A Framework for Transitioning to Virtual Classes During Life-Threatening Pandemics Like COVID-19
Keywords:COVID-19, virtual classes, experiences, students, benefits of, challenges
This research explains the benefits and challenges of virtual classes as experienced by university students during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The limited research on university students' experiences in virtual classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted physical classes and forced educational institutions to blindly switch from physical classes to virtual classes, served as the inspiration for this study. The absence of a framework for smoothly transitioning from physical classes to virtual classes challenged this process. Furthermore, relatively few studies have been done on the empirical context of a developing nation with distinct social and economic circumstances, concerning university students' experiences of virtual classrooms during COVID-19. Thus a quantitative study using a single case study of a university in Southern Africa was guided by the duality of structure in Giddens Structuration Theory, which explains students' experiences by highlighting both positive aspects—such as flexibility, collaboration, accessibility, and availability of course materials—and negative aspects—such as high costs, boredom, and a lack of resources and training. Analysis was done using Microsoft Excel and the findings also showed how, during the COVID-19 epidemic, structures of dominance, signification, and legitimacy formed as a result of behaviors related to leadership, resources, empowerment, and adoption, which both facilitated and hampered the smooth transition to virtual classrooms. The paper concluded by proposing a framework for transitioning to virtual classes during life-threatening situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. Although not generalizable across all university contexts, these findings provide a foundation for understanding the university students’ experiences in virtual classes during COVID-19. These findings have both practical and theoretical implications since they both provide an explanation of experiences in virtual classes as well as propose a framework for guiding the process of moving away from physical classes towards virtual classes during life-threatening situations.