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How Do Students Experience the Challenges of COVID?

How Do Students Experience the Challenges of COVID?

Last week’s session held as part of the World Bank–HSE University joint webinar series, ‘Education under COVID-19: Problems, Solutions, Perspectives, Research’ brought together international experts and participants from various corners of the globe to delve into students’ learning experiences amid challenges and limitations stemming from the COVID emergency.

During the session, Ivan Gruzdev, Director of the HSE Office for Internal Monitoring and Student Academic Development and Analyst at the IOE Center for Sociology of Higher Education, presented findings from a recent survey that he and his colleagues have conducted in association with Tomsk State University.

The survey asked over 20 thousand students from 300 universities about how comfortable they felt adapting to and doing remote education during the COVID lockdown. The study was structured as two rounds of polling that were conducted in March 2020, as university programs had just transitioned online, and about two months on in late May 2020, when the spring academic term was winding up.  

We have found that the indicator for the overall level of satisfaction with online learning only dipped by about 6% between March and May 2020. Specifically, round two of the survey has reported more students who gave a lower assessment for how well universities were able to inform enrollees about the organization of the learning process. Also, there was an expansion of 10% on average in the proportion of respondents who faced challenges and difficulties of various nature while learning remotely during the pandemic lockdown. Individual indicators of how student experience deteriorated between March and May 2020 vary depending on what exactly the difficult situations that confronted students were. For example, the share of students who reported suffering from issues with the availability of and access to the internet grew by one and a half times during the said period. All in all, is it clear that negative experiences add up as you face more difficulty over time, so you just cannot help getting somewhat tired of learning online and taking a less approving stance.

Ivan Gruzdev 
Director, the HSE Office for Internal Monitoring and Student Academic Development

There is a ‘core’ that makes up about 30% in the total number of students polled who indicated feeling pretty comfortable and satisfied with their experiences doing remote education at either of the survey rounds. In round one, enrollees doing majors in computer sciences, humanities and social sciences, economics, and management were found to be most positively disposed to practices of online learning. By contrast, their peers in such areas of training as medicine, engineering, art, and design expressed the least satisfaction. According to the May round, at the same time that there was an improvement in satisfaction rates among students in medical majors, the share of their counterparts doing programs in art and design who were disapproving of remote learning only expanded further. Both rounds of the survey testify that students in Master’s programs felt more comfortable transitioning online than their peers in Bachelor’s training.         

Overall, the webinar experts were unanimous in pointing out starker educational inequality, rising financial pressures, and greater levels of anxiety and stress as the key implications of COVID that put at peril students’ achievements and future well-being. Accordingly, prompt cooperative efforts must be sought so we can deploy policies to mitigate the jeopardy while supporting students’ mental health and opportunities for quality education going forward.       

Watch the webinar video on YouTube