A Quantitative Study to Measure the Impact of E-Learning on Families

19 February 2021

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Pre-conference on “Evaluation of Educational Systems” of ASA - Applied Statistics Associations.

The Covid-19 emergency has forced universities around the world to transfer teaching activities online. Even if online teaching allowed to carry out the planned teaching activities, it is necessary, in retrospect, to evaluate the impact of this teaching method on the different types of students, in terms of preparation, characteristics and social background. The switch from offline to online learning caused by Covid-19 is expected to exacerbate existing educational inequalities penalising more vulnerable students. The social and economic conditions of families have a major influence on the e-learning experience because less advantaged students are less likely to have access to relevant learning digital resources (e.g. laptop/computer, broadband internet connection) and less likely to have a suitable home learning environment (e.g. a quiet place to study or their own desk) (Di Pietro et al., 2020). Furthermore, according to the 2020 European Commission’s annual report on the levels of digitalisation achieved by the various member states, Italy ranks 25th among the 28 EU Member States.

The aim of this paper is to analyse whether and how the distance learning activities impacted on the students’ families both in terms of the organisation of spaces and daily rhythms and from an economic point of view, having required additional expenses. The study is based on the analysis of data collected at the University of Naples Federico II in June 2020. More than 19,000 students took part in a survey, carried out to monitor distance learning activities and perceptions. The paper is organised into two sections. In the first, a factorial method is exploited to obtain a composite indicator measuring the family impact of distance learning. Then, we try to explain if the family impact takes different forms and intensity depending on the students’ characteristics, the availability of computer equipment and the type of teaching used. Finally, quantile regression allow to differentiate the study of effects for different levels of family impact. Some considerations on the distance learning experience in terms of family impact and the evaluation on the preferred teaching method for the future are also enclosed.

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