Sanna Ruhalahti, Teija Lehto, Susanna Saarinen, Leena Katto


The pandemic situation has been a challenge for many students. The students starting their higher education at the beginning of 2021 were facing a new kind of educational challenge due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study was to gain insights into first-month studies during the exceptional times. The focus was on Finnish higher education first-year students’ (n=154) reported studying experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The participants were bachelor’s degree students who started their higher education studies in January 2021 in the middle of the exceptional pandemic situation caused by COVID-19. Studies during their first months have mainly been organised online, and there have been specific restrictions related to study arrangements. The study used an inductive content analysis to find out the positive and negative impacts of studying during exceptional times. The data for this study was drawn from an online questionnaire. The results indicated that students’ own resources and capacity played an important role in terms of positive or negative study experiences: good study motivation, good distance-learning skills, and self-directedness helped to cope with the exceptional situation, while insufficient distance-learning skills or challenges in self-direction caused difficulties and dissatisfaction among other students. Teachers’ digital pedagogical skills play a significant role, as the results of this study indicated. In addition, to teaching and learning activities, higher education institutions need to reflect on how student services, counselling, and peer support can be provided remotely. The findings of this study suggest that it is important to pay attention to students’ well-being and self-directed learning skills in digital learning communities and environments. In addition, the study suggests strengthening teachers’ competencies related to digital pedagogical competencies together with workload allocation and study scheduling. Also, there is a need to deepen learning community building and self-directed learning skills as a part of pedagogical support.


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