The Impact on Student Performance and Experience of the Move from Face-to-face to Online Delivery in Response to COVID-19: A Case Study in an Irish Higher Education Institute.
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Teaching in higher education institutions (HEIs) in Ireland was suddenly and severely affected by the onset of COVID-19, with Irish HEIs instructed to close from March 13th 2020 and advised to, where possible, teach online. This meant that the last four weeks of a 13 week semester, all associated teaching and assessment had to go online across all Irish HEIs. The research question for this paper is to explore how the sudden move from face-to-face(F2F) to online delivery and assessment affected the achievement of learning outcomes and the student experience in a module International Economic Policy in an Irish Higher Education Institution (HEI). While it draws on comparative contexts such as the impact of other sudden interruptions to the learning environment on student performance and the impact of moving from F2F to online delivery in economics courses in normal circumstances, it argues that there is no real comparable context. The literature on the impact of COVID-19 on student performance and experience is only now emerging. The research strategy is a case study approach to assess if the sudden move from F2F to online delivery and assessment affected the achievement of learning outcomes and the student experience. The research choice is mixed methods. The data collection instruments include exam results and a survey with final year business students. The main findings are that student performance in terms of the achievement of learning outcomes as measured by exam results was only marginally worse in the COVID-19 context. However, students’ perceptions of their achievement of learning outcomes was worse in the online environment. In addition, the sudden disruption in the learning environment impacted on the student experience in terms of equality of access and social interaction. The findings suggest that a widespread move to online delivery post pandemic may not be warranted given the findings here and inconclusive findings elsewhere. The study concludes by pointing to some challenges for HEIs in a post COVID-19 context. In particular, it suggests that online delivery must consciously and explicitly use methods to embed social interaction in online learning and that this takes on more importance in a pandemic environment.
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