Anxious, disconnected and missing out, but oh so convenient: tertiary students’ perspectives of remote teaching and learning with COVID-19

Year: 2021

Author: Thomas, Melissah

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Covid-19 had an unprecedented impact, including an immense shift in the higher education sector worldwide. Programs underwent rapid redevelopment to fit virtual environments to remain operational and students who had chosen face-to-face learning experiences were now forced to experience a form of distance education. The higher education sector has learnt a great deal in the digitally supported remote delivery shift due to Covid-19, however, student voice has been underrepresented in literature. This paper reveals the perspectives of 15 students, including both international and domestic students, who were studying a Master of Teaching (Secondary) at one university in Melbourne, Australia, during heightened social distancing restrictions, and the shift to digitally supported remote delivery. The research was conducted during August, September, and October 2020, while teacher education remained in digitally supported remote delivery. The inductive thematic analysis of the qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews showed the opportunities and challenges of learning experiences for these students. Emergent themes found affordances of convenience and challenges of relational and structural aspects of teaching and learning. Many students adjusted well to the digitally supported remote delivery and preferred some aspects of this approach, but there were also some constraints. Relational aspects of learning were more challenging, including collaboration with peers, seeking informal advice and feedback from academics, and participation and engagement via the video conferencing platform. Some students experienced social anxieties arising from the unnatural conversation, lack of visual body language, and their perceived powerlessness and lack of voice in a video conference. Not all students had the skills, knowledge or digital competencies required to navigate digital environments with efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, some participants expressed concerns stemming from an absence of professional practice. Despite students noting limitations of remote delivery, most preferred this mode of learning due to affordances in personal gains. We recommend the inclusion of student voice to guide the design of the post-covid future of teacher education and recommend several areas of student support to guide a humanising and personal connection into the remote learning environment.