Factors Affecting Access to E-Learning during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic Among Rural-Based Pharmacy Students in Zambia: A Qualitative Study

*Corresponding author: Kennedy Mwila*, Steward Mudenda, Martin Kampamba, Webrod Mufwambi, Enala S. Lufungulo, Margaret Phiri and Christabel N. Hikaambo

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original research

Abstract

Background
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has negatively affected the education sector globally. This has resulted in learning institutions adopting e-learning techniques. E-learning implementation in higher education continues to gain prominence in both developed and developing countries. Most universities are exploring different ways of using information and
communications technology (ICT). However, ICT remains a challenge more especially for students who come from rural areas.
Aim
This study was aimed at exploring the factors that affect access to e-learning among rural-based pharmacy students in Zambia.
Methods
A qualitative case study was conducted among ten (10) purposively sampled pharmacy students at the University of Zambia. The study participants were from the Manying, a district of North-Western Province, the Sinda district of Eastern Province, the Nalolo district of Western Province, the Chipili district of Luapula Province and the Mbala district of Northern Province. Semistructured interviews were used to collect data from the respondents. Data were analyzed using the framework analysis. The sociodemographic characteristics indicate that ten (10) respondents were drawn from Zambia’s five (5) provinces. Six qualitative themes were generated these included devices used for e-learning; the effectiveness of the devices; student performance; internet connectivity; and electrification of the houses. Key findings suggest that the most commonly used device was a smartphone, which posed challenges to effective learner participation in e-learning. Poor internet connectivity, non-electrification of students’ houses, electricity outages, and costs-associated with internet use negatively affected students in accessing online learning and could adversely affect their academic activities and performance.
Conclusion
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected access to e-learning among rural pharmacy students in Zambia. The implications of the challenges faced by the rural pharmacy students are that their academic activities and performance were negatively affected. Therefore, this posed a threat to the rights to universal access to education of the rural students who were mostly venerable.
Keywords
Academic performance; COVID-19; Coronavirus disease; E-Learning; Online learning; Pandemic; Pharmacy students.