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Perspectives in Education ; 41(1):211-227, 2023.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-20243485


This study examined issues related to students' participation and online absenteeism among students at Zimbabwe's universities during COVID-19 induced online teaching and learning. More specifically, the study examined some of the ethical issues related to students' participation and assessment during online learning in selected universities in Zimbabwe. The study also examined some of the strategies that can be adopted to optimize students' participation during online learning to make online learning a more honest and interactive endeavour. To fully understand the challenges related to participation and online absenteeism, the study extrapolated the perspectives of students and academic staff who had adopted online learning since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was a mixed-methods study, employing a descriptive-analytical approach which utilised three main methods of data collection. Firstly, semi-structured questionnaires distributed electronically among participants in the selected universities were used to collect research data. Secondly, follow-up online focus-group discussions (FGDs) were conducted to elicit participants' views on some of the ethical challenges posed by online learning and possible strategies for dealing with the challenges. Finally, follow-up telephone interviews were also conducted with lecturers with the same objective as the FGDs. The study's population consisted of 110 students and 77 academic staff randomly selected from six universities in Zimbabwe. Two of the selected universities were privately owned and four were public universities. The study showed some of the technological and pedagogical issues regarding students' participation and strategies for optimising students' participation during online learning. The study also shared some of the ethical challenges that arose from the adoption of online teaching and assessment systems and the policy, resource and training interventions needed to make online learning more interactive, while at the same time safeguarding academic integrity. The findings of this study, therefore, have implications for universities, learners and academic staff if online learning programmes are to be successful. Firstly, universities for instance, need to ensure that students and academic staff have the prerequisite technological resources to ensure that optimal active learning takes place. Secondly, to address the shortage of resources, universities should ensure that their libraries migrate from physical to digital libraries. Universities should also ensure that both academic staff and students receive the necessary training to access these digital libraries and the services they offer.