The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Experiences and Expectations: Evidence from a Survey

In order to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, we surveyed approximately 1,500 students at one of the largest public institutions in the United States using an instrument designed to recover the causal impact of the pandemic on students' current and expected outcomes. Results show large negative effects across many dimensions. Due to COVID-19: 13% of students have delayed graduation, 40% lost a job, internship, or a job offer, and 29% expect to earn less at age 35. Moreover, these effects have been highly heterogeneous. One quarter of students increased their study time by more than 4 hours per week due to COVID-19, while another quarter decreased their study time by more than 5 hours per week. This heterogeneity often followed existing socioeconomic divides; lower-income students are 55% more likely to have delayed graduation due to COVID-19 than their higher-income peers. Finally, we show that the economic and health related shocks induced by COVID-19 vary systematically by socioeconomic factors and constitute key mediators in explaining the large (and heterogeneous) effects of the pandemic.

Noah Deitrick and Adam Streff provided excellent research assistance. All errors that remain are ours. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.


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The perceived impact of covid-19 on student well-being and the mediating role of the university support: evidence from france, germany, russia, and the uk.

\nMaria S. Plakhotnik

  • 1 Department of Management, HSE University, Moscow, Russia
  • 2 Department of Management, Kedge Business School, Talence, France
  • 3 Department of Management, Kedge Business School, Marseille, France
  • 4 Hertfordshire Business School, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom
  • 5 Department Business and Economics, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Berlin, Germany

The rapid and unplanned change to teaching and learning in the online format brought by COVID-19 has likely impacted many, if not all, aspects of university students' lives worldwide. To contribute to the investigation of this change, this study focuses on the impact of the pandemic on student well-being, which has been found to be as important to student lifelong success as their academic achievement. Student well-being has been linked to their engagement and performance in curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities, intrinsic motivation, satisfaction, meaning making, and mental health. The purpose of this study was to examine how student perceptions of their degree completion and future job prospects during the pandemic impact their well-being and what role university support plays in this relationship. We used the conservation of resources theory to frame our study and to develop five hypotheses that were later tested via structural equation modeling. Data were collected from 2,707 university students in France, Germany, Russia, and UK via an online survey. The results showed that university support provided by instructors and administration plays a mediating role in the relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19 on degree completion and future job prospects and levels of student well-being. Student well-being is decreased by their concerns for their degree completion but not by their concerns for future job prospects. In turn, concerns for future job prospects affect student well-being over time. These results suggest that in a “new normal,” universities could increase student well-being by making support to student studies a priority, especially for undergraduates. Also, universities should be aware of the students' changing emotional responses to crisis and ensure visibility and accessibility of student support.


Student well-being has become a concern for many colleges and universities globally as they acknowledge the importance of a balance between psychological, social, emotional, and physical aspects of student lives (e.g., Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ; Mahatmya et al., 2018 ). Student well-being could be understood as “reduction in stress, enhanced experienced meaning and engagement in the classroom, and ultimately, heightened satisfaction with life” ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 , p. 191). Student well-being includes concepts of motivation, identity, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-regulation in the context of learning and matriculating through the program to get a degree ( Willis et al., 2019 ). Student well-being has shown to increase their engagement in learning activities, meaning making, a sense of belonging, positive relationships with others, autonomy, and competencies ( Sortheix and Lönnqvist, 2015 ; Baik et al., 2016 ; Cox and Brewster, 2020 ) and reduce their burn-out, stress, frustration, dissatisfaction, and withdrawal from active learning ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ; Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ; Yazici et al., 2016 ). Therefore, well-being not only fosters student academic achievement, but also prepares students for lifelong success ( Mahatmya et al., 2018 ). Not surprisingly, many universities across the globe have decided to make well-being their central strategic goal. For example, in Europe, seven universities from seven different regions along with over 100 partnering organizations formed the European University of Well-Being—EUniWell—to promote well-being of students, staff, and communities. Meanwhile, Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation (2019) is working on health and well-being standards and indicators that offer guidelines to promote health in schools in Europe. In the United Kingdom, the Higher Education Policy Institute (2019) and Advance Higher Education work together to monitor student well-being by continuously collecting and analyzing data from full-time undergraduate students. In the United States, George Mason University, VA, has implemented a university-wide “Well-Being University Initiative” that is coordinated and advanced by a specially created center. The University System of Georgia, USA, has adopted a similar vision of a well-being culture to enhance lives of its community.

Prior to the pandemic, levels of well-being among college students were troublesome ( Poots and Cassidy, 2020 ). For example, in the United States, only one in 10 students graduating from universities measured high in all elements of well-being ( Gallup, 2020 ). In the United Kingdom, undergraduates were reported to have lower well-being than the general population and their well-being was in decline for several years ( Higher Education Policy Institute, 2019 ). This unfortunate state of well-being among students undoubtedly has been devastated by the pandemic that has brought suffering, frustration, discomfort, fear, loss, and other negative emotions and experiences. Students across the world have suddenly been expected to work and learn online, which requires access to good IT infrastructure and equipment, connectivity, and different digital and cognitive skills. Students worry not only about the infection risk but also about their degree completion and unemployment upon graduation, which impacted their well-being even prior to the pandemic ( Moate et al., 2019 ).

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, research has shown the psychological impact of the pandemic on university students and discussed the coping solutions. For instance, disruptions in academic processes due to Covid-19 pandemic have increased student anxiety ( Wang et al., 2020 ), especially for those without adequate social support ( Cao et al., 2020 ). Other health risks, such as depression, alcohol and drug consumption, and eating disorder symptoms, have been reported among German university students ( Kohls et al., 2020 ). Consequently, students with lower levels of mental well-being experience more stress about their academic activities and decreased self-efficacy, satisfaction with coursework, and sense of belonging to university ( Capone et al., 2020 ). Stress also has been found to decrease medical students' enthusiasm to learn and practice medicine upon graduation ( Ye et al., 2020 ). The pandemic has also increased student workload, uncertainty about the semester completion, and confusion about study expectations, which resulted in higher stress levels ( Stathopoulou et al., 2020 ; Van de Velde et al., 2020 ). Due to the limited social life during the pandemic, these students have also reported feeling lonely, anxious, and depressed ( Essadek and Rabeyron, 2020 ). Prior studies highlighted some coping solutions; for example, students searching for information about the pandemic ( Capone et al., 2020 ; Wathelet et al., 2020 ) and for meaning in life ( Arslan et al., 2020 ) have higher levels of mental well-being. Students who spend much time on social media platforms and have strong motivation for online learning also report lower levels of distress ( Al-Tammemi et al., 2020 ). Surprisingly, Capone et al. (2020) found no significant deviation in levels of stress and mental well-being from the accepted norm among college students in Italy.

These and other researchers (e.g., Li et al., 2020 ; Zhai and Du, 2020 ) call for better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on student psychological states. First, colleges and universities across the globe need to identify and adopt strategies and resources to address the impact of COVID-19, which is likely to be long lasting. These strategies would include a revision of the existing practices and interventions at the curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular levels (e.g., Yamada and Victor, 2012 ; Maybury, 2013 ; Kareem and Bing, 2014 ; Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ) and at the university-wide level ( Mahatmya et al., 2018 ). Second, COVID-19 has created much uncertainty about “a new normal” in student learning and university functioning. Currently, when most countries are still responding to the pandemic, it seems possible, if not likely, that the change to online or hybrid modes of learning will become more prevalent in colleges and universities across the globe. Therefore, new strategies and resources need to be developed to improve student well-being in the online or hybrid environment. Third, to find effective strategies and resources, colleges, and universities have to identify and understand factors and mechanisms through, which COVID-19 affects student well-being. Consequently, this study sought to examine how student perceptions of their degree completion and future job prospects during the pandemic impact their well-being and what role university support plays in this relationship. To achieve this goal, the study used four scales to collect self-reported data from students in four countries, such as France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom (UK).

Our research contributions are three-fold. First, the study contributes to the emergent knowledgebase of the impact of COVID-19 on student well-being in general (e.g., Al-Tammemi et al., 2020 ; Capone et al., 2020 ; Li et al., 2020 ) and student well-being in France, Germany, Russia and UK in particular (e.g., Essadek and Rabeyron, 2020 ; Kohls et al., 2020 ; Savage et al., 2020 ). Our findings could contribute to the research on the impact of COVID-19 on students and help the higher education sector internationally develop appropriate strategies. Second, this study identifies the key factors affecting students and their learning during the lockdown period and helps understand adjustments needed for the “new normal” learning environment. We argue that the change to an online or hybrid mode of learning will be the “new normal” for teaching, and, hence, we need to explore and find evidence for students to effectively deal with and learn in an online and hybrid environment. Third, using the conservation of resources theory (CoR; Hobfoll, 1988 , 1989 ), we enrich the application of prior student well-being research and provide a theoretical framework that helps understand the mechanism of university support on student well-being.

In the following sections, we introduce the concept of student well-being, provide an overview of the CoR theory ( Hobfoll, 1988 , 1989 ), and review resources that universities provide to enhance student well-being. Then we develop hypotheses, describe the study methodology, and present the results and discussion. We conclude with research limitations and future research direction.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses Development

Conservation of resources theory.

The CoR theory ( Hobfoll, 1988 , 1989 ) suggests that people experience stress when they feel the threat of resource loss, a real net loss of resources, and/or a lack of gained resources after resource investment. Two types of resources are examined by this theory. On the one hand, individuals' external resources are object resources (e.g., for university student, laptop for taking online courses, living expenses), social resources (e.g., family help), and condition resources (e.g., stable internet and digital support offered by the university). On the other hand, individuals' internal resource includes personal resources (e.g., self-efficacy and self-control during distance learning) and energy resources (e.g., time and health; Chen et al., 2015 ; Hagger, 2015 ). The CoR theory is relevant to better understand the impacts of Covid-19 on university students' well-being as they need to follow fully or partially online courses, they are forced to reduce the social activities to the minimum level, and they should try to manage daily life in the new normal. Simultaneously, Covid-19 remains an international threat to both life and economies, resulting in widespread public nervousness This continuing global pandemic concurrent with the changes in university life are likely to decrease student well-being.

Applying the CoR theory to the current pandemic, Ojo et al. (2020) found that individual reaction and subsequent response to the crisis varies. Some people can bounce back easily and shortly ( Luthans et al., 2006 ; Malik and Garg, 2020 ) while some people will develop the symptoms such as depression or other psychiatric disorders. University students who are able to optimize the resource gains, cope with changes in daily life, and manage their emotions are more likely to perceive the crisis positively. This in turn not only shows their current level of resilience but additionally enables them to develop their resilience capability. Within this dynamic process, their resilience has served to reduce the stress ( Vinkers et al., 2020 ). In this vein, while students are balancing the resource gains (e.g., university support) and resource loss (e.g., change-related stressors), they show different levels of resilience and which affect their capability to maintain well-being.

Student Well-Being

Some researchers explain well-being in terms of equilibrium by stating that everybody has a baseline of happiness. According to Headey and Wearing (1991) , resources, psychic incomes, and subjective well-being are in a dynamic equilibrium. This equilibrium comprises “physical well-being, plenty of physical resources; absence of fatigue; psychological well-being and evenness of temper; freedom of movement and effectiveness in action; good relations with other people” ( Herzlich, 1974 , p. 60). From this perspective, well-being could be defined as the balance point between an individual's resource pool and the challenges faced ( Dodge et al., 2012 ; Chen et al., 2015 ).

During their program completion under the impacts of COVID-19, students face numerous challenges, demands, and turbulences that influence their well-being. For example, they experience diverse social and economic pressures ( Wood et al., 2018 ), have to balance their education, family, and work responsibilities ( Moate et al., 2019 ), and encounter social isolation, discrimination, language barriers, and cross-cultural differences ( Daddow et al., 2019 ). To successfully address these demands and succeed in their pursuit of education and a profession, students at all levels of education and across all disciplines have to have timely and adequate resources ( Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ; Wood et al., 2018 ). These resources help to address students' needs and, hence, reduce their burn-out and stress and increase their engagement in learning activities, meaning making, and life satisfaction ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ).

Universities can deploy these resources via curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ; Yamada and Victor, 2012 ; Maybury, 2013 ). In the classroom, clear assessment criteria, classroom policies, and project deadlines can eliminate student frustration, dissatisfaction, and withdrawal from active learning ( Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ). Sports and physical activity have also been shown to decrease depression and stress and increase student well-being ( Yazici et al., 2016 ). Campus libraries contribute to promoting student well-being by ensuring easy access to learning resources and a learning space for all students ( Cox and Brewster, 2020 ). These practices can also help students to increase intrinsic motivation to learn, voice their concerns, enact their identities, and make sense of their experiences. In contrast, a campus environment that does not efficiently address unhealthy and unethical social interactions, for example, bullying ( Chen and Huang, 2015 ), cyberbullying ( Musharraf and Anis-ul-Haque, 2018 ), and cyber dating abuse ( Viillora et al., 2020 ) increases student depression and anxiety and decreases student quality of life. This can lead to students starting to feel less happy and less intrinsically motivated to learn, which affects their well-being.

The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Degree Completion and Student Well-Being

During COVID-19, more than 100 countries implemented either nationwide or local “lock-down” measures at least once. Such closures meant that face-to-face courses have been transitioned to online learning ( Kwok et al., 2020 ). The impact of COVID-19 on student life becomes significant. These can be, for example, experiencing more workload, adapting oneself to an online learning mode immediately, or moving back to home without sufficient preparation but can also include more worries due to uncertainty and fear of pandemic. In addition, the impact of COVID-19 on each student varies. Some students have limited access to connectivity; some do not have adequate IT equipment to attend online classes, and others cannot afford the extra cost to improve their IT resources ( UNESCO, 2020 ). Meanwhile, students' subjective socioeconomic loss affects their life outcomes. In their study, Kohls et al. (2020) argue that income changes during the pandemic affect the levels of depressive symptoms. In other words, socioeconomic loss leads to increasing stress. For instance, many students rely on part-time jobs to gain their living expenses, and due to the lockdown and economic crisis, they either cannot get a renewed contract or they become unemployed. Unemployment leads not only to earning loss, but also to psychosocial asset loss, social withdrawal, and psychological and physical well-being loss ( Brand, 2015 ). All in all, the unavailable external resources can impact the student learning experience, for example, interrupted learning, lack of participation in in-class discussion, absenteeism in class, and restraints to taking their final exams, all of which can result in students accepting lower-status jobs in order to survive. Additionally, some students have also faced discrimination ( Hardinges, 2020 ) during COVID-19, which may lead to mental health problems ( Kang et al., 2020 ). Students from minority groups (e.g., Asian students, in particular the Chinese) have encountered social isolation and stereotypes, which could impact their student experience and job prospects.

Furthermore, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the world has been substantial. With insufficient knowledge of the virus and no available vaccine for months, students may be prone to develop more negative emotions. Prior studies have shown that negative emotions have a critical impact on well-being ( Gross, 2015 ; Puente-Martínez et al., 2018 ). Students may experience real and potential loss of resources and a mismatch between task demand at the universities and their resource availability ( Hagger, 2015 ). With the increasing negative emotions, their well-being could be affected as they become more concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their studies.

We, therefore, predict that COVID-19 would lead to students' negative well-being because students may experience more stress related to uncertainties in their academic success, negative economic impact, and lack of perceived support ( Cao et al., 2020 ). Meanwhile, students would feel the need to deploy more time and energy to protect themselves against and recover from resource loss ( Hobfoll et al., 2018 ) in order to avoid putting their well-being at risk. We propose the following hypothesis:

H1: The perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for degree completion will negatively predict levels of student well-being.

The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Student Concerns for Future Job Prospects and Student Well-Being

COVID-19 has triggered a worldwide economic recession ( OECD, 2020 ). With the lockdown measures implemented by many governments, business opportunities become restricted in many sectors and unemployment is rising. Many companies have reported layoffs. As predicted during the first wave of the pandemic by OECD (2020) , the second wave of infections in late 2020 worsened the economic situation, and more companies suffered from the economic crisis, which has impacted job losses, financial well-being, and standards of living. As a result, students search for job opportunities to ensure their return on education investment would be limited. Thus, there are more job demands than supply. According to the CoR theory, when resources are lost or perceived to be threatened, people experience stress and are motivated to gain back their resources ( Baer et al., 2018 ). Under the economic lockdown and recession, more students may have difficulties in finding jobs and/or internships, which could negatively affect students' self-esteem (personal resource) and their individual economic well-being (object resource) for instance. Without a guarantee to job prospects, students feel more stressed about their future and return on education investment, which decreases their engagement in learning activities and increases their negative emotions ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ). Therefore, the more concerned students feel about the impact of COVID-19 on their future job prospects, the lower their level of well-being and the higher the level of negative affect. We suggest the second hypothesis:

H2: The perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for future job prospects will negatively predict levels of student well-being.

The Mediating Role of University Support

Universities play an important role in ensuring and increasing student well-being. In the classroom, specific interventions, including positive psychology assignments ( Maybury, 2013 ), stress management and journaling ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ), and mindful awareness practices ( Yamada and Victor, 2012 ) have been shown to improve student well-being. A supportive and enabling environment on campus has been proved to ensure student well-being ( Kareem and Bing, 2014 ; Daddow et al., 2019 ) by fostering their sense of belonging, positive relationships with others, autonomy, and competencies ( Baik et al., 2016 ). For example, through informal social interactions students explore and relate to individual, group, and even the entire university values, which increases their well-being ( Sortheix and Lönnqvist, 2015 ). Mahatmya et al. (2018) describe a set of integrated and interrelated courses that incorporate both traditional and experiential learning activities for undergraduate students. To monitor and manage student well-being outside the classroom, universities provide other services and interventions, including, for example, stress management ( Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ), counseling ( Kareem and Bing, 2014 ), inter-faith, and cultural diversity programs ( Daddow et al., 2019 ). In summary, these services and interventions represent the support that students can access and, therefore, can make students feel more positive about their resource gains. The perceived impact of COVID-19 may result in students perceiving university support to be limited, insufficient, or non-existent. Therefore, students would need extra resources to achieve the university success and increase their well-being. Therefore, we propose the following hypothesis:

H3a: University support will mediate the relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for degree completion and levels of student well-being.

Similarly, students need support from their universities to increase their chances of employment before and upon graduation ( McMurray et al., 2016 ; Donald et al., 2018 ). These are activities and initiatives provided by academic and student services, campus libraries and student organizations to help students cope with the study demands, develop professional networks, practice job interview skills, write resumes, and gain internships. However, COVID-19 has greatly impacted these resource offering. For example, career services would typically provide more support in a face-to-face format (e.g., career fairs and case championships), but now universities may face difficulties (e.g., time, money, and available talent) to develop effective comparable online services. If universities help students find jobs and internships, students could feel supported, less stressed, and more optimistic about their future careers. Hence, we propose the following hypothesis:

H3b: University support will mediate the relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for future job prospects and levels of student well-being.


Sample and procedure.

The sample was collected from university students in France, Germany, Russia, and UK between April and June, 2020. In total, 2,707 questionnaires were collected. However, 765 had missing values; after removing them, 1,932 observations were included for further analysis. Out of these 1,932 participants, 119 were recruited from UK, 227 from Russia, 1,314 from Germany, and 272 from France (see Table 1 ). From the students in the sample 63.8% were female, 35.8% male, and 0.4% other. The mean age was 22.87 years old. Most students lived at home (68.5%) and studied full-time (85.1%). Over half of the respondents were first- and second-year undergraduate students.

Table 1 . Demographics.

The questionnaire was administered with Qualtrics XM software. Participants received the link and filled in the questionnaire individually, voluntarily, and anonymously. The project followed ethical standards of research required by each participating university.

The first part of the self-reported questionnaire consisted of demographic details such as gender, age, country, place of residence, study mode, and study year. The main part of the questionnaire included the following four scales.

University Support

University support was measured by asking students to rate to which extent they got support from their lecturers and universities. Two items reflected university support and were measured on a 5-point Likert scale (e.g., Please rate these as they apply to your current experience: I get support that I need from the following:—My lecturers). This was based on the social support scale developed by Pierce et al. (1991) . Good internal consistency was achieved (α = 0.72).

Well-being can be conceptualized as having such components as valence and intensity ( Warr, 2003 ). Therefore, two scales were used to capture well-being in different states: in the moment and general.

In the Moment Well-Being

To test the valence of student well-being in response to predictors, it is important to represent well-being in terms of independent dimensions of positive and negative emotional states ( Tellegen et al., 1999 ). In the moment well-being was measured by a 5-point Likert scale developed and validated by Russell and Daniels (2018) . This scale helps to measure specific positive and negative emotional states relevant to a particular event in time, or “right now.” This ensures affect is measured at its lowest level in terms of duration demonstrating a specific emotional response ( Frijda, 1993 ). Examples of positive states include happy, motivated, and active; examples of negative states include anxious, annoyed, and tired. Good internal consistency was found for negative (α = 0.70) and positive (α = 0.79) dimensions.

General Positive Well-Being

To draw comprehensive conclusions as to the effects of predictors on student well-being, it is necessary to also use a summative circumplex model of well-being ( Feldman Barrett and Russell, 1998 ). This measures the second level of mood-based affect that is not directly anchored to an event and, therefore, at a different intensity to momentary affect ( Brief and Weiss, 2002 ). General positive well-being was measured with World Health Organization (1998) 5-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” This scale helps to assess student mood-based affect for the past 2 weeks. A sample item is “I have felt cheerful and in good spirits and I have felt calm and relaxed.” Good internal consistency was found (α = 0.84).

Student Concerns

This scale was devised to assess participants' concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on the basis of seven items. The items were rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “not at all stressed” to “extremely concerned.” Varimax orthogonal rotation with Kaiser normalization was used for factor analysis extraction. All factors with eigenvalue >1, explaining 60% of the variance, were considered for further analysis. Coefficients smaller than 0.5 were excluded to get a reasonable number of factors with larger share of variance ( Field, 2009 ). Adequacy of sample size measured by KMO and Bartlett's test of sphericity established a test score of 0.818 ( p < 0.001). Communalities for variables taken for analysis were >0.5. Based on the dimension reduction technique, two latent variables were found to account for 77.38%, so the following two subscales were identified:

Concerns for degree completion measured the perceived effect of COVID-19 on student ability to complete their degree and meet academic expectation. The following four items comprised the subscale: “my exams and assessments,” “my ability to complete my course,” “my final degree/course qualification grade,” and “my grades.” This subscale had a good internal consistency (α = 0.89).

Concerns for future job prospects measured the perceived effect of COVID-19 on student ability to become employed upon graduation. These three items comprised the subscale: “my employability,” “the wider economy,” and “job prospects.” This subscale had a good internal consistency (α = 0.86).

Data Analysis

The Statistical Package for Social Sciences software version (26) with AMOS was used to analyze the data. Descriptive analysis was used to determine means, standard deviations, confidence intervals, skewness, and correlations among the six main variables (see Table 2 ).

Table 2 . Descriptive statistics, correlations, and reliability coefficients.

Since the purpose of this study was to understand the antecedents of well-being, a path analysis was performed by employing structural equation modeling with maximum likelihood estimation method. The use of structural equation modeling in social science and education when testing mediation is recommended as it allows to test multiple pathways to assess the viability of the hypothesized model ( Wu and Zumbo, 2007 ).

The study was exploratory; therefore, two types of university concerns served as independent variables: support from university as a mediating variable and general well-being together with either negative or positive in the moment well-being as the dependent variables. To determine model fit, we applied two types of fit indices: absolute fit measures (χ 2 , RMSEA, AGFI) and incremental fit measures [NFI, NNFI (TLI), CFI; Hooper et al., 2008 ]. Chi-square (χ 2 ) in the range between 2.0 and 5.0 and the probability level with insignificant p -value ( p > 0.05) were acceptable for threshold levels. The root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) in the range of 0.03–0.08 provides a good fit. Values >0.95 were suitable for the adjusted goodness-of-fit statistic (AGFI), normed-fit index (NFI), Tucker-Lewis index in AMOS (TLI) or non-normed fit index in EQS (NNFI), and comparative fit index (CFI; Hooper et al., 2008 ).

First, path analysis was run to further evaluate the relationships between student concerns for degree completion and future job prospects, university support, general well-being, and negative in the moment well-being. Path analysis was also used to test the mediation model in terms of overall fit. The model shows satisfying results with the following model fit statistics: p = 0.089, χ 2 = 2.901, RMSEA = 0.031, AGFI = 0.991, NFI = 0.999, NNFI (TLI) = 0.991, CFI = 0.999, and path coefficients presented in Figure 1 .

Figure 1 . Path analysis with negative in the moment well-being.

Second, similar analysis was performed to explore the relationships between student concerns, university support, general well-being, and positive in the moment well-being. This model demonstrates the following statistics: p = 0.055, χ 2 = 3.677, RMSEA = 0.037, AGFI = 0.989, NFI = 0.999, NNFI (TLI) = 0.990, CFI = 0.999 (see Figure 2 ).

Figure 2 . Path analysis with positive in the moment well-being.

All coefficients were significant beyond 0.05 level. The analyses of direct, indirect and total effects of student concerns on general well-being and both negative and positive in the moment well-being are shown in Tables 3 , 4 , respectively.

Table 3 . Direct, indirect, and total effects of student concerns on general well-being.

Table 4 . Direct, indirect, and total effects of student concerns on in the moment well-being.

The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Student Concerns for Degree Completion and Student Well-Being

The direct effect of student concerns for degree completion on general well-being and positive in the moment well-being is significant and negative (−0.18 and −0.40, respectively). However, when we consider negative in the moment well-being, concerns for degree completion had negative direct effect on general well-being (−0.26) and positive in the moment well-being (0.37). Moreover, the analysis of indirect effects demonstrates that university support mediates the effect of concerns for degree completion on general well-being (−0.31) and positive in the moment well-being (−0.07). In the same way, this construct influences negative in the moment well-being affect (0.05) and general well-being (−0.23). These results suggest that the perceived impact of COVID-19 on concerns for degree completion has a significant negative effect on student well-being while university support plays a mediating role between these two variables, therefore fully supporting H1and H3a.

The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Future Job Prospects and Student Well-Being

Concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on future job prospects have a direct effect on general well-being, which is significant and negative (−0.06), together with positive in the moment well-being and a significant positive effect on negative in the moment well-being (0.133). These results suggest that increased levels of concerns about the effect of COVID-19 on future job prospects leads to lower levels of general well-being and higher levels of negative in the moment well-being. Therefore, H2 is partially supported. Furthermore, university support attenuates the effect of concerns about future job prospects on negative in the moment well-being (−0.013) ( Table 4 ). These results support H3b, thereby suggesting university support has a beneficial effect on student well-being.

Regarding the future job prospects, degree completion, and well-being, we ran the analysis of variation (ANOVA) to understand the differences between undergraduates ( n = 1,625) and post-graduates ( n = 288) separately. Post-graduates did not show any significant differences regarding degree completion [ F (1, 286) = 0.065, p = 0.798], future job prospects [ F (1, 286) = 0.585, p = 0.445], and general well-being [ F (1, 286) = 0.626, p = 0.430]. However, significant differences between the undergraduate groups were observed for all three variables, namely, concerns for degree completion [ F (4, 1, 620) = 7.77, p < 0.001], future job prospects [ F (4, 1, 620) = 30.2, p < 0.001], and general well-being [ F (4, 1, 620 ) = 4.99, p < 0.001]. Then, a year-by-year comparison analysis was performed by applying Tukey's honestly significant difference test to examine how this is impacted by the year of study. As a result, first-year undergraduates (3.34 ± 1.09 min) expressed significantly higher levels of concerns for degree completion than third- (2.99 ± 1.17 min, p < 0.001) and fourth-year (2.98 ± 1.29 min, p = 0.01) students. Similarly, second-year undergraduates (3.34 ± 1.12 min) expressed significantly higher levels of concerns for degree completion than third- (2.99 ± 1.17 min, p < 0.001) and fourth-year (2.98 ± 1.29 min, p = 0.01) students. However, the findings were opposite when we compared the future job prospects means between years of study. The fourth-year students (3.76 ± 1.18 min) demonstrated higher significant concerns in comparison with other undergraduate groups, namely first-year (2.71 ± 1.12 min, p < 0.001), second-year (2.89 ± 1.25 min, p < 0.001), and even third-year (3.33 ± 1.26 min, p = 0.007) as well as those who study abroad or through placement programs (3.31 ± 1.15 min, p = 0.016). As for general well-being, the most optimistic group was undergraduates who participated in placement programs or studied abroad. These respondents expressed significantly higher levels regarding general well-being over the past week (3.09 ± 0.93 min) than first-year (2.84 ± 0.92 min, p = 0.039) and second-year (2.72 ± 0.97 min, p < 0.001) students. However, there were no statistically significant differences between placement/study abroad undergraduates and third-year (2.85 ± 0.94 min, p = 0.095) and fourth-year (2.93 ± 0.92 min, p = 0.641) students.

The purpose of this study was to examine how student perceptions of their degree completion and future job prospects during the pandemic impact their well-being and what role university support plays in this relationship. We developed and tested the relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19, university support, and student well-being. Our results showed that the perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for degree completion negatively predicts levels of student well-being. In other words, the more worried students are about the impact of COVID-19 on their studies, the more their levels of well-being decrease. This result is in line with the findings of Poots and Cassidy (2020) who found support to be a positive predictor of well-being and a significantly negative relationship between academic stress and support. COVID-19 disrupted the balance point between the students' resource pool relevant to their academic pursuits and the numerous challenges they face ( Dodge et al., 2012 ). Programs, processes, and services have gone online leading to student poor well-being. Therefore, the impact of the pandemic, and similar crises, extends beyond student perceptions of their success in their main role as students but also to their perceptions of happiness ( Pollard and Lee, 2003 ), life satisfaction ( Diener and Diener, 1996 ), and being intensely alive and authentic ( Ryan and Deci, 2001 ).

Also, the results revealed that the relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for degree completion and levels of student well-being is mediated by university support. This result illustrates the importance of university support on student perceptions and emotional states, including stress, meaning making, and life satisfaction ( Flinchbaugh et al., 2012 ). This university support represents a resource that is outside of individuals ( Hobfoll et al., 2018 ). When this support is timely and adequate ( Mokgele and Rothman, 2014 ; Wood et al., 2018 ), students can successfully deal with the demands of their educational pursuits. However, the study also indicates that when students perceive the negative impact of COVID-19 on their degree completion and well-being, they are less likely to perceive their university as supportive. We explain this situation with the different perceptions in effective support. Students and universities have differences in their views about which priorities support well-being ( Graham et al., 2016 ). Students perceive university support as valuable and effective when they can obtain lecturers' timely feedback to their emails, transparent, and fast communication in relation to the changes from the COVID-19 situation, dynamic online courses, and emergency financial support amongst other factors. Students are becoming more exigent on the resources that universities could offer to support their academic success and how efficiently the support is delivered. From the university perspective, they need to develop solutions that are in line with institutional or governmental measures, but little concrete information exists. Universities may find it difficult to cope with changes related to COVID-19 immediately (e.g., adopt fully online learning environments whilst not all the lecturers have the capabilities or facilities to teach online). Therefore, students perceive that university support is not sufficient to their academic success while universities have already made great efforts to ensure online learning and working-from-home policies. Given that students' immediate priority is their academic performance, they are trying to gain more educational resources than universities may be able to offer. Students, therefore, may perceive their university support as insufficient to their degree completion. This could also be explained by one of the principles of the CoR theory that states that resource loss is disproportionately more prominent than resource gain ( Hobfoll et al., 2018 ). Therefore, students seem to be very sensitive to a lack of or very little immediate and long-term university support to their academic success.

The study also found unexpected results related to the student perceptions of their future job prospects. First, there is no direct relationship between the perceived impact of COVID-19 on future job prospects and student well-being. In other words, student concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their future job prospects does not decrease their level of well-being. This result needs further research. It is possible to suggest that students do not see an immediate threat because job prospects are about the future ( Xu et al., 2015 ). For instance, students that are not in their final academic year could feel less of a threat of resource loss in terms of future employment. Instead, they are more stressed and concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their degree completion that is more urgent at the moment. Interestingly, students who are more stressed about the impact of COVID-19 on their future job prospects are more likely to perceive their university as giving higher levels of support. As fewer employment opportunities exist in the labor market, students expect university networks to offer them some potential job opportunities.

The study also showed that students at different levels of education perceived the impact of the pandemic in different ways. The most vulnerable group was undergraduates who expressed significantly higher levels of concerns for degree completion. Perhaps, due to the uncertainty related to the duration of lockdowns, social distance measures, and other restrictions as well as vaccine effectiveness and availability, first year students struggled to see how they are able to complete their program the most. They also have fewer life experiences to cope with different types of stress that appeared simultaneously. At the same time, last year students struggled the most with potential job prospects. This is somewhat expected because this group of students usually tries to find full-time jobs upon the degree completion. University management can mitigate these student concerns by introducing relevant practices based on the student study year.

Theoretical Implications

This study offers several contributions to better understand the mechanism of university support on student well-being during the COVID-19. First, our findings are in line with the prior studies on the relationships between stress and well-being, and support and well-being. The research on the impact of COVID-19 on student concerns for degree completion and job prospects is underdeveloped. Therefore, by examining student resource loss, we have extended the application scope of the CoR theory and enriched COVID-19 related research.

Second, our findings highlight that students may not perceive university support in the same way when it is related to their concerns for degree completion or job prospects. Prior studies have acknowledged the positive relationship between university support and student well-being ( Baik et al., 2019 ). Our findings imply that perceived effective support is context-specific. Under the impact of COVID-19, all students are concerned about their academic performance and are more exigent on university support. When students feel that they are not able to get support to achieve the balance between resource investment (e.g., spending more time to work online for group-based activities) and the challenge of continuing with their studies (e.g., receiving no immediate feedback when they have inquiries for lecturers or administrators), they may have a lower level of well-being ( Dodge et al., 2012 ). To mitigate the risk to their well-being, students feel the need to deploy more time and energy to protect themselves against resource loss and recovery ( Hobfoll et al., 2018 ).

Third, this study assessed negative in the moment well-being. Our results show that university support could mediate the relationship between impacts of COVID-19 (both on degree completion and job prospects) and student well-being. However, when students perceive a high level of support from the university, they feel a higher level of well-being and a lower level of negative in the moment well-being. This once again implies that university support plays an important mediating role in student perceptions of well-being.

Practical Implications

This study confirms the mediating role of university support that helps turning negative impact of COVID-19 into positive feelings of well-being. Universities could increase student well-being by giving support to student studies and their career and job prospects. This support should come from a wide range of university services that are responsible for all aspects of the student learning experience. For example, program faculty and directors should provide students sufficient and timely information about upcoming mandatory internships. Career centers should utilize their partnerships and networks in the local community to assist in finding their first job after graduation and/or internships. This support should include course instructors, program directors, university management and administration, digital and IT support, and supports from partnership universities for international exchange programs. Supervisors and administration should work closely with students conducting research projects related to their theses or dissertations. They should support them in setting the dissertation topic and research questions, data collection and data analysis, discussion of initiation findings, text drafting, and defending.

The study also suggests that a lack of questioning or concerns related to university support from students does not imply that students feel that they are receiving this support. This could indicate that students may feel forgotten, abandoned, or hopeless about receiving support from the university. Therefore, universities should ensure visibility and accessibility of support, which in the context of online learning would require integration and collaboration between academic and university support services (e.g., IT support, career centers, academic advising, and international exchange programs). They help students navigate the support systems and access all the resources they require to succeed academically and professionally. Universities should not only provide the resources needed for students to engage with online learning, but also propose training on different online pedagogies to course instructors, as these two points could ensure more a positive learning experience for students and their well-being outcome. In addition, universities should monitor the student well-being experience and provide relevant resources and interventions.

Also, with online learning, face-to-face social interactions are missing. Therefore, lecturers and administrative staff should concentrate more on relationship building. They should facilitate the online learning experience, adopt clear communication strategies, improve the learning tools (e.g., PowerPoint and recorded lectures) and diversify assessment methods (e.g., moving from traditional exams to video-based oral presentation and using applications to motivate students to engage in online discussions).

From the student perspective, universities should be aware of the students' changing emotional responses from positive to negative during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that the impact of COVID-19 would probably induce more negative emotional states, universities should offer more support for emotional management. This should encourage students to talk about their concerns, worries, and anxiety toward COVID-19 and to help them destigmatize the fear of COVID-19 on their studies and future. This support should not be a one-time-event, but ongoing. With positive emotions, students are more capable to counterbalance the perceived negative impact of COVID-19 on their degree completion and job prospects by effectively using different resources to reduce resource loss.

Finally, it is important to note that staff well-being is essential in order to support this student learning experience. Therefore, whilst universities propose different support activities to promote student learning, academic performance, and future job opportunities, they should also put in place a variety of resources to support staff. Pedagogy training, digital support, online well-ness programs, high quality information related to Covid-19, peer learning, appreciation attitude, and positive thinking should be promoted. University support and well-being feeling of their staff are a must for their adjustment to this “new normal” work context and a better service to students. It should be acknowledged that although many of the recommendations in this section are best practice in non-crisis times, this research has shown that the current acute pandemic situation and its effect on students (and staff) requires a sustained and reliable response, which utilizes existing policies and procedures to their maximum potential.

Limitations and Future Research

The study used a cross-sectional design, so the results cannot illustrate the process and evolution of how the identified variables influence student well-being. Considering the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, it would be very useful to develop a longitudinal study. Given the subjective nature of perceptions of well-being, there is an opportunity to extend the research and give a deeper understanding of the students' experience by taking a qualitative study approach. For example, phenomenology could help researchers understand lived experiences of students ( van Manen, 1990 ) during COVID-19. Phenomenology could also help to find out how students experience their well-being or how they “perceive it, describe it, feel about it, judge it, remember it, make sense of it and talk about it with others” ( Patton, 2002 , p. 104). Further studies could also explore potential variables that may be more likely to show differences in a cross-cultural context, for example, how various types of social support may be perceived differently in various cultural contexts. The study used self-reported data that could have created a certain bias, so future studies should consider using observations and document analysis to triangulate data.

The study found that there were no student concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on their future job prospects and this did not decrease their level of well-being. This result needs further research. For example, there may be some benefits of using a qualitative and cross-cultural approach such as diary methods. A longitudinal study could help tracking how student concerns for their future job prospects change. Many countries have overcome the second wave of COVID-19, but uncertainty about the economy and high unemployment rates remains. Similarly, it would be useful to understand how students address their concerns for their job prospects and employment and search for and obtain jobs.

The study showed the usefulness of the CoR theory in helping universities and students to understand the emotional responses and impacts on student well-being of the sudden and dramatic changes to the learning experience of an unexpected global crisis. It was found that a major crisis negatively impacts student well-being and their concerns about their studies. However, the longer-term concerns about job prospects and careers had no negative impact on well-being. Support was shown to be an important mediator in the overall impact on student well-being.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

The studies involving human participants were reviewed and approved by University of Hertfordshire SSAHEC with Delegated Authority. The patients/participants provided their written informed consent to participate in this study.

Author Contributions

GP and KM were substantially involved in planning and conducting the study. NV, SN, and SR-T carried out the data analysis. MP, CJ, and DY wrote the article with contributions by NV, GP, SN, and KM. All authors revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content, read, and approved the submitted version. All authors were involved in distribution of the survey.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: COVID-19, university students, subjective well-being, university success, job prospects

Citation: Plakhotnik MS, Volkova NV, Jiang C, Yahiaoui D, Pheiffer G, McKay K, Newman S and Reißig-Thust S (2021) The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Student Well-Being and the Mediating Role of the University Support: Evidence From France, Germany, Russia, and the UK. Front. Psychol. 12:642689. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.642689

Received: 16 December 2020; Accepted: 09 June 2021; Published: 12 July 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Plakhotnik, Volkova, Jiang, Yahiaoui, Pheiffer, McKay, Newman and Reißig-Thust. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Natalia V. Volkova,

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Open Access


Research Article

Online education and its effect on teachers during COVID-19—A case study from India

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Supervision, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Area of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Management Indore, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India

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  • Surbhi Dayal


  • Published: March 2, 2023
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Table 1

COVID pandemic resulted in an initially temporary and then long term closure of educational institutions, creating a need for adapting to online and remote learning. The transition to online education platforms presented unprecedented challenges for the teachers. The aim of this research was to investigate the effects of the transition to online education on teachers’ wellbeing in India.

The research was conducted on 1812 teachers working in schools, colleges, and coaching institutions from six different Indian states. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected via online survey and telephone interviews.

The results show that COVID pandemic exacerbated the existing widespread inequality in access to internet connectivity, smart devices, and teacher training required for an effective transition to an online mode of education. Teachers nonetheless adapted quickly to online teaching with the help of institutional training as well as self-learning tools. However, respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of online teaching and assessment methods, and exhibited a strong desire to return to traditional modes of learning. 82% respondents reported physical issues like neck pain, back pain, headache, and eyestrain. Additionally, 92% respondents faced mental issues like stress, anxiety, and loneliness due to online teaching.

As the effectiveness of online learning perforce taps on the existing infrastructure, not only has it widened the learning gap between the rich and the poor, it has also compromised the quality of education being imparted in general. Teachers faced increased physical and mental health issues due to long working hours and uncertainty associated with COVID lockdowns. There is a need to develop a sound strategy to address the gaps in access to digital learning and teachers’ training to improve both the quality of education and the mental health of teachers.

Citation: Dayal S (2023) Online education and its effect on teachers during COVID-19—A case study from India. PLoS ONE 18(3): e0282287.

Editor: Lütfullah Türkmen, Usak University College of Education, TURKEY

Received: November 13, 2021; Accepted: January 27, 2023; Published: March 2, 2023

Copyright: © 2023 Surbhi Dayal. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Data apart from manuscript has been submitted as supporting information .

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


As of November 4, 2021, the spread of novel coronavirus had reached 219 countries and territories of the world, infecting a total of 248 million people and resulting in five million deaths [ 1 ]. In March 2020, several countries including India declared a mandatory lockdown, resulting in the temporary closure of many institutions, not least educational ones. Since then, various restrictions and strategies have been implemented to counter the spread of the virus. These include wearing masks, washing hands frequently, maintaining social and physical distance, and avoiding public gatherings. The pandemic has greatly disrupted all aspects of human life and forced new ways of functioning, notably in work and education, much of which has been restricted to the household environment. The closure for over a year of many schools and colleges across the world has shaken the foundations of the traditional structures of education. Due to widespread restrictions, employees have been forced to carve out working spaces in the family home; likewise, students and teachers have been compelled to bring classes into homes [ 2 ]. Nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries have been physically out of school due to the pandemic. In total, 94 percent of the world’s student population has been affected by school closures, and up to 99 percent of this student population come from low-to middle-income countries [ 3 ].

According to the World Economic Forum, the pandemic has changed how people receive and impart education [ 4 ]. Physical interaction between students and teachers in traditional classrooms has been replaced by exchanges on digital learning platforms, such as online teaching and virtual education systems, characterized by an absence of face-to-face connection [ 5 ]. Online education has thus emerged as a viable option for education from preschool to university level, and governments have used tools such as radio, television, and social media to support online teaching and training [ 6 ]. Various stakeholders, including government and private institutions, have collaborated to provide teachers with resources and training to teach effectively on digital platforms. New digital learning platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Blackboard have been used extensively to create learning material and deliver online classes; they have also allowed teachers to devise training and skill development programs [ 7 ]. Many teachers and students were initially hesitant to adopt online education. However indefinite closure of institutions required educational facilities to find new methods to impart education and forced teachers to learn new digital skills. Individuals have experienced different levels of difficulty in doing this; for some, “it has resulted in tears, and for some, it is a cup of tea” [ 8 ].

Teachers have reported finding it difficult to use online teaching as a daily mode of communication, and enabling students’ cognitive activation has presented a significant challenge in the use of distance modes of teaching and learning. Teachers have also expressed concerns about administering tests with minimal student interaction [ 9 ]. Lack of availability of smart devices, combined with unreliable internet access, has led to dissatisfaction with teacher-student interaction. Under pressure to select the appropriate tools and media to reach their students, some teachers have relied on pre-recorded videos, which further discouraged interaction. In locations where most teaching is done online, teachers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities (i.e., semi-urban areas) have had to pay extra to secure access to high-speed internet, digital devices, and reliable power sources [ 10 ]. Teachers in India, in particular, have a huge gap in digital literacy caused by a lack of training and access to reliable electricity supply, and internet services. In rural or remote areas, access to smart devices, the internet, and technology is limited and inconsistent [ 6 ]. In cities, including the Indian capital Delhi, even teachers who are familiar with the required technology do not necessarily have the pedagogical skills to meet the demands of online education. The absence of training, along with local factors (for example, stakeholders’ infrastructure and socio-economic standing), contributes to difficulties in imparting digital education successfully [ 10 ]. The gap in digital education across Indian schools is striking. For example, only 32.5% of school children are in a position to pursue online classes. Only 11% of children can take online classes in private and public schools, and more than half can only view videos or other recorded content. Only 8.1% of children in government schools have access to online classes in the event of a pandemic-related restrictions [ 11 ].

The adverse effects of COVID-19 on education must therefore be investigated and understood, particularly the struggles of students and teachers to adapt to new technologies. Significant societal effects of the pandemic include not only serious disruption of education but also isolation caused by social distancing. Various studies [ 7 , 12 , 13 ] have suggested that online education has caused significant stress and health problems for students and teachers alike; health issues have also been exacerbated by the extensive use of digital devices. Several studies [ 6 , 11 , 14 ] have been conducted to understand the effects of the COVID lockdown on digital access to education, students’ physical and emotional well-being, and the effectiveness of online education. However, only a few studies [ 13 , 15 – 17 ] have touched the issues that teachers faced due to COVID lockdown.

In this context, this study is trying to fill existing gaps and focuses on the upheavals that teachers went through to accommodate COVID restrictions and still impart education. It also provides an in-depth analysis of consequences for the quality of education imparted from the teachers’ perspective. It discusses geographical inequalities in access to the infrastructure required for successful implementation of online education. In particular, it addresses the following important questions: (1) how effectively have teachers adapted to the new virtual system? (2) How has online education affected the quality of teaching? (3) How has online education affected teachers’ overall health?

Because of lockdown restrictions, data collection for this study involved a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in the form of online surveys and telephonic interviews. A questionnaire for teachers was developed consisting of 41 items covering a variety of subjects: teaching styles, life-work balance, and how working online influences the mental and physical well-being of teachers. In the interviews, participants were asked about their experiences of online teaching during the pandemic, particularly in relation to physical and mental health issues. A pilot study was conducted with thirty respondents, and necessary changes to the items were made before the data collection. The survey tool was created using google forms and disseminated via email, Facebook, and WhatsApp. A total of 145 telephonic interviews were also conducted to obtain in-depth information from the respondents.

The data were collected between December 2020 and June 2021. The Research Advisory Committee on Codes of Ethics for Research of Aggrawal College, Ballabhgarh, Haryana, reviewed and approved this study. A statement included in the google survey form as a means of acquiring written consent from the participants. Information was gathered from 1,812 Indian teachers in six Indian states (Assam, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, and Rajasthan) working in universities, schools, and coaching institutions. Nearly three-quarters of the total sample population was women. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 60, with an average age of 34 and a clear majority being 35 or younger. Nearly three-quarters of participants work in private institutions (25% in semi-government entities and the remainder in government entities). In terms of education, 52% of participants have a graduate degree, 34% a postgraduate degree, and 14% a doctorate. Table 1 summarizes the demographic characteristics of the participants.


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Results & discussion

Upon analyzing the survey responses, three crucial areas were identified for a better understanding of the effect of COVID-19 on the Indian education system and its teachers: how effectively teachers have adapted, how effective teaching has been, and how teachers’ health has been affected.

1. How effectively have teachers adapted to the new virtual system?

The first research question concerns how willing teachers were to embrace the changes brought about by the online teaching system and how quickly they were able to adapt to online modes of instruction. This information was gathered from December 2020 to June 2021, at which point teachers had been dealing with school lockdowns for months and therefore had some time to become conversant with online teaching.

While 93.82% of respondents were involved in online teaching during the pandemic, only 16% had previously taught online. These results were typically different from the results of a similar study conducted in Jordon where most of the faculty (60%) had previous experience with online teaching and 68% of faculty had also received formal training [ 16 ]. Since the spread of COVID-19 was rapid and the implementation of the lockdown was sudden, government and educational institutions were not prepared for alternative modes of learning, and teachers needed some time for adjustment. Several other factors also affected the effectiveness of the transition to online education, namely access to different types of resources and training [ 18 ].

a. Access to smart devices.

Online teaching requires access to smart devices. A surprising number of teachers stated that they had internet access at home via laptops, smartphones, or tablets. A more pertinent question, however, was whether they had sole access to the smart device, or it was shared with family members. Only 37.25% of those surveyed had a device for their exclusive use while others shared a device with family members, due to lack of access to additional devices and affordability of new devices. During the lockdown, an increase in demand led to a scarcity of smart devices, so that even people who could afford to buy a device could not necessarily find one available for purchase. With children attending online classes, and family members working from home, households found it difficult to manage with only a few devices, and access to a personal digital device became an urgent matter for many. Respondents admitted to relying on their smartphones to teach courses since they lacked access to other devices. Teachers on independent-school rosters were significantly better equipped to access smart devices than those employed at other types of schools. The data also indicates that teachers in higher education and at coaching centers had relatively better access to laptops and desktop computers through their institutions, whereas teachers in elementary and secondary schools had to scramble for securing devices for their own use.

b. Internet access.

Internet access is crucial for effective delivery of online education. However, our survey shows that teachers often struggled to stay connected because of substantial differences between states in the availability of internet. Of the respondents, 52% reported that their internet was stable and reliable, 32% reported it to be satisfactory and the rest reported it to be poor. Internet connectivity was better in the states of Karnataka, New Delhi, and Rajasthan than in Assam, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Internet connectivity in Assam was particularly poor. Consequently, many teachers with access to advanced devices were unable to use them due to inadequate internet connection.

The following comments from a teacher in Assam capture relevant situational challenges: “I do not have an internet modem at home, and teaching over the phone is difficult. My internet connection is exhausted, and I am unable to see or hear the students.” Another teacher from Haryana reported similar difficulties: “During the lockdown, I moved to my hometown, and I do not have internet access here, so I go to a nearby village and send videos to students every three days.” Another teacher from Madhya Pradesh working at a premier institution reported experiencing somewhat different concerns: “I am teaching in one of the institute’s semi-smart classrooms, and while I have access to the internet, my students do not, making it difficult to hear what they are saying.”

These responses indicates clearly that it is not only teachers living in states where connectivity was poor who experienced difficulties in imparting education to students; even those who had good internet connectivity experiences problems caused by the poor internet connections of their students.

c. Tools for remote learning.

Teachers made use of a variety of remote learning tools, but access to these tools varied depending on the educator’s affiliation. Teachers at premier institutions and coaching centers routinely used the Zoom and Google Meet apps to conduct synchronous lessons. Teachers at state colleges used pre-recorded videos that were freely available on YouTube. Teachers in government schools used various platforms, including WhatsApp for prepared material and YouTube for pre-recorded videos. To deliver the content, private school teachers used pre-recorded lectures and Google Meet. In addition to curriculum classes, school teachers offered life skill classes (for example, cooking, gardening, and organizing) to help students become more independent and responsible in these difficult circumstances. In addition to online instruction, 16% of teachers visited their students’ homes to distribute books and other materials. Furthermore, of this 36% visited students’ homes once a week, 29% visited twice a week, 18% once every two weeks, and the rest once a month. Additionally, a survey done on 6435 respondents across six states in India reported that 21% teachers in schools conducted home visits for teaching children [ 19 ].

d. Knowledge and training for the use of information and communication technologies.

With the onset of the pandemic, information and communication technology (ICT) became a pivotal point for the viability of online education. The use of ICT can facilitate curriculum coverage, application of pedagogical practices and assessment, teacher’s professional development, and streamlining school organization [ 20 ]. However, the effective adoption and implementation of ICT necessitated delivery of appropriate training and prolonged practice. Also the manner in which teachers use ICT is crucial to successful implementation of online education [ 21 ]. While countries such as Germany, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States recognized the importance of ICT by integrating it into their respective teacher training programmes [ 22 ], this has not been case in India. However, there are some training programmes available to teachers once they commence working. In accordance with our survey results, the vast majority of respondents (94%) lacked any ICT training or experience. In the absence of appropriate tools and support, these teachers self-experimented with online platforms, with equal chances of success and failure.

The transition from offline to online or remote learning was abrupt, and teachers had to adapt quickly to the new systems. Our data indicate that teachers in professional colleges and coaching centers received some training to help them adapt to the new online system, whereas teachers in urban areas primarily learned on their own from YouTube videos, and school teachers in rural areas received no support at all. Overall, teachers had insufficient training and support to adjust to this completely new situation. Policy research conducted on online and remote learning systems following COVID-19 has found similar results, namely that teachers implemented distance learning modalities from the start of the pandemic, often without adequate guidance, training, or resources [ 23 ]. Similar trends have been found in the Caribbean, where the unavailability of smart learning devices, lack of or poor internet access, and lack of prior training for teachers and students hampered online learning greatly. Furthermore, in many cases the curriculum was not designed for online teaching, which was a key concern for teachers [ 24 ]. Preparing online lectures as well as monitoring, supervising and providing remote support to students also led to stress and anxiety. Self-imposed perfectionism further exacerbated these issues while delivering online education [ 15 ]. A study conducted on 288 teachers from private and government schools in Delhi and National Capital Region area, also found that transition to online education has further widened the gap between pupils from government and private schools. It was more difficult to reach students from economically weaker sections of the society due to the digital divide in terms of access, usage, and skills gap. The study also found that even when teachers were digitally savvy, it did not mean that they know how to prepare for and take online classes [ 10 ].

2. How has online education affected the quality of teaching?

Once teachers had acquired some familiarity with the online system, new questions arose concerning how online education affected the quality of teaching in terms of learning and assessment, and how satisfied teachers were with this new mode of imparting education. To address these questions, specific questionnaire items about assessment and effectiveness of teaching has been included.

a. Effectiveness of online education.

Respondents agreed unanimously that online education impeded student-teacher bonding. They reported several concerns, including the inattentiveness of the majority of the students in the class, the physical absence of students (who at times logged in but then went elsewhere), the inability to engage students online, and the difficulty of carrying out any productive discussion given that only a few students were participating. Another significant concern was the difficulty in administrating online tests in light of widespread cheating. In the words of one teacher: “I was teaching a new class of students with whom I had never interacted in person. It was not easy because I could not remember the names of the students or relate to them. Students were irritated when I called out their names. It had a significant impact on my feedback. I would like us to return to class so I do not have to manage four screens and can focus on my students and on solving their problems.”

For these reasons, 85.65% of respondents stated that the quality of education had been significantly compromised in the online mode. As a result, only 33% reported being interested in continuing with online teaching after COVID-19. The results show slightly higher dissatisfaction in comparison to another study conducted in India that reported 67% of teachers feeling dissatisfied with online teaching [ 25 ]. Findings of this study were similar to the findings of a survey of lecturers in Ukraine assessing the effectiveness of online education. Lower quality student work was cited as the third most mentioned problem among the problems cited by instructors in their experience with online teaching, right behind unreliable internet connectivity and the issues related with software and hardware. Primary reasons for lower quality student work were drop in the number of assignments and work quality as well as cheating. Almost half (48.7%) of the participants expressed their disapproval of online work and would not like to teach online [ 26 ].

Due to the nature of the online mode, teachers were also unable to use creative methods to teach students. Some were accustomed to using physical objects and role-playing to engage students in the classroom, but they found it extremely difficult to make learning exciting and to engage their students in virtual space. Similar trends have been reported in Australia, where schoolteachers in outback areas did not find online education helpful or practical for children, a majority of whom came from low-income families. The teachers were used to employing innovative methods to keep the students engaged in the classroom. However, in online teaching, they could not connect with their students using those methods, which significantly hampered their students’ progress. Some teachers mentioned difficulties with online teaching caused by not being able to use physical and concrete objects to improve their instructions [ 27 ].

b. Online evaluation.

Of our respondents, 81% said that they had conducted online assessments of their students. Teachers used various online assessment methods, including proctored closed/open book exams and quizzes, assignment submissions, class exercises, and presentations. Teachers who chose not to administer online assessments graded their students’ performance based on participation in class and previous results.

Almost two-thirds of teachers who had administered online assessments were dissatisfied with the effectiveness and transparency of those assessments, given the high rates of cheating and internet connectivity issues. They also reported that family members had been helping students to cheat in exams because they wanted their children to get higher grades by any means necessary. In response, the teachers had tried to devise methods to discourage students and their families from cheating, but they still felt powerless to prevent widespread cheating.

As one respondent stated: “We are taking many precautions to stop cheating, such as asking to install a mirror behind the student and doing online proctoring, but students have their ways out for every matter. They disconnect the internet cable or turn it off and reconnect it later. When we question them, they have a connectivity reason ready”.

Teachers are also concerned about the effects of the digital skills gap on their creation of worksheets, assessments, and other teaching materials. As a result, some private companies have been putting together teacher training programs. The main challenge pertains to be implementation of a type of specialized education that many teachers are unfamiliar with and unwilling to adopt [ 28 ]. Because of the lack of effective and transparent online assessments, school teachers have reported that students were promoted to the next level regardless of their performance. Thus, only time will tell how successful online education has been in terms of its effects on the lives of learners.

3. How has online education affected teacher’s overall health?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a situation that few people had experienced or even imagined living through. Governments and individuals tried their best to adjust to the new circumstances, but sudden lockdown, confinement to the household periphery, and working from home had adverse effects on the mental and physical health of many people, including educators and students. To clarify the effects of online education on teachers’ overall health, a number of questionnaire items were focused on respondents’ feelings during the lockdown, the physical and mental health issues they experienced, and their concerns about the future given the uncertainty of the present situation.

a. Physical health issues.

COVID-19 brought a multitude of changes to the lives of educators. Confinement to the household, working from home, and an increased burden of household and caregiving tasks due to the absence of paid domestic assistants increased physical workload and had corresponding adverse effects on the physical health of educators.

Of the study participants, 82% reported an increase in physical health issues since the lockdown ( Fig 1 ). Notably, 47% of those who were involved in digital mode of learning for less than 3 hours per day reported experiencing some physical discomfort daily, rising to 51% of teachers who worked online for 4–6 hours per day and 55% of teachers who worked more than 6 hours per day. Respondents reported a variety of physical health issues, including headaches, eye strain, back pain, and neck pain.


The number of hours worked showed a positive correlation with the physical discomfort or health issues experienced. A chi-square test was applied to determine the relationship between the number of online working hours and the frequency of physical issues experienced by the participants and found it to be significant at the 0.05 level ( Table 2 ).


As Fig 2 shows, 28% respondents’ complaint about experiencing giddiness, headaches; 59% complain of having neck and back pain. The majority of the participants had eye-strain problems most of the time; 32% faced eye problems sometimes, and 18% reported never having any eye issue. In addition, 49% had experienced two issues at the same time and 20% reported experiencing more than 2 physical issues at the same time.


The data in this study indicates a link between bodily distresses and hours worked. As working hours increased, so did reports of back and neck pain. 47% respondents reported back and neck pain after working for 3 hours or less, 60% after working for 3–6 hours, and nearly 70% after working for 6 hours or more.

The analysis also indicates link between physical issues experienced and the educator’s gender. Women experienced more physical discomfort than men, with 51% reporting frequent discomfort, compared to only 46% of men. Only 14% of female educators reported never experiencing physical discomfort, against 30% of male educators.

In terms of types of discomfort, 76% of female teachers and 51% of male teachers reported eye strain; 62% of female teacher and 43% of male teachers reported back and neck pain; 30% of female teachers and 18% of male teachers said they had experienced dizziness and headaches. The gender differences may be caused by the increase in household and childcare responsibilities falling disproportionately on female educators compared to their male counterparts. Several studies [ 17 , 29 – 31 ] have reported similar results, indicating that the gender gap widened during the pandemic period. The social expectations of women to take care of children increased the gender gap during the pandemic by putting greater responsibilities on women in comparison to men [ 29 ]. Women in academics were affected more in comparison to the men. Working from home burdened female educators with additional household duties and childcare responsibilities. A study done [ 32 ] in France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom discovered that women were immensely affected by lockdown in comparison to men. On top of this, women with children are affected more than women without children.

No effect of age on physical discomfort was observed in this study but increasing use of online tools (such as class websites) for content creation and delivery and extended working periods were major contributors to health problems.

b. Mental health issues.

The psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemics have also proved difficult to manage. Being at home all day with limited social interaction, not to mention other pandemic-related sources of stress, affected the mental health of many people. The majority of the participants in this study admitted experiencing mental health issues including anxious feelings, low mood, restlessness, hopelessness, and loneliness. According to UNESCO [ 33 ], due to the sudden closure of schools and adaptability to new systems, teachers across the world are suffering from stress. Studies conducted in various parts of the world confirmed similar trends [ 34 , 35 ]. In Israel, teachers reported psychological stress due to online teaching. 30.4% teachers reported being stressed in comparison to 6.1% teachers in traditional classroom settings [ 34 ]. In Spain, teachers experienced various kinds of mental health issues like anxiety, stress, and depression [ 36 ]. An Arabian study found an increased number of cases related to anxiety, depression, and violence during the pandemic [ 37 ]. In New Zealand teachers in Higher education reported being overwhelmed due to the online teaching [ 15 ].

Online teaching appears to have negatively affected the mental health of all the study participants. Women (94%) reported more mental health issues than men (91%), as shown in Fig 3 . Nearly two-thirds of participants said they had been dealing with mental health issues regularly and a third occasionally; only 7% said they never dealt with them. Findings of this study are in line with other studies which found that female teachers had higher levels of stress and anxiety in comparison to men [ 36 ]. Studies conducted in China reported that teachers developed mental health issues due to online classes [ 37 , 38 ].


Our analysis indicated a positive relationship between the number of working hours and the frequency of mental health issues. Of the respondents who worked online for less than 3 hours, 55% experienced some kind of mental health issue; this rose to 60% of participants who worked online for 3–6 hours, and 66% of those who worked more than 6 hours every day. A chi-square test was applied to determine the relationship between the number of online working hours and the frequency of mental issues experienced by the participants and found it to be significant at the 0.05 level ( Table 3 ).


In terms of types of mental health issues, respondents reported restlessness, anxious feelings, and a sense of powerlessness, along with feelings of hopelessness, low mood, and loneliness as shown in Fig 4 . The stress of adapting to a new online working environment, the extended hours of work required to prepare content in new formats, the trial-and-error nature of learning and adopting new practices, uncertainty caused by lockdown, and an overall feeling of having no control were some of the contributing factors.


Mental health issues were more common among those under the age of 35, with 64% reporting a problem most of the time compared to 53% of those over 35. It has been found that job uncertainty is one of the primary causes of a higher prevalence of mental health concerns among younger respondents than among older respondents. These findings are in line with other studies which found higher levels of stress among the young people in comparison to older one [ 36 , 39 ]. Feelings of loneliness and a sense of no control were reported by 30% of respondents under the age of 35, with these feelings occurring constantly or most of the time; only 12% of respondent over the age of 35 reported experiencing these feelings always or most of the time. Of respondents under 35 years of age 61% felt lonely at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only 40% of those age 35 or older.

This study also found gender-based differences in the frequency of mental health issues experienced, with 62% of male respondents and 52% of female respondents reporting that they had always experienced mental health issues. The types of issues also differed by gender, with men more likely to report restlessness and loneliness and women more likely to report feeling anxious or helpless. More female respondents reported feelings of hopelessness than male respondents (76% compared to 69%), and they were also more anxious (66%).

The uncertainty of the pandemic seems to have caused helplessness and anxious feelings for female teachers in particular, perhaps because a lack of paid domestic help increased the burden of household and caregiving tasks disproportionately for women at a time when the pressure to adapt to new online platforms was particularly acute. In some cases, respondents left their jobs to accommodate new family dynamics, since private employers offered no assistance or flexibility. Deterioration of mental health also led to the increased number of suicides in Japan during COVID-19 [ 39 ].

However, female teachers fared better than their male counterparts on some measures of mental health. Although half of the respondents (men and women equally) reported low mood during the pandemic, the men reported more restlessness (53%) and loneliness (59%) than the women (50% and 49%, respectively). Restrictions on eating and drinking outside the household may have had a disproportionate effect on male respondents, making them more likely to feel restless or lonely than their female counterparts, who may have handled COVID-related isolation better by being more involved in household work and caregiving.

Number of hours worked online was also a factor contributing to mental health issues. Just as respondents had more physical complaints (including eye strain, back and neck pain, and headaches) the more hours they worked online, respondents who worked longer hours online reported more mental health issues.

One of the major drawbacks of online education is the widespread occurrence of physical and mental health issues, and the results of this study corroborate concerns on this point. This study found that online teaching causes more mental and physical problems for teachers than another study, which only found that 52.7% of respondents had these problems [ 12 ].

A report by the University of Melbourne has also indicated that online teaching and learning have a negative effect on the physical and mental well-being of individuals. Teachers working from home, in particular, have reported isolation, excessive screen time, inability to cope with additional stress, and exhaustion due to increased workload; despite being wary of the risks of exposure to COVID-19, they were eager to return to the campus [ 27 ].

c. Support mechanisms.

In general, teachers experienced good support from family and colleagues during the pandemic, with 45.64% of teachers reported receiving strong support, 29.64 percent moderate support (although the remainder claimed to have received no or only occasional support from family and colleagues). 9.39% of male respondents reported that they have never received any support in comparison to 4.36% females. Female respondents reported receiving more support than male respondents perhaps because they have access to a more extensive network of family members and coworkers. Children, parents, and siblings were cited as the provider of a robust support system by most female respondents. For example, maternal relatives called or texted children to keep them engaged and helped them with homework, and female participants said their peers helped them to prepare lectures and materials. A link was also found between age and support; the older the respondent, the stronger the support system. A possible explanation for this difference is that older people have had time to develop stronger and longer-lasting professional and personal ties than younger people.

This study explored the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian education system and teachers working across six Indian states. The effectiveness of online education methods varied significantly by geographical location and demographics based on internet connectivity, access to smart devices, and teachers’ training. While premier higher education institutions and some private institutions had provided teachers with the necessary infrastructure and training to implement effective successful online learning with relatively few challenges, teachers at schools and community colleges have more often been left to adopt a trial-and-error approach to the transition to an online system. Further, it indicates that online education has had a significant effect on the quality of education imparted and the lives and wellbeing of teachers. While online learning has enabled teachers to reach out to students and maintain some normalcy during a time of uncertainty, it has also had negative consequences. Owing to the lack of in-person interaction with and among students in digital classes, the absence of creative learning tools in the online environment, glitches and interruptions in internet services, widespread cheating in exams, and lack of access to digital devices, online learning adversely affected the quality of education. Teachers experienced mounting physical and mental health issues due to stress of adjusting to online platforms without any or minimal ICT training and longer working hours to meet the demands of shifting responsibilities. A positive correlation was found between working hours and mental and physical health problems.

The long-term impact of COVID-19 pandemic on both the education system and the teachers would become clear only with time. Meanwhile, this study sheds light on some of the issues that teachers are facing and needs to be addressed without further ado. These findings will provide direction to the policy makers to develop sound strategies to address existing gaps for the successful implementation of digital learning. However, researchers should continue to investigate the longer-term effects of COVID pandemic on online education.

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  • Published: 16 June 2020

COVID-19 impact on research, lessons learned from COVID-19 research, implications for pediatric research

  • Debra L. Weiner 1 , 2 ,
  • Vivek Balasubramaniam 3 ,
  • Shetal I. Shah 4 &
  • Joyce R. Javier 5 , 6

on behalf of the Pediatric Policy Council

Pediatric Research volume  88 ,  pages 148–150 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented research worldwide. The impact on research in progress at the time of the pandemic, the importance and challenges of real-time pandemic research, and the importance of a pediatrician-scientist workforce are all highlighted by this epic pandemic. As we navigate through and beyond this pandemic, which will have a long-lasting impact on our world, including research and the biomedical research enterprise, it is important to recognize and address opportunities and strategies for, and challenges of research and strengthening the pediatrician-scientist workforce.

The first cases of what is now recognized as SARS-CoV-2 infection, termed COVID-19, were reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019 as cases of fatal pneumonia. By February 26, 2020, COVID-19 had been reported on all continents except Antarctica. As of May 4, 2020, 3.53 million cases and 248,169 deaths have been reported from 210 countries. 1

Impact of COVID-19 on ongoing research

The impact on research in progress prior to COVID-19 was rapid, dramatic, and no doubt will be long term. The pandemic curtailed most academic, industry, and government basic science and clinical research, or redirected research to COVID-19. Most clinical trials, except those testing life-saving therapies, have been paused, and most continuing trials are now closed to new enrollment. Ongoing clinical trials have been modified to enable home administration of treatment and virtual monitoring to minimize participant risk of COVID-19 infection, and to avoid diverting healthcare resources from pandemic response. In addition to short- and long-term patient impact, these research disruptions threaten the careers of physician-scientists, many of whom have had to shift efforts from research to patient care. To protect research in progress, as well as physician-scientist careers and the research workforce, ongoing support is critical. NIH ( ), PCORI ( ), and other funders acted swiftly to provide guidance on proposal submission and award management, and implement allowances that enable grant personnel to be paid and time lines to be relaxed. Research institutions have also implemented strategies to mitigate the long-term impact of research disruptions. Support throughout and beyond the pandemic to retain currently well-trained research personnel and research support teams, and to accommodate loss of research assets, including laboratory supplies and study participants, will be required to complete disrupted research and ultimately enable new research.

In the long term, it is likely that the pandemic will force reallocation of research dollars at the expense of research areas funded prior to the pandemic. It will be more important than ever for the pediatric research community to engage in discussion and decisions regarding prioritization of funding goals for dedicated pediatric research and meaningful inclusion of children in studies. The recently released 2020 National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) strategic plan that engaged stakeholders, including scientists and patients, to shape the goals of the Institute, will require modification to best chart a path toward restoring normalcy within pediatric science.

COVID-19 research

This global pandemic once again highlights the importance of research, stable research infrastructure, and funding for public health emergency (PHE)/disaster preparedness, response, and resiliency. The stakes in this worldwide pandemic have never been higher as lives are lost, economies falter, and life has radically changed. Ultimate COVID-19 mitigation and crisis resolution is dependent on high-quality research aligned with top priority societal goals that yields trustworthy data and actionable information. While the highest priority goals are treatment and prevention, biomedical research also provides data critical to manage and restore economic and social welfare.

Scientific and technological knowledge and resources have never been greater and have been leveraged globally to perform COVID-19 research at warp speed. The number of studies related to COVID-19 increases daily, the scope and magnitude of engagement is stunning, and the extent of global collaboration unprecedented. On January 5, 2020, just weeks after the first cases of illness were reported, the genetic sequence, which identified the pathogen as a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was released, providing information essential for identifying and developing treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics. As of May 3, 2020 1133 COVID-19 studies, including 148 related to hydroxychloroquine, 13 to remdesivir, 50 to vaccines, and 100 to diagnostic testing, were registered on, and 980 different studies on the World Health Organization’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP), made possible, at least in part, by use of data libraries to inform development of antivirals, immunomodulators, antibody-based biologics, and vaccines. On April 7, 2020, the FDA launched the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) ( ). On April 17, 2020, NIH announced a partnership with industry to expedite vaccine development ( ). As of May 1, 2020, remdesivir (Gilead), granted FDA emergency use authorization, is the only approved therapeutic for COVID-19. 2

The pandemic has intensified research challenges. In a rush for data already thousands of manuscripts, news reports, and blogs have been published, but to date, there is limited scientifically robust data. Some studies do not meet published clinical trial standards, which now include FDA’s COVID-19-specific standards, 3 , 4 , 5 and/or are published without peer review. Misinformation from studies diverts resources from development and testing of more promising therapeutic candidates and has endangered lives. Ibuprofen, initially reported as unsafe for patients with COVID-19, resulted in a shortage of acetaminophen, endangering individuals for whom ibuprofen is contraindicated. Hydroxychloroquine initially reported as potentially effective for treatment of COVID-19 resulted in shortages for patients with autoimmune diseases. Remdesivir, in rigorous trials, showed decrease in duration of COVID-19, with greater effect given early. 6 Given the limited availability and safety data, the use outside clinical trials is currently approved only for severe disease. Vaccines typically take 10–15 years to develop. As of May 3, 2020, of nearly 100 vaccines in development, 8 are in trial. Several vaccines are projected to have emergency approval within 12–18 months, possibly as early as the end of the year, 7 still an eternity for this pandemic, yet too soon for long-term effectiveness and safety data. Antibody testing, necessary for diagnosis, therapeutics, and vaccine testing, has presented some of the greatest research challenges, including validation, timing, availability and prioritization of testing, interpretation of test results, and appropriate patient and societal actions based on results. 8 Relaxing physical distancing without data regarding test validity, duration, and strength of immunity to different strains of COVID-19 could have catastrophic results. Understanding population differences and disparities, which have been further exposed during this pandemic, is critical for response and long-term pandemic recovery. The “Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act” calls for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other HHS (United States Department of Health & Human Services) agencies to publicly release racial and demographic information ( )

Trusted sources of up-to-date, easily accessible information must be identified (e.g., WHO , CDC , and for children AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) ) and should comment on quality of data and provide strategies and crisis standards to guide clinical practice.

Long-term, lessons learned from research during this pandemic could benefit the research enterprise worldwide beyond the pandemic and during other PHE/disasters with strategies for balancing multiple novel approaches and high-quality, time-efficient, cost-effective research. This challenge, at least in part, can be met by appropriate study design, collaboration, patient registries, automated data collection, artificial intelligence, data sharing, and ongoing consideration of appropriate regulatory approval processes. In addition, research to develop and evaluate innovative strategies and technologies to improve access to care, management of health and disease, and quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of care could revolutionize healthcare and healthcare systems. During PHE/disasters, crisis standards for research should be considered along with ongoing and just-in-time PHE/disaster training for researchers willing to share information that could be leveraged at time of crisis. A dedicated funded core workforce of PHE/disaster researchers and funded infrastructure should be considered, potentially as a consortium of networks, that includes physician-scientists, basic scientists, social scientists, mental health providers, global health experts, epidemiologists, public health experts, engineers, information technology experts, economists and educators to strategize, consult, review, monitor, interpret studies, guide appropriate clinical use of data, and inform decisions regarding effective use of resources for PHE/disaster research.

Differences between adult and pediatric COVID-19, the need for pediatric research

As reported by the CDC, from February 12 to April 2, 2020, of 149,760 cases of confirmed COVID-19 in the United States, 2572 (1.7%) were children aged <18 years, similar to published rates in China. 9 Severe illness has been rare. Of 749 children for whom hospitalization data is available, 147 (20%) required hospitalization (5.7% of total children), and 15 of 147 required ICU care (2.0%, 0.58% of total). Of the 95 children aged <1 year, 59 (62%) were hospitalized, and 5 (5.3%) required ICU admission. Among children there were three deaths. Despite children being relatively spared by COVID-19, spread of disease by children, and consequences for their health and pediatric healthcare are potentially profound with immediate and long-term impact on all of society.

We have long been aware of the importance and value of pediatric research on children, and society. COVID-19 is no exception and highlights the imperative need for a pediatrician-scientist workforce. Understanding differences in epidemiology, susceptibility, manifestations, and treatment of COVID-19 in children can provide insights into this pathogen, pathogen–host interactions, pathophysiology, and host response for the entire population. Pediatric clinical registries of COVID-infected, COVID-exposed children can provide data and specimens for immediate and long-term research. Of the 1133 COVID-19 studies on, 202 include children aged ≤17 years. Sixty-one of the 681 interventional trials include children. With less diagnostic testing and less pediatric research, we not only endanger children, but also adults by not identifying infected children and limiting spread by children.

Pediatric considerations and challenges related to treatment and vaccine research for COVID-19 include appropriate dosing, pediatric formulation, and pediatric specific short- and long-term effectiveness and safety. Typically, initial clinical trials exclude children until safety has been established in adults. But with time of the essence, deferring pediatric research risks the health of children, particularly those with special needs. Considerations specific to pregnant women, fetuses, and neonates must also be addressed. Childhood mental health in this demographic, already struggling with a mental health pandemic prior to COVID-19, is now further challenged by social disruption, food and housing insecurity, loss of loved ones, isolation from friends and family, and exposure to an infodemic of pandemic-related information. Interestingly, at present mental health visits along with all visits to pediatric emergency departments across the United States are dramatically decreased. Understanding factors that mitigate and worsen psychiatric symptoms should be a focus of research, and ideally will result in strategies for prevention and management in the long term, including beyond this pandemic. Social well-being of children must also be studied. Experts note that the pandemic is a perfect storm for child maltreatment given that vulnerable families are now socially isolated, facing unemployment, and stressed, and that children are not under the watch of mandated reporters in schools, daycare, and primary care. 10 Many states have observed a decrease in child abuse reports and an increase in severity of emergency department abuse cases. In the short term and long term, it will be important to study the impact of access to care, missed care, and disrupted education during COVID-19 on physical and cognitive development.

Training and supporting pediatrician-scientists, such as through NIH physician-scientist research training and career development programs ( ) at all stages of career, as well as fostering research for fellows, residents, and medical students willing to dedicate their research career to, or at least understand implications of their research for, PHE/disasters is important for having an ongoing, as well as a just-in-time surge pediatric-focused PHE/disaster workforce. In addition to including pediatric experts in collaborations and consortiums with broader population focus, consideration should be given to pediatric-focused multi-institutional, academic, industry, and/or government consortiums with infrastructure and ongoing funding for virtual training programs, research teams, and multidisciplinary oversight.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on research and research in response to the pandemic once again highlights the importance of research, challenges of research particularly during PHE/disasters, and opportunities and resources for making research more efficient and cost effective. New paradigms and models for research will hopefully emerge from this pandemic. The importance of building sustained PHE/disaster research infrastructure and a research workforce that includes training and funding for pediatrician-scientists and integrates the pediatrician research workforce into high-quality research across demographics, supports the pediatrician-scientist workforce and pipeline, and benefits society.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

Debra L. Weiner

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI, USA

Vivek Balasubramaniam

Department of Pediatrics and Division of Neonatology, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY, USA

Shetal I. Shah

Division of General Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Joyce R. Javier

Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

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All authors made substantial contributions to conception and design, data acquisition and interpretation, drafting the manuscript, and providing critical revisions. All authors approve this final version of the manuscript.

Pediatric Policy Council

Scott C. Denne, MD, Chair, Pediatric Policy Council; Mona Patel, MD, Representative to the PPC from the Academic Pediatric Association; Jean L. Raphael, MD, MPH, Representative to the PPC from the Academic Pediatric Association; Jonathan Davis, MD, Representative to the PPC from the American Pediatric Society; DeWayne Pursley, MD, MPH, Representative to the PPC from the American Pediatric Society; Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, Representative to the PPC from the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs; Michael Artman, MD, Representative to the PPC from the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs; Shetal Shah, MD, Representative to the PPC from the Society for Pediatric Research; Joyce Javier, MD, MPH, MS, Representative to the PPC from the Society for Pediatric Research.

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