‘Learning in and out of lockdown’: A comparison of two groups of undergraduate occupational therapy students' engagement in online-only and blended education approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ted Brown, Luke Robinson, Kate Gledhill, Mong-Lin Yu, Stephen Isbel, Craig Greber, Dave Parsons, Jamie Etherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: In many countries, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in sudden changes to the delivery of health professions education in response to local and national lockdowns. Within occupational therapy, university education programs traditionally delivered in face-to-face classroom, and clinical settings, the transition to online learning presented unique issues and challenges for faculty and students. This study compared the experiences and perceptions of learning in two groups of occupational therapy students during the pandemic: one group converted to online learning only and the other had a blended approach that combined face-to-face on-campus learning with some online lecture content delivery. Methods: Two hundred and eight (n = 208) undergraduate occupational therapy students from three Australian universities completed an online self-report demographic questionnaire and two standardised instruments: the Student Engagement in the e-Learning Environment Scale and the Distance Education Learning Environment Scale. An independent-samples t test with bootstrapping was completed to examine differences in students' scores. Results: Statistically significant differences were observed between the online and blended learning groups across a range of the SELES and DELES subscales. The strongest findings related to psychological motivation (p = 0.001), personal relevance (p = 0.001), interactions with instructors (p = 0.002), instructor support (p = 0.001), student interaction & collaboration (p = 0.001), and cognitive problem solving (p = 0.001). Conclusion: Occupational therapy students who transitioned to online-only learning experienced higher levels of motivation, interactions with instructors and peers, and self-directed learning than students who experienced a blended education delivery approach of face-to-face and online learning. The findings extend educators' understanding of the matrix of factors that have impacted students' education during COVID-19 and support the development of contemporary and pedagogically sound online and traditional modes of occupational therapy instruction. The results provide evidence of the importance of well-structured programs that facilitate active and flexible learning, provide meaningful and positive experiences, and promote initiatives safeguarding social and personal well-being. Further research in this area is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-315
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • blended learning
  • COVID-19
  • education
  • occupational therapy students
  • online learning

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