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Undergraduates' perceptions on emergency remote learning in ecology in the post‐pandemic era

Cite this dataset

Pagani-Núñez, Emilio et al. (2023). Undergraduates' perceptions on emergency remote learning in ecology in the post‐pandemic era [Dataset]. Dryad.


The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly disrupted academic activities, particularly in disciplines with a strong empirical component among other reasons by limiting our mobility. It is thus essential to assess emergency remote teaching plans by surveying learners’ opinions and perceptions during these unusual circumstances. To achieve this aim, we conducted a survey during the spring semester of 2021 in an environmental science programme to ascertain learners’ perceptions on online and onsite learning activities in ecology-based modules. We were particularly interested not only in comparing the performance of these two types of activities but also in understanding the role played by learners’ perceptions about nature in shaping this pattern. Environmental science programmes are rather heterogeneous from a conceptual point of view and, thus, learners may also be more diverse than in traditional ecology programmes, which may affect their interest for ecology-based modules. We assessed connectedness to nature by computing the reduced version of the Nature Relatedness Scale. Here, we found that online activities systematically obtained significantly lower scores than onsite activities regardless of the wording employed, and that altruistic behaviours were prevalent among learners. Interestingly, scores for both onsite and online activities were strongly influenced by learners’ connectedness to nature, as learners with a stronger connection to nature gave higher scores to both types of activities. Our results suggest that an effort to improve the efficacy of remote learning activities should be the focus of research about teaching methodologies in predominantly empirical scientific disciplines.


Survey conducted among 49 undergraduate students between 19 and 23 years-old enrolled in the Environmental Science programme of the Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) (Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, PR China) during the second semester of the Academic Year 2020-2021. The survey has three main thematic areas: perceptions on online vs. onsite teaching, the connection between concepts and practical activities of these two types of activities, and on altruistic data collection. We employed a five-level quantitative Likert scale to assess learners’ perceptions.

We enquired undergraduates about to what extent they enjoyed online vs onsite activities (Q01-Q02, Q09-Q14, and Q17-Q20) and, additionally, to what extent these activities seemed connected to concepts and theories (Q01-Q02 and Q11-Q14). Furthermore, we asked undergraduates on their perceptions on normative and non-normative activities, namely about altruistic and non-altruistic data collection (Q15-Q16). These questions were presented in pairs to elicit learners’ reflection and were shuffled to avoid stereotyped responses. Finally, we included the shortened version of the NRS questionnaire (NR-6), which consists of 6 questions, to assess how connectedness to nature interacted with perceptions on learning approaches and altruistic behaviours (Q03-Q08).

Usage notes

Please refer to ReadMe file. Note that there are two files: the questionnaire (ECE_EcologyOnline-Questionnaire) and the collected data (ECE_EcologyOnline-Data).


Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Award: TDF19/20-R20-131