Assessing the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Graduate Learning Experiences in Higher Education: Insights and Recommendations

Linfeng ZHANG*, Qingyun LI, Peter DUFFY, Zhongyang ZHANG, Junyi XU, Jingming CAI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has left a profound impact on higher education, prompting the need to assess its effects and provide guidance for future pandemics or disasters. While previous research has often focused on individual courses and short-term consequences, there is a limited understanding of the broader college experience. This study conducts a comparative analysis of graduate performance throughout different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing a Graduate Learning Experience questionnaire with a five-point Likert scale. Scores for graduate attribute items were collected and compared across three distinct phases: pre-pandemic, pandemic era, and post-pandemic. The results reveal significant shifts in the student learning experience during these timeframes, with notable differences between on-campus and off-campus learners concerning their learning environments. The study also examines the reasons behind these variations, particularly among students living in on-campus hostels versus those off-campus. Additionally, it assesses the university’s response to the pandemic’s adverse effects and evaluates the effectiveness of these response measures. These findings offer valuable insights into the factors influencing graduate attributes in the context of online learning, with a specific focus on Hong Kong. They also provide policy recommendations for shaping the future of higher education in the aftermath of pandemics or disasters. Furthermore, these results can serve as a guiding framework for addressing similar challenges in other regions dealing with post-disaster recovery.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • graduate performance
  • higher education
  • online learning
  • policy recommendations


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