The Impact of Emergency Online Learning and Teaching on Mature Part-Time Students
Keywords:COVID-19, Engineering Education, Emergency Teaching and Learning, Marginalised Mature Part-time Working Students
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most institutions of higher education in South Africa, following an international trend, embarked on a mission to save the academic project by resorting to emergency online teaching and learning (EOLTL). The pandemic resulted in mature, part-time, working students being even further marginalised by removing them from university life and the accompanying support services geared to facilitate social, academic and mental well-being. We assumed that the cohort of mature, part-time students (MPTS) would encounter technological and personal challenges that could limit their academic progress.
Against this backdrop, the dual aim of this study explored the impact of EOLTL on MPTS during the COVID-19 pandemic; and the redesign or readjustment of the curriculum to accommodate and support this cohort of students. A previous, pre-pandemic study, revealed that this group of students experienced significant challenges with balancing work-and-home life in addition to the stress of studying part-time. Subsequently, a questionnaire was designed and piloted with a group of senior students from this cohort to explore the impact of EOLTL. As an ongoing study, this research will report on the findings from the pilot study and compare them to the results of the data obtained from the pre-pandemic study.
A significant finding of the study indicated that the majority of the students from this cohort coped well with EOLTL and indicated a preference for a more hybrid approach for the future and the remainder of their studies. These findings now challenge universities to find ways to adapt, capitalise on and apply the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic to benefit MPTS.
Based on lessons learnt and experiences during the pandemic, this research has the potential to provide insight into how higher education institutions could improve the provision of support, as well as the learning and teaching experiences of this unique student cohort of mature employed students studying part-time (and others), to ensure retention and academic success.