Examining Gender Differences in Student Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Model from the Switching Costs and Quality-Related Perspectives

Mandy Yan Dang, Yulei Gavin Zhang
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 459-477

The aim of this study is to address the research questions on: (1) what factors can significantly influence student learning in remote classes during the COVID-19 pandemic? and (2) what are the gender differences, if any, in this context? To do this, the authors developed a research model from the switching costs (defined as the time and effort students have been put to change from one learning platform to another) and quality-related perspectives. In addition, gender differences are examined and identified by testing the proposed research model on male and female students, respectively.

The recent worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has changed many aspects of people’s lives, including higher education. To better protect students and faculty, many universities have moved most of their classes online. Such a sudden change could make significant impacts on student learning. Thus, this study aims to empirically examine factors that can influence student learning in remote classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to investigate potential gender differences in such a context.

The survey method is used in this study. The survey invitation was sent to students in multiple classes that had switched from in-person learning to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was distributed in the online format. In total, 428 students completed the survey, with 202 being males and 226 being females.

This study contributes to the current literature on student learning during emergency situations such as COVID-19 by developing a research model to systematically investigate potential factors that could influence their perceptions of academic performance and learning enjoyment. A second contribution is the integration of theoretical perspectives of switching costs and three types of quality-related constructs in the proposed research model. In addition, the authors also investigate gender differences based on the proposed research model, and some interesting differences have been found and reported in this study.

Data analysis indicates that perceived value has a significant impact on perceived academic performance for female but not male students. In addition, male students find information quality to be a significant factor in perceived academic performance, but not perceived learning enjoyment; on the contrary, their female counterparts find it to be significant in influencing perceived learning enjoyment, but not perceived academic performance. Also, female students perceive system quality to be influential on their learning enjoyment and support service quality to be influential on their academic performance, but no such significant perceptions are found among male students.

The results of this study could help bring some insights to educators on teaching remote classes during the COVID-19 pandemic (or potentially in other similar emergency situations). For example, when moving classes to the remote platform because of an emergency situation, in order to make sure a smooth transition and achieve a higher rate of student learning success, educators, as well as the institution, need to focus on reducing the costs and, in the meanwhile, increasing the benefits associated with such a change from the students’ perspective. In addition, educators may need to keep in mind the gender differences identified in this study, which may help them better understand the learning needs of different gender groups.

Researchers could validate and apply the proposed research model on students from different types of institutions (such as public universities vs. private universities) and students at different levels (such as undergraduate vs. graduate students). It could also be valuable to apply and extend the current model on students from other nations who have different cultural backgrounds.

Understanding influential factors on student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as gender differences in this context, could help educators better adjust their teaching of remote classes in such an emergency situation, thus meeting the learning needs of students in both gender groups.

Future research could further validate the research model proposed in this study by applying it to students in other institutions and other nations. Also, in addition to perceived academic performance and learning enjoyment, future research may expand the current model or create new models on other student learning-related dependent variables.

COVID-19, remote learning, switching costs, information quality, system quality, support service quality
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