through the following quote:
So virtual education through virtual links makes us more responsible and more active. That is the
change I am feeling (UK case 4, male, social sciences) (Figure 5).
Discussion and conclusions
The research ndings revealed the challenges and prospects of e-education during the current
pandemic, comparing two different contexts. Signicant differences were noted in terms of the e-
education approach between a developed and a developing country. Pakistani students are
struggling with the online learning environment more than UK students. Contrary to the UK,
Pakistan has no university web portals available to the students for online content and other
relevant information. The students believe that the quality of education is questionable due to the
reduced online teaching experience and limited infrastructure progress. However, the students
believe that the instructors try to apply control strategies through discussions, personalized
questions and planning graded activities, i.e. assignments, term papers and presentations, to bring
studentsattention to studies. Students learn from one another, which is why group activities are
promoted through the higher education system. However, classroom group activities are missing in
the online educational environment. Although group activities can be planned in a virtual
environment, it seems missing as indicated by the responding students. Earlier studies conrmed
differences and limitations in student-teacher relationships and feeling connected in the online
educational environment compared to the traditional environment (Jensen et al., 2019).
Perhaps, Pakistan being a developing country, the students were not prepared to respond
to alternative educational methods that require effective use of information technology and
educational software, which are essential requirements for e-learning. However, it also
seems that there was no emergency preparedness by HEIs. Still, there was no preparedness.
The students were not trained to adopt e-learning. Students feel both cognitive and nancial
pressures to adopt this online system.
Challenges of
The digital divide in a developing country is a barrier to the recovery process (Shraim and
Khlaif, 2010;Simpson, 2018). Although Boateng et al. (2016) considered the developing
country perspective suitable for e-learning adoption, however, Muries and Masele (2017)
suggested that there is a need to explore the factors of embracing e-learning in developing
countries, which include reasonable price, reliable access to the internet and stable electricity
connection as essential requirements for e-learning. A gap of technological know-how
between a developed and developing country context is also required to be removed for e-
learning adoption (Dasuki and Abbott, 2015). As the HEIs were not prepared for e-education
similarly, academic libraries (a by-product of HEIs) do not offer on-demand library services.
In Pakistan, teachers should be available for a considerable time to guide the students
and learn how students are feeling. However, students feel a lack of connectivity and
guidance in the current environment and are feeling overburdened. Bond et al.,2018
reported that the transformation of higher education through online education develops a
sense of responsibility. Inversely, UK students shared that they are more connected with the
instructors comparatively and the teachers show empathetic behaviour. This difference of
Figure 5.
Student perspective
regarding emergency
opinion may be the result of two different educational contexts. It is encouraging that
students from both contexts feel that it is a good time to learn and use technology effectively
and it is a time-saving activity. As digital technologies have become the norm in higher
education (Helsper and Eynon, 2010;Lantz-Andersson et al.,2013), increasing the optimal
use of technology is warranted. However, the UK respondents included international
students, so they have serious concerns that they paid a handsome amount for foreign
market exposure, which is missing these days. They reported that e-learning is not a choice
but a forceful adoption and they are studying under pressure.
The current research has applied the EMT to develop a viable framework for enhancing
a recovery process in the academic environment. Good literature has been produced during
the past two decades regarding e-learning challenges. However, those studies addressed the
phenomena in normal situations. The emergency is a different situation where only a few
options are available to institutions, to the faculty and the students. In such an emergency
(global pandemic), the current study is carried out under the lens of EMT and in the light of
the research ndings and the conclusions, viable solutions are proposed.
The study provided insights from two different contexts. Firstly, the results and proposals may
provide a clear guideline for the developing countries to develop a viable public policy in the
education sector. In the context of Pakistan, there were numerous challenges in terms of EMT
stages of preparedness (no preparation, reluctant behaviour, forceful adoption), response (lack of
support from University in terms of infrastructure), mitigation (lack of library services) and
recovery (the students from remote areas, physical interaction heart of learning, poor internet
connection, insufcient skills in using technological tools and infrastructure, limited visibility of
teachers expressions, affordability concerns, lack of concentration, subject-specic concerns).
Students from Pakistan have given a few solutions in any future global pandemic. For example,
a few mandatory online classes were suggested to conduct during each semester to have a blended
experience during academic sessions. They further suggested that using e-tools is not the only
requirement, but e-learning requires specialized training. Based on their insights, the researchers can
safely suggest that a clear, step-by-step uniformed guideline by HEIs about evaluation strategies,
content coverage and practical subjects may reduce studentsanxiety. Once the emergency gets
over, based on the practical experience and the best practices, a proper emergency management
plan should be developed by the education department generally and higher education departments
specically. An online survey should be conducted at the mass level to understand and sort out the
studentsissues and recovery steps should be taken accordingly. As the students were not receiving
any library services, it can be suggested that personalized remote library services should be started
immediately. As the digital divide is a big challenge for the students, Pakistans Government should
take serious steps to help the non-affording students. It is a worldwide phenomenon (Shraim and
Khlaif, 2010) and its affordability is a big challenge in adopting e-learning.
On the other side, students at higher education institutions in the UK perceive the following
challenges at every stage of EMT; response (delayed response, improve quality of interaction),
mitigation (lack of interaction, lack of motivation) and recovery (lack of learning opportunities,
lacking in market exposure). Students in the Pakistani and British higher education institutions face
common challenges at the mitigation stage (lack of teacher-student consultancy, lack of class/group
activities) and recovery stage (pressure-based learning environment). However, there could be
the following solutions to similar future emergencies; a strategic plan by HEIs for designing
online content can improve online classesquality. Counselling sessions should be conducted to
educate the students that online education systems have certain limitations and cannot be compared
with the physical environment. Compensation strategies (fee reduction, special classes) should be
devised and conveyed to them, particularly for international students. Comparatively, the students
were not mentally prepared; there is a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety among them. A strong
Challenges of
counselling campaign should be driven by the HEIs, ensuring they compensate them as the situation
gets better.
Given the comparative context among developing and developed higher education institutions,
students from both countries, Pakistan and the UK, have different perceptions and experiences
during the global pandemic emergency regarding getting ready, identifying the alternative methods
of teaching, upcoming challenges and their potential solutions. Even though the UK has a developed
higher education context, students indicated numerous concerns, especially comparing the high cost
of education and online classes. Students are looking for facilitation in cost reduction of the tuition
fee. Alternatively, students in the Pakistani higher education context were more concerned about
online classesinfrastructure and demanding behavioural change in the higher education
institutions. The current study results guide policymakers to develop contingency planning to
address studentskey challenges. For example, students from the UK are not experiencing a serious
challenge of infrastructure. However, the lack of student-instructor interaction becomes an appealing
challenge. Hence, policymakers from both countries need to understand the contextual challenges
vigilantly and implement proposed solutions such as emergency management plans for higher
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Digital technologies have been widely used in higher education (HE) for years, and the benefits have been recognised by both students and academics. Although many universities have developed their own digital technology strategies, many do not share either their vision or implementation strategies with staff. This research explores differences and similarities in the perception of digital technology by lecturers and academic managers. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast motivations, barriers and support systems required for the use and adoption of digital strategies. Interviews were conducted with a group of 20 lecturers and academic managers in the HE sector. The results reveal that both groups shared a common view that the introduction of digital technology can have a clear set of benefits to students; however, their motivations for introducing new approaches differed significantly. Whilst it is important not to generalise too much given the lack of homogeneity in the two groups and also the crossover between managers and lecturers, managers tended to take a performance goal-based approach to its introduction whilst lecturers were more learning goal orientated. This difference can cause significant difficulties in the implementation of new approaches to learning.
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Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are facing more enormous challenges due to the quick spread of NOVEL COVID-19, which carried lockdown in the lives of people across the world. Countries are preparing to face the challenge as the pandemic may run for several months. A large number of academic institutions had shut their campuses and went online. In terms of e-education, developing countries are facing more challenges comparatively. The current study is designed to investigate the phenomena from the lens of emergency management theory, with a purpose to come up with a viable framework for taking proper actions. Another objective of the study was to examine commonalities and differences between a developed and a developing country in terms of preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery. The study was conducted under the philosophy of social constructivism, following qualitative research design, applying phenomenology research method, with the help of interviews as a data collection technique. Thematic analysis was applied for data analysis with the help of NVivo 12. The results show there are significant differences in terms of 'preparedness', a considerable difference in terms of 'response' and 'recovery' and a minor difference in terms of 'mitigation' between developed and developing countries. The study is conducted during COVID-19 emergency and provides useful insights to understand faculty point of view and suggestions for improving the quality of e-learning and emergency preparedness.
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This study aims to examine factors affecting the use of e-learning during the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia. This survey study utilized a quantitative approach to understand the relationship variables by using SEM-PLS. An online questionnaire was distributed to collect information from respondents. A total of 250 questionnaires were gathered and 210 responses can be used for further analysis. The findings indicate that the students’ intention in using e-learning was determined by several variables, including perceived enjoyment, students experience, computer anxiety, and perceived self-efficacy. These findings also confirm that both perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness can explain the students’ intention in utilizing e-learning. The results provide an implication toward the importance of understanding factors of adoption of e-learning and how students can perceive e-learning as the response of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Purpose: Due to the distinctive characteristics of developed countries differentiating them from the developing countries, it is expected that there may be differences between developed and developing countries’ levels of digital literacies. Considering the cultural differences and approach to the gender problem, it is important to see how these differences manifest themselves when genders are considered. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate comparatively the level of digital literacy of university students in three culturally different countries.Method: The study was based on descriptive survey research and consisted of 430 university students, studying on technological programs in three different countries: the first one was the United Kingdom (UK), a well-developed member of the European Union (EU), the second one was Malta, a less developed EU member, and the third one was the Republic of Turkey, a developing country and a candidate for EU membership. The data were collected through the Digital Literacy Scale. In the analysis of data, descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) test were used. Findings: The only difference in the findings is in the technical sub-dimension of digital literacy; male students’ average scores for this sub-dimension are higher than that of female students across three countries. The findings also indicated significant differences in terms of cognitive and social-emotional sub-dimensions of digital literacy between countries. Accordingly, participants studying in Turkey had a lower score than participants studying in Malta in terms of cognitive sub-dimension and had a higher score than the UK participants in the social-emotional sub-dimension. Moreover, it was found that neither gender nor country had any significant effect on the sub-dimensions of digital literacy. Implications for Research and Practice: The findings of the study reveals that the participants from Turkey scored lower than other countries in the cognitive skills needed for digital literacy. This may well lead to a recommendation for improving digital literacy in different countries
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To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, many universities shifted to online instruction and now face the question of whether and how to resume in-person instruction. This article uses transcript data from a medium-sized American university to describe three enrollment networks that connect students through classes and in the process create social conditions for the spread of infectious disease: a university-wide network, an undergraduate-only network, and a liberal arts college network. All three networks are "small worlds" characterized by high clustering, short average path lengths, and multiple independent paths connecting students. Students from different majors cluster together, but gateway courses and distributional requirements create cross-major integration. Connectivity declines when large courses of 100 students or more are removed from the network, as might be the case if some courses are taught online, but moderately sized courses must also be removed before less than half of student-pairs are connected in three steps and less than two-thirds in four steps. In all simulations, most students are connected through multiple independent paths. Hybrid models of instruction can reduce but not eliminate the potential for epidemic spread through the small worlds of course enrollments.
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According to UNESCO statistics, more than 1.5 billion children and youth in 188 countries around the globe have to stay home due to the closure of schools and higher education institutions following the Coronavirus outbreak (1). Many countries have shifted from traditional face-to-face methods to e-Learning in the light of the new states of emergency. Humans have the right to continue education in times of crisis, disaster, and violence. This is based on the assumption that each student is treated with equity and has access to education, which is not quite in consistence with the reality on the ground, especially in developing countries. Many countries have long used e-learning in emergency situations, including Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, and South of Africa (2-4). Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) is not usually planned in advance and involves a sudden shift from traditional teaching into a remote one in view of emergency situations like the outbreak of Coronavirus in different countries. This is a totally different situation compared to e-Learning in normal circumstances. After an emergency state, everything is supposed to go back to normalcy. Moreover, educators have to work in a highly stressful situation while having no knowledge of the end of the crisis. Nevertheless, after the Coronavirus crisis e-Learning will be in an entirely different state, especially in developing countries. Education leaders and policy makers in both public and higher education need to learn new lessons about education in crisis to develop their e-Learning systems.
Universities, particularly cash-strapped, expect their students to re-enrol for postgraduate studies after the successful completion of their undergraduate studies. For two decades, Zimbabwean universities have been operating in resource-constrained settings. The current research examines the effect of course experience, satisfaction, and loyalty on word-of-mouth and re-enrolment intentions of students in the higher education context. Data were collected through a survey questionnaire from a conveniently selected sample of 299 final year bachelor students at five reputable Zimbabwean universities. Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling was employed for data analysis. The results were all supported by the hypothesised interrelationships of latent variables. In predicting the sending of word-of-mouth communication and re-enrolment intentions for postgraduate studies, course experiences, satisfaction and loyalty were considered significant. The results of this study are crucial in the development of strategies designed to attract and retain students for postgraduate studies. The pathway to student re-enrolment intentions through satisfaction, course experiences, loyalty and word-of-mouth communication, stands out as this study's contribution. ARTICLE HISTORY
This research study examines the attitudes of Pakistani higher education students towards compulsory digital and distance learning university courses amid Coronavirus (COVID-19). Undergraduate and postgraduate were surveyed to find their perspectives about online education in Pakistan. The findings of the study highlighted that online learning cannot produce desired results in underdeveloped countries like Pakistan, where a vast majority of students are unable to access the internet due to technical as well as monetary issues. The lack of face-to-face interaction with the instructor, response time and absence of traditional classroom socialization were among some other issues highlighted by higher education students.