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International Comparative Study: Students' Experience of Uncertain Times: Mental Health and Virtual Learning in Class and in Extended Education

International Comparative Study

International Comparative Study

Organizing Committee:
Prof. Dr. Gil Noam (Harvard University, USA),
Prof. Dr. Marianne Schüpbach (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), &
Prof. Dr. Sang Hoon Bae (Sungkyunkwan University Seoul, South Korea)

In reaction to the large impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the education sector worldwide, the organizing committee developed a questionnaire and launched an international comparative study together with researchers from our IRN Extended Education. From September to December 2020, teams from nine countries conducted an international comparative study to investigate students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding their mental health as well as their virtual learning. The study targeted both experiences in class and in extended education. Participating teams came from Griffith University (Australia), the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (Georgia), the Freie Universität Berlin (Germany), Bar-Ilan University (Israel), the Higher School of Economics Moscow and the Kazan Federal University (Russia), Sungkyunkwan University Seoul (South Korea), Mid-Sweden University (Sweden), the University of Applied Sciences Bern (Switzerland), and Yildiz Technical University (Turkey).

What united all participating countries was the "uncertainty” of the situation. The process of reopening society and schools was and is fragile; students, teachers, administrators and parents continuously have to adjust to new circumstances like wearing masks, sitting six feet apart, and possible new closures due to new cases of infection. Furthermore, older teachers or those with preconditions used or have to use technology to protect themselves from what could be a deadly infection.


Due to lockdown measures in 2020, billions of students worldwide were out of school and had to learn from home. Millions of teachers had to master distance learning platforms and had to teach online without much preparation. This experience is constantly changing depending on the current developments of the pandemic: in some countries, students re-entered schools before summer vacation (e.g. Germany and South Korea), but in other countries school closures continued until fall last year (many states in the U.S). In several countries, students were expected to come back to school after the summer break. Worldwide, students had and have to deal with the uncertainty whether distance learning or classroom instruction will be taking place.

Research Questions

The international comparative study aims to answer the following research questions: How do students assess their own social and emotional development and mental health? How do they evaluate the quality of education that they received?What kind of learning experiences did the students have during their school closure and was there any engagement in extended education during that time? What form did such activities take and what did the students miss about extended education activities? Moreover, we want to analyze similarities and differences across the countries regarding students' experiences and the effect of isolation on their self-perception.