Distance learning perceptions during the coronavirus outbreak: Freshmen versus more advanced students

Orit Baruth, Hagit Gabbay, Anat Cohen, Alla Bronshtein, Orit Ezra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at the beginning of 2020 forced most higher education institutions to shift immediately from traditional learning to distance learning and emergency remote teaching (ERT). Objectives: This research aimed to capture the authentic sounds of this unusual learning experience from the field while it was still fresh and to explore congruence with existing models of online learning success factors. We also aimed to examine the differences between freshman students and more advanced students (second year onwards) with regard to the emerging data and its respective model. Methods: During the second semester of 2020, 170 Tel Aviv university students majoring in various fields responded to an online questionnaire consisting of open-ended questions. Results and conclusions: The researchers classified the themes retrieved from 1559 statements into a framework of critical success factors for distance learning. The framework included five dimensions: course, student, instructor, learning environment and institution. Well-known benefits of distance learning emerged, among them flexibility and personalized learning pace. Nevertheless, the findings revealed that the rapid transition to distance learning posed challenges and difficulties, mainly concerning the readiness of students and instructors for this form of teaching and learning. The number of statements in instructor dimension indicated the importance of providing support and training to instructors and staff. Significant differences were found in students' perceptions according to the year standing. More advanced students made more ‘internal’ references, attributing more statements to student and learning environment dimensions. In contrast, freshman made more ‘external’ references, attributing more statements to instructor and course dimensions than students in their second year and onwards. Major takeaways: The results may help in planning and preparing for times of crisis. From a broader perspective, the findings may help in designing ways to incorporate distance learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1666-1681
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • distance learning
  • emergency remote teaching
  • students' perceptions


Dive into the research topics of 'Distance learning perceptions during the coronavirus outbreak: Freshmen versus more advanced students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this