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Learning, Student Digital Capabilities and Academic Performance over the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published: 20 July 2021
 by  MDPI
Education Sciences , Volume 11; doi:10.3390/educsci11070361

Abstract: During the time of COVID-19 lockdown over spring 2020, universities shifted teaching from on-campus blended learning to an emergency remote fully online approach. The aim of this study was to compare Psychology and Veterinary Science undergraduate students’ academic performance with their responses on a self-reported questionnaire regarding their digital capabilities, individual’s characteristics, and the role of environment on their independent learning process over the first COVID-19 lockdown period. Social-Cognitive Theory was adopted to conceptualise students’ behaviour, individuals’ characteristics, and learning environment with their academic performance to a learning framework. A total of 303 students from both disciplines (133 Psychology and 170 Veterinary Science undergraduate students) participated in this study by completing an online questionnaire after following the teaching shift from blended learning to full remote online approach at a UK University during the 2019–2020 academic year. Differences between students’ responses were identified due to their discipline’s curricular structure, students’ study behaviours (i.e., being exposed to unrelated learning activities), and students’ cognitive effort to think critically in the search, evaluation and managing of digital information. Students with high level of self-regulation and digital capabilities were able to keep focused and engaged during the lockdown. Although universities and teachers were “forced” to shift their teaching approach due to the unfortunate disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, most students have coped with the changed teaching delivery mode relatively easy with minimum guidance. However, teachers should further consider how digital technologies could enhance students’ learning flexibility promoting critical thinking.
Keywords: digital capabilities / academic performance / social-cognitive theory / independent learning / higher education / COVID-19

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