Social-Class Inequalities in Distance Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Digital Divide, Cultural Mismatch, and Psychological Barriers

Fabian Müller*, Sébastien Goudeau, Nicole M. Stephens, Cristina Aelenei, Rasyid B.O. Sanitioso

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic forced universities to move towards distance learning, requiring increased use of digital tools and more independent learning from students. In this context, the present study examined two previously documented barriers that contribute to social-class disparities in universities: the digital divide and the experience of cultural mismatch. Cultural mismatch refers to the disconnect between the highly independent cultural norms of universities and the interdependent cultural norms common among working-class students. Our goals are to (1) replicate the findings related to these barriers in a European context (2) provide pandemic-specific data related to these barriers, and (3) examine how the digital divide and cultural mismatch relate to psychological factors and learning behaviors necessary for academic success. Two thousand two hundred and seventy-five students in France answered questions about their digital access/use, self-construal, psychological factors (i.e., sense of belonging, self-efficacy, intentions to drop-out from the university), and learning behaviors (e.g., attending class, asking questions). Results showed that working-class students have less digital access and value interdependence more than their middle/ upper-class peers, suggesting they are more likely to experience a cultural mismatch. Structural equation modeling revealed that both the digital divide and the experience of cultural mismatch undermines working-class students’ psychological experience (e.g., belonging), which, in turn, hinders their learning behavior. The distance learning required by the pandemic led to increased needs for digital access and independence, and therefore more negatively affected working-class students, which could fuel and widen the social-class achievement gap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalInternational Review of Social Psychology
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 20 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • cultural mismatch
  • digital divide
  • higher education
  • social-class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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