Journal of Medical Internet Research (May 2021)

Experiences and Attitudes of Elementary School Students and Their Parents Toward Online Learning in China During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Questionnaire Study

  • Cui, Shu,
  • Zhang, Chao,
  • Wang, Shijiang,
  • Zhang, Xingong,
  • Wang, Lei,
  • Zhang, Ling,
  • Yuan, Qiuyu,
  • Huang, Cui,
  • Cheng, Fangshuo,
  • Zhang, Kai,
  • Zhou, Xiaoqin

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 23, no. 5
p. e24496


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BackgroundDue to widespread SARS-CoV-2 infection, an emergency homeschooling plan was rigorously implemented throughout China. ObjectiveThis study aimed to investigate the experiences and attitudes of elementary school students and their parents (two generations from the same family) toward online learning in China during the pandemic. MethodsA 16-item questionnaire was distributed at the 10-day and 40-day marks after the start of the first online course to 867 parent-child pairs and 141 parent-child pairs, respectively. The questionnaire was comprised of questions pertaining to course and homework completeness, effectiveness, reliability, and abundance as well as the students’ enthusiasm for taking part in online classes and their satisfaction with the courses. ResultsOur findings indicate that 90.7% (786/867) of students exhibited high or moderate enthusiasm for participating in online classes. However, most students performed poorly in online learning classes and after-school homework. With regard to satisfaction, parents' and students' average scores were 7.35 and 7.25, respectively (10-point scoring system). During the second stage of this study, parents' positive evaluations for online learning declined, including those for the effectiveness and reliability of the courses. Furthermore, the proportion of students who completed the courses and homework on time decreased; this difference proved statistically significant (P=.047). The parents’ and students’ overall satisfaction with online learning also declined during the second stage (parents: 7.21; students: 7.23); however, the difference in overall satisfaction between the two stages was not statistically significant (parents: P=.53; students: P=.60). Several of the parents (315/867, 36.2%) indicated that assisting with and supervising the students’ online learning resulted in increased stress. Further, 36% of parents expressed dissatisfaction with or provided suggestions for online learning; most parents and students hoped to return to face-to-face classes (parents: 823/867, 94.9%; students: 811/867, 93.5%). Finally, our results presented the following six main issues that parents were the most concerned about: (1) disappointment regarding timely interaction in courses; (2) apprehensiveness about students’ understanding of the course; (3) the increased burden of annoying adult responsibilities; (4) concern about children's eyesight; (5) the idea that teachers’ explanations were not detailed enough; and (6) concerns about the decline of students' interest in and attention toward online courses. ConclusionsOnline learning can prevent the spread of infectious diseases while still allowing elementary school students to attain knowledge. However, in our study, children’s completion of the courses and homework were not satisfactory. Furthermore, their parents often experienced stress and had many concerns and complaints. Measures such as increasing the interactivity of the courses and prohibiting teachers from assigning tasks to parents could improve the effectiveness of these courses and the mental health of parents and students.