PublicationsSystematic reviewsGlobal emergency remote education in secondary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic
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This report is a product of the IPPO project – please see the project page for more
Interactive evidence gap map

Database of included studies
Global emergency remote education in secondary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic

What do we want to know?


The worldwide shift to emergency remote education in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted billions of students and teachers. A range of teaching and learning strategies were employed by schools as a result, despite confusing and sometimes contradictory government guidance, with systemic issues such as equity and access impacting heavily on disadvantaged students. 

In order to gain insight into how emergency remote education was experienced by secondary school students, parents and educators, a systematic review was conducted to synthesize the relevant research evidence. The research questions were:

  1. In what ways did emergency remote education affect motivation and engagement in secondary students?
  2. How did research report on emerging online assessment practices in secondary schooling during the pandemic?
  3. Are new approaches to peer collaboration emerging and what does this suggest?
  4. How did online learning in secondary schools affect parent engagement?
  5. What emerging uses of online and blended learning approaches in secondary schooling could continue to be implemented in future?

Who wants to know?


The ESRC-funded International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO) commissioned this work in response to roundtable meetings discussing the current situation and the need for evidence. The review should be useful to a range of communities including policy makers, educational practitioners, and students and their families. 

What did we find?


Findings reveal that self-regulation and understanding were the most frequently reported indicators of student engagement, with online assessment tools, learning management systems with collaborative tools, live synchronous lessons with peer and teacher interaction, and teacher-made videos considered particularly engaging. Social isolation was the most frequently reported indicator of disengagement, characterised by poor attendance in live lessons, a lack of opportunities to seek help with challenges and difficulties facilitating peer collaboration. 

Although many articles reported that assessment online was particularly challenging, 21 different types of online assessments strategies were identified, with online quizzes and formative online feedback the most frequently used. Live marking or recorded feedback and assessment were found to be particularly beneficial, as providing feedback during live lessons was sometimes challenging. 

Peer collaboration was facilitated through peer assessment, inquiry-based group work and experiments, aided by the use of collaborative software and combining multiple applications. 

Parental involvement and support contributed to student learning, although issues of equity impacted the extent to which they could engage with their children's learning, alongside gaps in family content knowledge and technological skills. Numerous implications for future policy relating to online and blended learning are provided.

What are the implications?


Recommendations include:

(i) While the trend towards greater adoption of asynchronous (non-live) digital learning may continue beyond the pandemic (for example, through the growing use of recorded classroom lessons), the evidence suggests synchronous online lessons are still more useful for teachers making a rapid shift from classroom to emergency remote teaching. 

(ii) Increased professional development for pre-service and current teachers on how to teach with digital technologies in blended, online and hybrid contexts, including online strategies for students with special educational needs and/or disabilities. Ongoing professional development is key and should be updated in line with new technological and pedagogical advances. 

How did we get these results?


Studies were searched for in May 2021 using Web of Science, Scopus, ERIC, Microsoft Academic Graph, ResearchGate and the COVID-19 living map. They were included if they focused on teaching and learning using blended or online approaches in secondary schools during the pandemic, and were published in English. Following quality assessment on scope and methodological rigour, 81 studies were included for narrative synthesis. These were conducted in 38 countries, with 37% of studies from low or lower-middle income countries, and 63% from upper-middle income or high-income countries. Most of the evidence came from students (64%), followed by teachers (53%), with very few studies exploring the perceptions and experiences of parents (6%) or school leaders (5%).

Where can further information on the method be obtained?


Further information, including interactive evidence gap maps and an openly accessible web database of all included studies, can be accessed from this website. Also available to download are the PRISMA diagram, the data extraction coding scheme, and the screening and quality assessment information for all included studies.


This report should be cited as:  Bond M, Bergdahl N, Mendizabal-Espinosa R, Kneale D, Bolan F, Hull P, & Ramadani F. (2021). Global emergency remote education in secondary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review. London: EPPI Centre, UCL Social Research Institute, University College London.

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