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IJIET 2022 Vol.12(6): 518-528 ISSN: 2010-3689
doi: 10.18178/ijiet.2022.12.6.1649

Emergency Remote Teaching in Unequal Contexts: Reflections on Student Feedback on Two Online Courses during the Covid-19 Lockdown in South Africa

Grant Andrews and Ilse Fouche

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: grant.andrews@wits.ac.za, ilse.fouche@wits.ac.za).


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).

General Information

  • ISSN: 2010-3689 (Online)
  • Abbreviated Title: Int. J. Inf. Educ. Technol.
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • DOI: 10.18178/IJIET
  • Editor-in-Chief: Prof. Jon-Chao Hong
  • Managing Editor: Ms. Nancy Y. Liu
  • Abstracting/ Indexing: Scopus (CiteScore 2023: 2.8), INSPEC (IET), UGC-CARE List (India), CNKI, EBSCO, Google Scholar
  • E-mail: ijiet@ejournal.net
  • Article Processing Charge: 800 USD


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