1 Research Unit for Inland Development, Polytechnic of Guarda (UDI-IPG) and Centre for Tourism Research, Development and Innovation (CiTUR) (PORTUGAL)
2 Research Unit for Inland Development, Polytechnic of Guarda (UDI-IPG) and Health Sciences Research Centre, University of Beira Interior (CICS-UBI) (PORTUGAL)
3 University of Aveiro - DigiMedia Research Centre (PORTUGAL)
4 Superior School of Education from the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu - Centre for Studies in Education and Innovation (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 6291-6298
ISBN: 978-84-09-27666-0
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2021.1262
Conference name: 15th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-9 March, 2021
Location: Online Conference
The Coronavirus disease 2019 is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which was first identified in December 2019 and rapidly evolved into a global pandemic. A nation-wide state of emergency was declared in Portugal, and as a consequence, schools and universities suspended their classes to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This suspension occurred in many countries besides Portugal, affecting an unprecedented number of students and professors. According to UNESCO, it is estimated that more than 60% of the world student population was affected by this first pandemic wave.

This pandemic's first wave meant that face-to-face classes temporarily almost disappeared, making online education the most important tool for the first time in history. Despite the problems felt by less technologically prepared countries in implementing distance learning on a national scale, virtual learning environments are proven to be successful solutions at different education levels. Higher education granted an adequate technological environment and appropriate support.

The existence of digital learning platforms in higher education institutions was crucial for providing online classes and support for millions of students worldwide. It is impossible to think about what education would have been like during the pandemic's first wave if such platforms were not available. However, it is necessary to assess what was put into place through online learning and the perception of the ones involved in its activities, particularly the higher education professors.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in Portugal about online learning in Portuguese Public Higher Education Institutions (PPHEI) during the first wave lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sample collected was a convenience sample and included public higher education professors who answered an online questionnaire.

Four hundred fifty-three professors from 16 Polytechnic Institutes and 13 Universities completed the questionnaire, and the data analysis of the questionaries' showed that 91,83% of the professors considered that the suspension of in-class activities was timely. Communication about the suspension of in-class activities was made mainly by e-mail (53,77%) and through information made available on the institutional website (33,82%). Although Moodle, by 65,90%, was the online platform most used by professors before the suspension, due to the first wave pandemic, after the suspension of in-class activities, the most used platform became Zoom (77,54%).

The workplace's flexibility was mentioned as the main advantage of learning using online platforms, and the absence of face-to-face interaction was perceived as the main disadvantage.

Although 77,48% of professors evaluated the online distance learning experience as positive, only 4,19% said they would prefer online lessons.

According to the respondents' sample, the results obtained allow us to conclude that online education was considered a good solution for replacing in-class learning activities during the PPHEIs' lockdown period, but a low percentage of these professors would prefer it as a longer-term solution. Given the current state of affairs, this sign of reluctance may be worth looking into with greater attention, for it is clear that what was first considered a possibility or an alternative is potentially evolving into a global paradigm.
COVID-19, Lockdown, Online Learning Platforms, Pandemic, Portuguese Public Higher Education.