The introduction of computer technology in education has evolved to include more online learning than attending physical classrooms. Various forms of technology facilitate learning over long distances through online programs such as virtual classrooms. With the rapid advancements of technological programs that enhance online education practices, more people embrace the culture to obtain higher education and professional progress. Consequently, younger generations in high school, college, and universities have adopted online learning due to various reasons, such as availability and flexibility of the classes. Recent developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic have adopted online and virtual studies worldwide due to social distancing. However, people are absorbed in exploring the practicability and benefits of learning online, ignoring some of the adverse effects that may result from the education culture. This research paper illuminates the negative impacts of virtual classrooms on college students’ learning experiences and academic outcomes, emphasizing students from minority groups.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic affected many human activities worldwide, such as education, social interaction, and economic activities. The contagious nature of the pandemic resulted in numerous measures of preventing the spread of the disease, including social distancing worldwide. Regions with extreme virus cases resorted to the complete lockdown of economic, social, and educational institutions (Vivechana et al., 2021). Students from pre-primary to university education faced severe learning and social interaction disruption. The prolonged prevalence of the pandemic resulted in educational institutions finding other methods to facilitate the continuation of the learning processes (Ronghuai et al., 2020). Thus, online and distance learning presented the most effective way of re-engaging students in learning activities. In a short time, many education institutions worldwide had transferred almost all learning activities to online environments, including virtual classrooms. Thus, students had to adjust to the abrupt shift from traditional classrooms to virtual classes to continue with education while at home.
Embracing online education has been deemed to offer numerous advantages over physical learning, such as flexibility and learning at a student’s convenience. However, there is a rising concern over students learning experiences in virtual classrooms and their impacts on student performance among students from minority groups. Students record lower academic grades than previous physical classroom results (König & Frey, 2022). Consequently, learners from minority groups have challenges that influence unpleasant virtual classroom experiences impacting their social and academic life (König & Frey, 2022). Numerous investigations regarding students learning experiences have been made from the teachers’ and higher education faculty’s perspectives, ignoring the opinions of learners when the matter involves their learning experiences and outcomes.
Since the arguments concern students’ achievement and learning experiences, it is significant to address the learner’s point of view regarding virtual learning experiences and their effects on their general performance. These experiences determine the students’ social, academic, and psychological achievement and development. Most students from minority populations were unprepared for this type of setup due to a lack of economic means, technological resources, and adjustment to homeschooling. Further, cultural and ethnic backgrounds can hinder effective participation in virtual classes due to pre-existing dispositions in the learning environment. Thus, this study explores minority students’ perspectives on learning impacts through virtual classrooms to enable educators to enhance learning experiences based on cultural diversity and consideration.
The introduction of internet learning presents diverse learning experiences among students in higher education due to the unique nature of long-distance participation. A virtual classroom is a distance learning method that is becoming a prominent form of digital education in recent years. Unlike the physical setup, the classes are self-directed, which requires compulsory attendance and monitoring from the institution. Alhat (2020) describes virtual classrooms as internet-based programs that allow teaching and learning without moving from one place to another. While virtual classrooms work for some populations, others have difficulties adjusting due to the abrupt shift leading to unpleasant learning practices and student results.
Virtual learning demands students to alter from physical to a virtual community, which takes time depending on students’ adaptation abilities that can hinder quality learning. Adjustments are dependent on various factors, such as students’ socio-economic ability, technological availability, and a learner’s willingness to participate in online activities (Societies, 2020). Due to poor learning environments, students from minority groups have difficulties adjusting to virtual communities and participating in virtual classrooms (Anakwe et al., 2021). The students’ social background is a barrier to effective learning and integration of concepts due to inadequate literacy skills. Hispanic students may have challenges in virtual classes that use English for course instruction, leading to ineffective learning.
Minority students attending online classes perform poorly compared to their white counterparts. For instance, Joosten (2019) reported that Latin students recorded decreased and lower performance rates, whereas black students had the most significant performance gap between in-person and virtual classes. Similarly, König & Frey’s (2022) investigation of performance disparities among marginal groups suggests that Hispanics and Black- Americans tend to perform poorly in virtual communities. Anakwe et al. (2021) attribute the outcomes to limited resources to facilitate effective learning. Students require comfortable physical, emotional, social, and financial environments for effective learning.
Economic stability is significant in providing education material and technological equipment that facilitates good learning experiences. Most minority households have low incomes to provide essential resources for online classes (Hemmerechts et al., 2017). Additionally, parents and guardians may have inadequate skills and expertise to offer students educational support, such as help with challenging assignments (Hemmerechts et al., 2017). Lack of instructional upkeep, such as instructor feedback delays, offers inadequate help leading to low confidence regarding assignment accuracy and performance. Thus, students feel less accomplished than their peers leading to low self-esteem.
The environment influences students learning involvements and performance. Virtual learning requires students’ self-motivation, independence, and self-regulation. For effective education, the student needs to be resilient and committed to achieving targets Emmerichs et al., (2021). Many scholars from minority groups are absorbed in household matters such as income generation, which hinders the aspects of academic success through virtual studies. Instructors are responsible for building students’ motivation for digitalized learning. However, studies show that learners from minority groups are less encouraged due to ineffective motivational practices that are opposed to their expectations (Bettinger et al., 2017). Lack of inspiration is a crucial challenge in learning experiences and needs addressing to find motivational practices that consider cultural backgrounds. Additionally, congestion and overcrowding in some households present unfavorable conditions for virtual learning, preventing students from fully engaging in online learning activities (Societies, 2020). As a result, communication between teachers and learners becomes a significant barrier to the learning process since virtual classes have untimely delivery of assignments, feedback, and lesson plans.
Although virtual learning has effective visual and graphic learning aids, these classes involve more theoretical knowledge and writing academic reports, which presents a heavy workload. Most underprivileged households require income from all family members, demanding students work either part-time or full time while studying from home, leading to limited time for the heavy workload. Alternatively, minority groups learn better when learning involves the integration of their cultures, experiences, and backgrounds, which can be achieved through real-time interactions in classrooms (Bettinger et al., 2017). The students require practical examples to understand foreign concepts. Thus, theoretical knowledge is boring and gives less motivation for learning, leading to poor performance.
Scope of the Study
Numerous online learning communities ignore students’ cultural and ethnic backgrounds, influencing their experiences and performance. Addressing diverse aspects of ethnicity and subgroups is significant in determining how virtual classrooms affect their presentation and involvements that shape professional and social aspects of the student’s life. Therefore, this research aims at identifying the causes and challenges leading to unpleasant virtual experiences among twenty-two students from minority groups enrolled in universities outside the county and how they affect student performance from the student’s perspective.
The Research Gap and Significant Contributions
A review of the previous study shows that few researchers have investigated how virtual classrooms contribute to student performance by investigating faculty perspectives on online learning. Despite the growing participation in digitalized classes, many learners from minority populations hold unpleasant learning experiences virtually. Most research regarding these classes focuses on quantitative research to examine the effectiveness of online learning on student outcomes, programs enhancing online education, and instructional methods of assessing student performance (Asgari, 2021). Although the studies are necessary for the advancement of online educational culture, inadequate exploration has been done considering the ethnic and cultural background of the students. Additionally, quantitative examination limits in-depth understanding of individual thoughts (Tobi & Kampen, 2018). This research uses a qualitative research design to explore the students’ perspectives regarding negative virtual class experiences. The research aims to help educators design virtual programs according to ethnic and cultural considerations. Further, the study is significant in helping instructors to consider teaching while considering the demands of students from minority groups to promote equality in education and student performance.
The Purpose of the Study
Recent developments regarding COVID-19 have led to partial full adoption of virtual classes in higher education. However, the abrupt shift to online education had many positive and negative effects on students’ experiences and outcomes. For instance, minority populations in the United States are among communities adversely affected by the abrupt transition to virtual learning leading to adjustment challenges among students. This study investigates minority students’ virtual proficiencies and effects through qualitative analysis to understand challenges and experiences that hinder quality learning.
- What are minority students experience in virtual classrooms?
- How do students from minority groups perceive the learning experience and quality of education from virtual classes?
- What aspects of virtual classrooms shape students’ experiences?
- How do the factors affect student academic achievement and social engagement?
This research involved a qualitative research approach to provide a deeper understanding of the situation through students’ narratives since it is action research. Qualitative methodology is an excellent empirical approach to investigating perceptions among study populations (Tobi & Kampen, 2018). The qualitative study will effectively explore minority students’ attitudes towards virtual learning and its effects on their academic performance through narratives. Narratives effectively explore factors affecting human lifestyles, such as learning experiences and academic performance. Data collection tools included online questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Information gathering tools involved online interaction in taking precautions against spreading and contracting the COVID-19 virus. Online interviews and questionnaires were also appropriate to save time and financial costs incurred due to moving around. Combining data from interviews and questionnaires provides different types of statistics for comparison and analysis, strengthening the study’s findings.
Assembling data was performed using a questionnaire and two semi-structured online interviews for ten minutes per participant in both sessions. Questionnaires were sent via email to students who accepted participating in the investigation and included ten open-ended questions. The interviews were limited to ten minutes due to consideration of minority students’ limited resources for internet data and time. The two data sets were analyzed to find familiar narratives regarding virtual learning experiences.
Being action research, selecting the sample participants involved purposive sampling because the study involves specific populations enrolled in virtual learning within the county. Participation’s request was sent through email to 50 students to obtain the maximum possible numbers since the students’ responses determined the sample population. Out of the students, 22 responded, comprising 10 Hispanics and 12 Black Americans. Among the participants, 15 were female, and 7 were male. All contestants completed an online questionnaire and took part in both interviews.
Data were analyzed through digital applications and manual examination of the responses. The audiotaped interviews and questionnaires were transcribed using Depose software which converts and organizes qualitative data through coding (Dedoose, 2021). The software assisted in organizing data according to each research question relating to students learning experiences and their effect on academic outcomes. The experiences included feedback delays, isolation, self-motivation, direction, and unavailable instructional support from the instructors. Factors that shape students’ experiences include time management, economic resources, interpersonal communication, and inadequate instructional support. The qualitative approach effectively answered all the research questions as discussed below.
Findings and Discussion
Feedback delays were a significant factor in negative learning experiences in virtual classes. The students stated that instructors might take time to reply during discussion forums leading to procrastinating since they have limited time and resources such as data to be online throughout the day. Some instructors reply to messages weekly, demanding a strict follow-up routine to ensure effective communication. At times, instructors take more than twenty-four hours to respond, which hinders the effective integration of the course content. Learners argue that learning from home is tedious, and they are prone to forgetting routine feedback leading to ineffective learning. The scholars also attribute slow feedback to internet connectivity. Students from low-income households perceive online classes as economically challenging due to expensive internet services. Consequently, three students from rural areas had unpleasant learning experiences due to slow internet connectivity and expensive charging rates. When students fail to communicate with their teachers as expected, it leads to anxiousness, depression, and less motivation to learn.
Learners from minority populations stated that virtual classes do not promote their learning enthusiasm. Most instructors’ discussions and quizzes motivate learning. However, slow connectivity and feedback delays hinder effective participation leading to negative learning experiences. Participants who miss classes due to socio-cultural dispositions feel left behind in the following classes. The students also present that inquiring about missed lessons and the details of the lesson from the instructors take time to get a response which causes knowledge gaps and performance. The freedom to attend virtual classes at personal convenience significantly impacts the learning experiences among minority populations. Between household chores, part-time work, and studying, most students have limited time to check on their studies. Students stated that they forego completing most assignments due to limited time and lack of motivation to perform the tasks since instructors take time to check and provide feedback. Since virtual classrooms require much online research, students state that internet connectivity and high data rates hinder effective research in E-libraries. Alternatively, the students feel exhausted most of the time due to the heavy workload from virtual classes and taking care of family matters leading to negative perspectives about virtual learning.
The findings indicate that most students feel isolated and alienated from their classmates. Although virtual classes offer face-to-face learning and interactive groups, students from minority groups have challenges with effective interactions. Additionally, some learning environments in minority households are congested and noisy, interfering with effective group interactions. Economic instability hinders personalized chats due to data charges. The learners state that they feel alienated since other students interact frequently and catch up on academic and social life. Minority students from rural areas presented the need for interpersonal connection due to loneliness since classmates live beyond physical reach, while virtual classes offer timed glimpses of few classmates. Thus, the scholars have negative perceptions about virtual classes and feel that in-person classrooms enable them to interact with peers without limits leading to depression and poor academic performance.
Limitations of the Study
This study has various limitations on data credibility and reliability. Qualitative research involves collecting data in narrative form, which may be biased or influenced by personal preferences. Consequently, participants can conceal vital information, which affects the implication and significance of the study. Collecting data through online resources limited data collection through observation, an essential method of collecting qualitative data. The researcher had to rely on the honesty of participants to provide accurate and unbiased information. Lastly, duplicating qualitative data is difficult, presenting a challenge of providing proof showing the credibility and validity of the research.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This study aimed to investigate the views regarding virtual classrooms’ experiences and their impact on academic performance among students from minority groups. The research used a qualitative design to gain an in-depth analysis and understanding of the students’ learning experiences from their point of view. The research adopted the above method to fill the gap where most studies regarding virtual learning and students’ experiences are presented in statistical data, which does not explain individual narratives. The study investigated the adverse effects of online classes among marginal group individuals to understand the influence of socio-cultural backgrounds in online schooling, enabling educators to develop learning methods with cultural consideration. Students reported negative virtual experiences resulting from social alienation, delayed feedback, lack of motivation, inadequate self-regulation, and limited resources for effective education. Causative factors of unpleasant learning experiences include socio-economic statuses, heavy workload from home and learning activities, internet affordability and connectivity, and poor learning environments.
This study involved college students from two minority groups in the United States, Hispanics, and Black Americans. Purposive sampling was used, and data was collected through online interactions. Future researchers can duplicate the research using more qualitative techniques such as observation t have diverse data adding to the current literature. Future research could also include more participants and a comparison of learning experiences between minority and majority groups and gender considerations. This study does not cover students from all minority groups and community colleges’ experiences. Thus, future research can fill the gaps in this research and add more literature to the field.
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- Do you think virtual learning is an effective method of learning from home?
- Which course are you enrolled in university?
- Which devices and online tools do you use for virtual learning? Is the device effective in enhancing the learning experience?
- Which method do you use to ask for clarification or additional instructions during or after classes?
- How long does it take to get feedback from the instructor and or group members?
- What challenges hinder effective communication and learning in virtual classrooms?
- How does the home environment affect class attendance and participation?
- Apart from studying, what other responsibilities and duties do you partake at home or place of residence?
- What are some of the bad experiences you have encountered since you started virtual classes?
- Would you have a better learning experience if all the issues were addressed to your preferences?