The COVID-19-induced pandemic compelled all schools and colleges to shift abruptly to online learning to continue education for students. Set in the context of a low-technological online learning environment in public schools in India, this study examined the contextual factors that supported or impeded online learning for middle school students drawn from 11 states of India.
The Community of Inquiry (COI) Framework (Garrison et al., 2000) served as a theoretical lens to examine teachers’ online practices and how contextual factors affected teachers’ practices and students’ experience of the three presences of the COI framework.
A qualitative study using interviews, and focus group discussions were conducted with students, teachers, education department officials and parents. Students’ interviews were conducted using Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) tools and group discussions. Device accessibility, poor networks, low competency and familiarity with online teaching and learning technology not only inhibited students’ from accessing online learning but also inhibited teachers from establishing effective online teaching practices in alignment with the COI framework. Drawing from the insights generated in the study, the paper proposes ways for creating more effective learning experiences in a technology-deficient online learning environment.