• Muhammad Junaid Khan
  • Ahsan Sethi




Online, Teaching and learning, Barriers, Qualitative


Background: The advancement in science and technology has forced educational institutions worldwide to shift to online teaching and learning (T&L), including medical colleges in Pakistan. This qualitative study explores the barriers and recommendations for online classes among undergraduate medical students in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Method: The study included students from six medical colleges who were actively engaged in online T&L with a descriptive phenomenological approach. Result: The study resulted in a multitude of barriers hampering the overall quality of effectiveness of online T&L, including internet connectivity issues, communication gaps, health concerns due to prolonged screen time, challenges in joint family settings, and limited time for self-study. The lack of interactivity in online classes was a significant concern, as students felt they had limited opportunities to engage with their peers and instructors. The recommendation mainly targeted the fair and transparent assessment, and feedback mechanism with continuous monitoring that potentiate student engagement, training and improving resources that can increase the effectiveness and readiness of online medical education well for the transition to distance learning. Conclusion: It is important to modify and adopt meticulous methodical approaches like fair and transparent assessment methods, robust feedback mechanisms, improved resources, rigorous supervision, and thorough faculty development programs that will counterbalance similar barriers for a more effective and inclusive online learning environment.

Author Biographies

Muhammad Junaid Khan

Department of Medical Education, Ayub Medical College, Abbottabad-Pakistan https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3519-1914

Ahsan Sethi

Health Professions Education, QU Health, Qatar University, Doha-Qatar


Alsoufi A, Alsuyihili A, Msherghi A, Elhadi A, Atiyah H, Ashini A, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical education: Medical students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding electronic learning. PLoS One. 2020;15(11): e0242905.

Singh V, Thurman A. How Many Ways Can We Define Online Learning? A Systematic Literature Review of Definitions of Online Learning (1988-2018). Am J Distance Educ. 2019;33(4):289–306.

Goldie JGS. Connectivism: A knowledge learning theory for the digital age? Med Teach. 2016;38(10):1064–9.

Azhari T. Students’ Perception on Online Learning During the Covid-19 Pandemic. In: International Conference on Social Science, Political Science, and Humanities. Atlantis Press; 2021. p. 46–50.

Linjawi AI, Alfadda LS. Students’ perception, attitudes, and readiness toward online learning in dental education in Saudi Arabia: a cohort study. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2018; 9:855–63.

Dabbagh N. Pedagogical models for E-Learning: A theory-based design framework. Int J Technol Teach Learn. 2005;1(1):25–44.

Anderson T. Towards a theory of online learning. In: Anderson T, editor. The Theory and PracTice of online learning. 2nd ed. Athabasca: AU Press; 2008. p. 61.

O’Doherty D, Dromey M, Lougheed J, Hannigan A, Last J, McGrath D. Barriers, and solutions to online learning in medical education – an integrative review. BMC Med Educ. 2018;18(1):130.

Abbasi S, Ayoob T, Malik A, Memon SI. Perceptions of students regarding e-learning during covid-19 at a private medical college. Pakistan J Med Sci. 2020;36(COVID19-S4): S57–61.

Mukhtar K, Javed K, Arooj M, Sethi A. Advantages, Limitations and Recommendations for online learning during COVID-19 pandemic era. Pakistan J Med Sci. 2020;36(COVID19-S4): S27–31.

Moustakas C. Phenomenological research methods. Sage publications; 1994 Jul 27.

Smith JA, Osborn M. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In: Smith JA, editor. Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications; 2008. p. 53–80.

Bevan MT. A method of phenomenological interviewing. Qual Health Res. 2014;24(1):136–44.

Sundler AJ, Lindberg E, Nilsson C, Palmér L. Qualitative thematic analysis based on descriptive phenomenology. Nurs Open. 2019;6(3):733–9.

Hodges BD, Maniate JM, Martimianakis MA, Alsuwaidan M, Segouin C. The effects of COVID-19 on academic progression and career planning: A systematic review. Int J Med Educ. 2020; 11:213–21. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5f24.6e7b

Means B, Toyama Y, Murphy R, Bakia M, Jones K. Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. US Department of Education; 2010.

Anderson T, Yau JY, Hinze A. Internet access and digital inequality: Availability and use of technology-enabled learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information and Learning Sciences. 2021;122(7/8):1–21.

Hossain MZ, Tasnim S, Sharma R, Sultana A, Shaikh A. Digital inequity in education amid COVID-19 pandemic: A comparative case study. Journal of Education and Social Sciences. 2021;5(2):126–38.

Amelia R, Kadarisma G, Fitriani N, Ahmadi Y. The effect of online mathematics learning on junior high school mathematic resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Phys Conf Ser. 2020; 1657:012011. doi:10.1088/1742-6596/1657/1/012011

Plakhotnik MS, Volkova NV, Jiang C, Yahiaoui D, Pheiffer G, McKay K, et al. The Perceived Impact of COVID-19 on Student Well-Being and the Mediating Role of the University Support: Evidence From France, Germany, Russia, and the UK. Front Psychol. 2021 Jul 12;12:642689. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.642689.

Conrad D. Experience and learning in virtual communities: Beyond a tool metaphor. Routledge. 2019.

Dhawan S. Online learning: A panacea in the time of COVID-19 crisis. Journal of Educational Technology Systems. 2020;49(1):5–22.

Kim J, Jung J. Investigating factors that influence social presence and learning outcomes in distance higher education. Computers & Education. 2014;71:92–100.

Hrastinski S. Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause Quarterly. 2008;31(4):51-55.

Allen IE, Seaman J. Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017. Babson Survey Group. 2017.

Additional Files