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Understanding the challenges of e-learning during the global pandemic emergency: the students’ perspective

Mohsin Abdur Rehman (Department of Marketing, Management and International Business, Oulu Business School, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland)
Saira Hanif Soroya (Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan)
Zuhair Abbas (Department of Business Administration, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Zlin, Czech Republic)
Farhan Mirza (Knowledge Unit of Business, Economics, Accountancy, and Commerce, University of Management and Technology, Sialkot Campus, Sialkot, Pakistan)
Khalid Mahmood (Institute of Information Management, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 18 August 2021

Issue publication date: 27 September 2021




This study aims to debate and highlight the challenges faced by university students regarding e-learning during the global pandemic emergency. Furthermore, it sketches the solutions of e-learning using a theoretical lens of emergency management theory (EMT). Finally, the study argues a case for improvement in existing e-learning systems to enable higher education systems, particularly in a developing country, to recover the losses and increase education quality.


A qualitative research design and phenomenology research approach were applied to conduct the current study. A total of 10 in-depth online interviews were recorded from students studying in Pakistan and the UK. Verbatim transcriptions were analysed using the reflexive thematic analysis approach.


The current study results explained in detail the numerous challenges, including lack of preparedness (students and institutions), low quality of interaction, lack of motivation, lack of class activities and forceful adoption of e-learning. Alternatively, few opportunities also emerged through a set of suggestions such as a comprehensive emergency management plan, introduction of strong student counselling programmes and a strategic plan for quality of online learning content.


This study’s contribution stands out in crucial times of the global pandemic. EMT is applied to understand the different dimensions of preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery from a students’ perspective. Furthermore, considering students as important members of higher education institutions and understanding students’ opinions regarding quality assurance during the global pandemic was imperative.



The current study was not part of any funding. Kindly ignore both funding and acknowledgment. Thank you!


Abdur Rehman, M., Soroya, S.H., Abbas, Z., Mirza, F. and Mahmood, K. (2021), "Understanding the challenges of e-learning during the global pandemic emergency: the students’ perspective", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 29 No. 2/3, pp. 259-276.



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