Barriers that Hinder Inclusive Online Education and the Good Practices in Digital Pedagogy

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The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to several unprecedented challenges, including an emergency shift to online learning and distance education. Although many consider it normal to own devices like mobile phones, laptops and computers, studies suggest that about 46% of the global learning population remains offline. Consequently, inclusive education and social equity have become elusive during the pandemic crisis. Changes to the education setting have led to a search for solutions to known issues associated with online and distance learning. For example, not all learners are able to benefit from innovations in digital pedagogy. Studies have shown that there are many learners with fewer opportunities, such as people with health conditions or disabled people, or those facing barriers linked to education and training systems due to the ‘digital divide’ or discrimination, or cultural, social and economic reasons. For such groups, the digital transformation of education can be an enabler or an additional burden. It is, therefore, crucial to understand the barriers that hinder inclusive education to promote equal learning opportunities. This is an account of the first phase of a longer-term study to investigate those barriers and provide solutions through good practices for learners and educators. This initial phase of the study sought to identify, through a desk review, barriers that hinder inclusive online education and recommendations to address them, as well as key expectations from the learners for the success of inclusive digital education. A systematic literature review using PRISMA protocols (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) was carried out across peer-reviewed academic research in Emerald Insight, Science Direct, SCOPUS, and Springer databases. Key search terms included online and e-learning, virtual learning, web-based learning, computer-based learning, cyberlearning, cybergogy, digital pedagogy, digital education. The search was extended to relevant institutional and policy reports, for example, the United Nations’ Policy brief on ‘Education during COVID-19 and beyond’, and the European Commission report on ‘COVID-19 is reviving the need to explore online teaching and learning opportunities’. The findings reveal nine key challenges in online and distance learning education: the digital divide and social injustice; technology; skill deficit; anonymity; security; cost; emotional disturbances and health issues; continuity; rules, regulations, and policies. The literature analysis further revealed three key recommendations to educators: refining existing teaching skills and developing new skills, especially those that are on-demand for online teaching; to self-evaluate their competencies and identify training/ learning needs; and administrators to ensure quality. Further recommendations were given to the educators to better engage the learners with fewer opportunities. Similarly, the study highlighted key expectations from the learners for the success of inclusive digital education. These include the trust learners place in the system; learners’ technological readiness; network, peer support or collaboration; flexibility; and quality interactive time. The findings of this research are developed as part of an ongoing collaborative research project co-funded by the EU Erasmus+ programme. These desk study findings will inform future research, which aims to reimagine online distance learning education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Subtitle of host publicationEDULEARN22
EditorsLuis Gómez Chova, Agustín López Martínez, Joanna Lees
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9788409424849
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022
Event14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Palma, Spain
Duration: 4 Jul 20226 Jul 2022
Conference number: 14

Publication series

NameEDULEARN Proceedings
PublisherIATED Academy
ISSN (Print)2340-1117


Conference14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Abbreviated titleEDULEARN22

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