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Guzzo, T.; Ferri, F.; Grifoni, P. Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 22 June 2024).
Guzzo T, Ferri F, Grifoni P. Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2024.
Guzzo, Tiziana, Fernando Ferri, Patrizia Grifoni. "Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 22, 2024).
Guzzo, T., Ferri, F., & Grifoni, P. (2023, July 26). Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic. In Encyclopedia.
Guzzo, Tiziana, et al. "Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic." Encyclopedia. Web. 26 July, 2023.
Online Learning Obstacles during COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the education sector, forcing schools at a worldwide level to quickly adapt their activities to remote learning. The analysis of these challenges and lessons learned aim to improve the quality of digital education. The lessons learned from this experience highlighted the importance of developing strategies to address challenges such as the necessary infrastructure, digital skills, student engagement, collaboration, and personalised online learning.

online learning lessons learned COVID-19 effects

1. Introduction

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic created a global crisis that impacted all sectors of society, including education. Nearly every student in the world was affected, and several countries temporarily closed their schools and adopted remote learning as an alternative [1]. Italy, like many other countries, faced significant disruptions to its educational system, as schools and universities were forced to close their doors to avoid the spread of the virus. This emergency forced Italian educational institutions to quickly adapt their methodologies to online learning, utilising online platforms and digital tools to deliver instruction. The resulting shift to remote learning posed several challenges, including issues related to access to the necessary technologies and the need for teachers and students to adapt to new approaches and models of instruction. Amid the challenges, however, the pandemic also represented an opportunity for reflection on the urgent need for innovative approaches to education. The negative effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced all to search for new solutions triggering innovation processes, and “this crisis has stimulated innovation within the education sector” [2]. The pandemic has shaken up traditional teaching methods, accelerating the adoption of new technologies and innovative teaching methods [1]. This trend is likely to continue, with schools continuing to explore new ways of using technology to enhance learning. From this perspective, it is crucial to reflect on the lessons learned from this experience and to envision the future of education by rethinking teaching and learning with new digital tools. This includes addressing the challenges faced during the pandemic, such as the digital divide, inequitable access to resources, and the need for effective strategies to promote student engagement and well-being in remote learning environments. It also involves leveraging the advancements in educational technology and exploring innovative teaching methods and tools that can enhance the learning experience and foster a more inclusive and resilient education system.

2. Lack of Equitable Access to Technology

One of the primary obstacles was the lack of equitable access to technology and Internet connectivity to access and participate in digital learning activities [3]. Many students, especially those from low-income families or rural areas, faced difficulties in accessing the technology required for online learning, such as computers, laptops, reliable Internet connections, digital learning materials, parental support, and suitable learning environments [4][5]. This digital divide increased existing educational inequalities, making it challenging for some students to fully participate in remote learning activities and access educational resources. It is essential to ensure that all students have access to digital tools, as the digital divide can exacerbate educational inequalities [2].

3. Lack of Digital Skills

The integration of digital technologies also had significant implications for teachers. The rapid shift from traditional to online learning imposed by the pandemic emergency found schools unprepared. Many teachers and students had to quickly adapt to unfamiliar online platforms, digital tools, and communication technologies. The transition to online learning required teachers to develop new skills in their virtual teaching, create engaging online content, and provide technical support to students [6]. Similarly, students had to learn how to navigate online learning platforms, submit assignments electronically, and effectively communicate with their teachers and peers in virtual settings. Although teachers tried to be resilient, they often worked without adequate tools and methods, and this increased their workload and stress in developing and delivering digital content, mainly if they had limited experience with online teaching [7]. This made clear that teachers need to be trained in using digital tools effectively through training courses and guidelines [8][9][10]. Without proper training, teachers may struggle to use digital tools effectively, leading to a negative impact on students’ learning outcomes. Providing access to technological resources and investing in training and support for both students and instructors can significantly improve the effectiveness of distance learning [11].

4. Students’ Engagement and Motivation

Another obstacle faced during the pandemic was represented by the need to keep students engaged and motivated when using remote learning environments. The absence of face-to-face interaction, peer collaboration, and physical classroom dynamics presented challenges in fostering active participation and meaningful learning experiences. Students experienced increased feelings of isolation, reduced social interactions, and a potential decline in their overall motivation and well-being [7]. Furthermore, some students had difficulties understanding the material delivered online; primary school students sometimes felt bored and were less active and interested in participating during the distance learning process [12][13]. For this purpose, some studies suggested the use of interactive and multimedia materials (animations, images, games) to increase students’ motivation [14][15]. Virtual-reality technology and gaming tools can be effectively used to achieve a high level of engagement and to foster attention, interaction, and collaboration among students [16]. Some schools successfully used gamification to increase students’ motivation [17] and a cooperative learning approach [18][19]. Incorporating interactive learning activities and promoting social interaction can significantly enhance student engagement and motivation in online learning environments [20]. It is necessary to support a culture of innovation, rethinking digital learning as a digital ecosystem in which each actor is proactive and responsive, creating an open collaborative environment and fostering cooperative relationships [21].

5. Lack of Assessment Methods

Another important obstacle to the pedagogical level was online assessment. Traditional methods of assessment, such as in-person exams, have been difficult to replicate in an online environment. One of the main challenges was represented by the lack of any student feedback and evaluation systems [9][22]. Teachers had to explore alternative assessment strategies that could effectively measure student learning levels and provide timely feedback in a remote setting. Some studies revealed the need to develop a safe, valid, and reliable online assessment system [23][24]. Finally, digital learning should be integrated into the curriculum in a way that complements traditional teaching methods rather than replacing them [25]. It is, however, necessary to differentiate between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Emergency remote teaching was the quick shift to online learning due to the pandemic, while online learning is a well-designed, interactive, and engaging experience for learners [26]. Therefore, to ensure the effectiveness of online learning, careful planning and design are necessary.

6. Lessons Learned

Several different studies post-pandemic analysed lessons learned during online learning. A Lobos study [27] stated that successful practices introduced during online learning should be incorporated into educational policies and learning processes. Lessons learned from university are, in fact, that new learning scenarios should consider specific pedagogical practices, including active, collaborative, meaningful, problem-based strategies, and a diversity of feedback practices. Furthermore, resources and activities should be associated with visual attractiveness, interactivity, and gamified materials. According to Singh et al. [28], COVID-19 should be considered as an opportunity which allowed for the critical analysis of current practices and re-envision existing academic processes. Among lessons learned from high education systems, the study highlighted the need to invest in faculty development in integrating technology to facilitate and enhance education and innovative teaching and learning practices. Similarly, the study of Munir [29], among the recommendations for post-pandemic education, includes the unified selection of digital learning tools across courses, a designated budget for digital learning tools, training support, and hybrid learning methods. The study proposes the implementation of blended and hybrid learning approaches to enhance higher education at the university level. It emphasises the crucial role of digital tools in mitigating communication barriers experienced by students. Among post-pandemic reflections, lessons from Chinese mathematics teachers indicate the need to enhance the integration of technology in instructional practices, redefine the dynamics of teacher–student interactions, and reorganise teaching methodologies in traditional classroom settings [30]. However, an important issue to consider is that in the post-pandemic environment, learning styles could be different due to the lack of mobility restrictions. For example, Gonzales et al.’s [31] study found that students shifted towards a more distributed type of learning during the pandemic, moving away from their dependence on intermittent, deadline-driven activities. This change in learning style may not persist as a consistent pattern in the post-pandemic era. Therefore, teachers should consider this issue in the organisation of work activities and their response to students’ approach to learning.


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