Abstract—The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many
universities to move instruction online. For the most part, this
move has not been based on sound principles and best practices
of online teaching, but can instead be characterised as
emergency remote teaching (ERT) that aims to continue
instruction despite the substantial drawbacks of insufficient
planning or training. Research has looked at challenges
inherent in ERT, as well as considered the benefits of online
instruction for flexible learning environments. However, little
research has looked at the experiences of students from diverse
socioeconomic backgrounds during ERT. This paper explores
student feedback on two courses taught in 2020 at a South
African university, collected during routine course evaluations.
The two courses employed universal design for learning (UDL)
principles in order to attempt to make the courses as accessible
and equitable as possible for all students. Data were analysed
using thematic content analysis. The themes comprised the
various roles that lecturers are expected to adopt in online
environments under four dimensions: pedagogical,
technological, managerial and affective. Findings indicate that
despite the lecturers’ intentions to incorporate UDL, students
from underresourced backgrounds faced unique challenges that
exacerbated the problems in ERT. We thus conclude that ERT
does not offer a good foundation for building effective,
long-term online learning environments in unequal contexts,
and that online learning needs to be reconceptualised if it is to
become a long-term strategy for universities. Instructors in all
contexts must be aware of the multiple ways that vulnerable
students might be excluded from full participation in online
courses in order to ensure socially just online pedagogies.
Index Terms—Emergency remote teaching, online learning, COVID-19, universal design for learning, inequality, South Africa.
The authors are with the University of the Witwatersrand School of Education in Johannesburg, South Africa (Corresponding author: Grant Andrews; e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Cite: Grant Andrews and Ilse Fouche, "Emergency Remote Teaching in Unequal Contexts: Reflections on Student Feedback on Two Online Courses during the Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa," International Journal of Information and Education Technology vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 518-528, 2022.Copyright © 2022 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).