Teacher-Student Interaction in Distance Learning in Emergency Situations

Hava Sason, Avichai Kellerman
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 479-501

The goal of this study was to examine which of the types of teacher-student interactions found in previous studies by Kang (2009) and Kang and Im (2013) during distance learning in routine situations, were also found in times of emergency, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether these interactions differed between students with regard to the extent and nature of each type of interaction.

Teacher-student interactions during learning in general and particularly in distance learning has an impact on students’ satisfaction, motivation, and ability to contend with learning assignments. As learning in times of emergency poses additional, unique challenges, teacher-student interactions may be affected as well.

The participants in the study were 591 undergraduate students from different departments in a teaching college, who answered an opinion survey after completing a semester of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualitative textual content analysis was performed on students’ answers to open-ended questions about the nature of their interaction with their teachers. The students’ answers were divided and analyzed according to the answers they gave on a separate questionnaire on self-regulation in learning.

The findings of this study can offer a theoretical contribution to understanding the different types of teacher-student interactions in distance learning in emergency situations, their frequency, and how they are connected to students’ self-regulation. From the practical perspective, the study highlights the importance of this interaction, especially in times of emergency, and offers practical insights for teachers in academia and in general.

The study’s findings reflect students’ critical need for interaction with their teachers in emergency distance learning. The students reported different types of interaction with their teachers during the COVID-19 period. The most common form of interaction was instructional communication (Q&A), which mainly took place via email, though students would have preferred WhatsApp. The least common form of interaction was social intimacy. Students with a high level of self-regulation were more likely to report on interaction with the teacher, and to take more responsibility for whether or not interaction occurred.

Considering the findings of this study, colleges and universities should invest in training and encouraging teachers to engage in different types of interaction with their students. It is important for teachers to be aware of the need for these types of interaction. Encouraging teacher-student interaction in teachers’ training colleges (where this study was carried out) is also important, as it may affect the teaching methods used by the students when they become teachers in the future and, consequently, influence the entire education system.

Research of teacher-student interaction in distance learning should take into account the unique characteristics and challenges posed by this type of learn-ing in times of emergency, as found in this study. Additional technological and pedagogic tools should be developed to improve teacher-student interaction so that it meets the students’ expectations during routine and emergency times alike.

Studies have found that teacher-student interaction is one of the greatest contributors to students’ motivation and satisfaction and to their ability to cope with learning assignments. As distance learning has become widespread and inevitable in times of emergency or crisis, which may occur again in the future, improving interaction during distance learning in an emergency is very important. This may improve the learners’ ability to maintain their regular learning routine despite the emergency situation.

It is recommended to expand the research method and examine the data using in-depth interviews and questionnaires. It is also worth comparing the findings of this study with findings of similar studies among students in colleges and universities other than teachers’ training colleges, graduate students, and students of different ages.

emergency remote teaching (ERT), teacher-student interaction, self-regulated learning (SRL)
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