Covid-19’s Emotional Toll on Students: Experiences during Online Assessments in an Open and Distance Learning Programme




assessment, emotions, online learning, pandemic conditions, Postgraduate Certificate in Education


The Covid-19 pandemic had an immense effect on teaching and learning during 2020. The fast shift to online examinations in reaction to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown underlines the significance of motivationally enriched and emotionally supportive instruction through this stressful time. It cannot be assumed that all students had the same access to online assets or internet-equipped devices such as laptops or tablets. Not all students coped well, as an analysis of student remarks in a qualitative study indicates. The purpose of this exploratory case study was to analyse student reports on emotions experienced during the first fully online assessments in the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in order to develop an understanding of the motivating and supportive learning environments in online teaching. A total of 20 students from an open and distance learning university were purposefully selected to answer 15 questions related to their learning needs and, in particular, emotional challenges during lockdown. The study drew on a theoretical framing of five motivational design principles, which link emotions to academic performance. The 17 participants all had access to mobile phones and 12 to laptops for participation in online academic activities. The emotions experienced most by the students varied from anxiousness to restlessness, associated with technology access, and the trend was that emotions were shared mostly with family and friends. The findings are discussed in terms of the need to support student emotions in a fully online university course during these stressful times.

Author Biography

Elize du Plessis, University of South Africa

Full Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Studies at the University of South Africa (Unisa)


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How to Cite

Du Plessis, Elize, and Gert Van der Westhuizen. “Covid-19’s Emotional Toll on Students: Experiences During Online Assessments in an Open and Distance Learning Programme”. Commonwealth Youth and Development, 17 pages .



Received 2021-11-22
Accepted 2024-05-02
Published 2024-05-27