“I Feel Like a Guinea Pig”: Emotional Responses to the Online Pivot

Elaine Beirne
Dublin City University

Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl
Dublin City University

Mark Brown
Dublin City University


This paper reports on the emotional experiences of first year students as they prepared to start their higher education online because of Covid-19 public health precautions. Emotion research holds important insights for the development of pedagogical and institutional strategies to support students adapt to the increased focus on online learning both now and into the future. Students’ responses to a survey embedded at the beginning of an online learning preparatory MOOC were analysed to identify (a) the anticipatory emotions they were experiencing towards online learning, and (b) what they perceived to be the sources of those emotions. Findings revealed that anxiety was the prevailing emotion, although positive emotions, such as excitement and hope, were also reported. A thematic analysis identified seven over-arching sources of those emotions as described by the students. This paper concludes by briefly discussing the implications for educators.

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