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The Rapid Transition to Remote Learning During a Pandemic: Stakeholder Perspectives of the Student Learning Experience

Lisa M Brunetti, Johnson & Wales University


During the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic moved rapidly across the globe (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2020). By the end of February 2020, American higher education institutions were forced to make quick decisions regarding the continuity of operations, despite limited information about the virus (American College Health Association, 2020), and without comparable historic references as a guide (Erdley, 2020). Suddenly, campus leaders were worrying about how to deliver remote classes to students, train faculty to teach remotely, and provide student and support services with minimal disruption (Fischer, 2020). While considerable research has explored campus responses to emergencies, crises, and natural disasters (Henderson, 2005; Lipka, 2005; Mangan, 2005b; SchWeber, 2008), little research exists on how campuses have or should respond to global disasters such as a pandemic. The purpose of this qualitative instrumental case study was to explore the holistic educational experience of students from the perspectives of key stakeholders at a private, four-year university in the northeastern US as that institution rapidly transitioned to remote learning during the pandemic. The study was guided by one overarching research question, while sub-questions were developed as the case evolved: How did the rapid transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic transform the academic learning experience for students at a private, four-year institution in the northeastern United States? Through focus groups, interviews, document analysis, participant reflections, and researcher reflexivity, this qualitative instrumental single-site case study included the perspectives of students (N=7), faculty (N=9), department chairpersons (N=6), deans (N=4), the office of the provost (N=1), and academic support program representatives (N=3). Additionally, a variety of documents (N=61), which chronicled the transition, were reviewed to ascertain how the student learning experience unfolded. Analysis of this case generated five thematic findings related to the student learning experience, which centered on communications, building connections and relationships, course content and delivery, perspectives regarding future planning strategies, and challenges with environment, logistics, technology, and mental health. Results may inform higher education leaders about how to adapt these findings to their own institutions as they anticipate future crises and adjust to the ‘new normal’ of face-to-face education.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational psychology|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Brunetti, Lisa M, "The Rapid Transition to Remote Learning During a Pandemic: Stakeholder Perspectives of the Student Learning Experience" (2021). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI28494587.