In this paper, we aim to identify the determinants of online effective learning in the emergency situation created by COVID19 pandemic. Further, we test which of the learning methods (traditional, online, and hybrid) is preferred by Romanian students in economics in this unusual context. Using a sample of 1415 students from five major Romanian faculties of economics and applying ordinal and bivariate logit regressions models, we found that psychological distress and increased concerns about COVID-19 pandemic have a negative effect on learning effectiveness. Also, our results revealed that the students who face problems related to unsatisfactory internet access, insufficient time due to other familial issues, who have inadequate working space at home and also the male ones are more likely to be less effective in their online learning process. Finally, the university infrastructure for online activities decreases the likelihood that students will perceive online studies as less effective.
Any online learning environment is considered to be a framework that “uses the Internet to deliver some form of instruction to learners separated by time, distance, or both” (Dempsey and Van Eck, 2002, p. 283). At the institutional level, eLearning in exceptional times, such as the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, should be seen as a backup educational system to continue the learning process. This kind of pandemic has spread almost all over the world, although it was not until December 2019 that the first official case in China was confirmed and hospitalized (Huang et al., 2020). Meanwhile, the situation has escalated so much due to the coronavirus outbreak that led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (Lai et al., 2020) (Figs. 1 and 2).
The impossibility to predict the stopping of this pandemic leaves room for numerous scenarios related to the lack of predictability. This status quo generates extremely much uncertainty and confusion that affect the economic, social and political institutions, also the interpersonal connection. All these changes have tremendous effects on humans and their relationships with other people and with institutions. When it comes to the educational issue, the unexpected health crisis made, on 15th of May 2020, more than 1.2 billion learners, about 70 percent of total enrolled ones, from 158 countries, to be highly affected by the global lockdown (UNESCO, 2020a). Hundreds of million students worldwide were and still are affected by “social distancing” or “self-isolation” measures promoted by their countries’ governments, because of the impossibility to attend physical classes which may influence their school performance (UNESCO, 2020a). Especially in the case when those students don’t have the proper infrastructure for online learning, it is obvious that their grades are critically marked. Also, homeschooling hurts the parents’ mobility, performance at work and, overall, on economic productivity of firms (UNESCO, 2020b). The same previous report emphasizes that a low level of familial wealth, reduces the level of democratization of access to technology, due to the difficulty to establish an internet connection, is a powerful barrier towards eLearning and a major source for exclusion, isolation and inequality.