2023: Distance Education
Special Edition - Call for Papers

Addressing the ‘challenging’ elements of learning at a distance

One of the unforeseen outcomes of global lockdowns has been the impact on higher education students as they transitioned to become online, distance learners (Di Malta et al., 2022; Lee et al., 2021). Understanding the student experience from their perspective allows us to consider the far-reaching impact their experiences, new understandings, and attitudes to online study may have on higher education into the future (Naidu, 2021, 2022). It is important that we grow from knowledge gained about online learning during the pandemic and move beyond a ‘business as usual’ model (Jones & Sharma, 2020, Korkman & Toraman, 2020), particularly as large numbers of our learners do not wish to return to traditional models and have higher and evolving expectations about the quality of their online learning experience. Within this context, how do we maintain the essence and value of authentic practices such as student exchanges, lab work, field trips, placements, and work integrated learning, that have traditionally relied on face-to-face arrangements and that in some cases rely on the development of tactile skills.

In this special issue, we aim to explore the challenging aspects of learning online, from the perspective of the learner with a particular focus on those elements that seem the most difficult. We welcome studies that explore authentic learning activities that were considered only possible in a face-to-face context, from a variety of disciplines such as healthcare, education, information technology, science, engineering and beyond. We are particularly interested in innovative strategies, design experimentation and use of technology to enable students to fulfill authentic learning requirements. This could include adjustments that needed to be made to meet professional accreditation requirements. What do our learners and educators, who have not necessarily chosen to study or teach online, value from online learning experiences related to these challenging elements? Additionally, what risks do authentic online learning experiences present and how can they be addressed?

We encourage papers that reflect on the challenges and successes of moving traditional face-to-face authentic learning experiences online and what this means for the future of higher education. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Work Integrated Learning experiences for online students
  • Online internships and work placements
  • Conducting lab work in online environments
  • Virtual Field trips and “In the field” research
  • Virtual student exchanges
  • The Higher Degree by Research online experience
  • Online Authentic learning and assessment within creative disciplines
  • Virtual reality and/or simulation-based learning as alternatives
  • Students’ expectations of authentic experiences online.

We welcome papers that are co-written with students.

Types of publications accepted in this Special Issue:

We welcome the submission of papers from a variety of disciplines that use a variety of methodologies and formats including:

  • Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods empirical research papers
  • Case studies
  • Critical reflections
  • Theory driven, evaluative, practice-based papers.

What to submit

We recommend that you submit a maximum 350-word (not including references) document that includes:

  • Proposed article title
  • Author names and their affiliation
  • An abstract that provides an evidence-based rationale for the study, research questions, methodology and implications for practice.


Submission of 350-word abstract (submitted to: [email protected]

Invitation to submit paper

Deadline for paper submission

Double-blind peer review complete

Final version of accepted papers


1 June, 2022

15 June, 2022

1 September, 2022

15 October, 2022

15 December, 2022

Special Issue Editors

Dr Rachel Fitzgerald
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
[email protected]

Dr Henk Huijser
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
[email protected]

Sharon Altena
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
[email protected]

Professor Ale Armellini
University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
[email protected]


Korkmaz, G. & Toraman, Ç. (2020). Are we ready for the post-COVID-19 educational practice? An investigation into what educators think as to online learning. International Journal of Technology in Education and Science4(4), 293-309.

Di Malta, G., Bond, J., Conroy, D., Smith, K., & Moller, N. (2022). Distance education students’ mental health,
connectedness and academic performance during COVID-19: A mixed-methods study. Distance Education, 43(1), 97-118.

Jones, K. & Sharma, R., (2020). On reimagining a future for online learning in the post-COVID era. In K. Jones & R. Sharma (Eds.), Reimagining a future for online learning in the post-COVID era.

Lee, K., Fanguy, M., Lu, X. S., & Bligh, B. (2021). Student learning during COVID-19: It was not as bad as we feared.
Distance Education, 42(1), 164-172.

Naidu, S. (2021). Building resilience in education systems post-COVID-19. Distance Education, 42(1), 1-4.

Naidu, S. (2022). Reimagining and reengineering education systems for the post-COVID-19 era. Distance Education,    43(1), 1-5.

SCImago Journal & Country Rank