Online Learning In the Time of COVID-19: Students’ Social, Cultural, and Virtual Realities Presentation (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Hamer, Lynne M; Kumar, Revathy; Dagg, Pierrette; Liu, Mingyang


  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic striking campuses in March 2020, higher education institutions transitioned rapidly to online learning models. This shift to digital instruction allowed colleges and universities to provide continuity of curriculum during a time of crisis; however, students had to overcome unprecedented barriers to learning in virtual reality. This study was conducted at a Midwestern metropolitan public university which shifted to 100% online learning with the pandemic. It employed a convergent mixed methods survey research design, collecting cross-sectional qualitative and quantitative data simultaneously to ensure a more comprehensive understanding of students’ issues and concerns caused by the sudden and total transition to a digital learning format. Four general themes emerged from thematic analysis of students’ self-described realities: enmeshment of physical, virtual, and socioemotional realities; cosmopolitanism, or lack thereof, in faculty and institution’s response to the complexities of the new realities; pedagogical relationships between faculty, students, curriculum, and the students’ physical realities; and shadow education in which self-education fills the gap as faculty and institution are unprepared for new virtual realities. Quantitative analysis revealed that students’ perceiving faculty as caring about their personal well-being enabled them to better manage the disturbances caused by COVID-19 and the shift online. Considering students’ descriptions of their lived realities during the intense immersion in online learning during a national and global crisis through the lenses of Emdin’s (2011, 2016) reality pedagogy and Baudrillard’s (1983) hyperreality led us not only to understand the profound shifts that effective online education requires, but also to realize the importance of higher education engaging the questions, Effective for what? and, At what and whose cost?


publication date

  • 2021