The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded distance learning as an alternative to conventional classroom learning methods. The study’s aim was to explore the advantages and challenges of online learning as perceived by adult learners of Maltese as a second language. Data was collected from 35 adult participants by using semi-structured interviews comprised of open-ended questions. The interview results were analysed using the thematic analysis method with the help of NVivo software to identify commonalities in responses and group the data according to the respective themes. The advantages of online learning according to the participants included the ability to balance learning and domestic chores; to access subject content despite the absence of live learning sessions; and less susceptibility to challenges like fatigue, time-wasting traffic, preparation for lifelong learning evening class and limited parking space. On the contrary, poor Internet connectivity, lack of IT knowledge, lack of personal computers and distractions at home negatively impacted distance learning. Lack of an Internet connection, IT skills and a personal computer or an Internet-enabled phone also led to inequality in access to online learning sessions. Despite the shortcomings, participants perceived online learning to be a solution to suspended academic activities and to lifelong learning. This research concludes with a number of solutions to overcome the issues presented by online learning.
Jacqueline Zammit, University of Malta, Malta