Personal view or opinion piece
Open Access

Monitoring Online Learning During COVID-19 Pandemic; Suggested Online Learning Portfolio (COVID-19 OLP)

Zienab Alrefaie[1], Mohammed Hassanien[2], Abdulmonem Al-Hayani[3]

Institution: 1. Physiology Department, Faculty of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University and Physiology Department, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, 2. Vice Presidency for Educational Affairs and College of Pharmacy, King Abdulaziz University, and College of Medicine, Tanta University., 3. Vice Presidency for Educational Affairs and College of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding Author: Dr Mohammed Hassanien ([email protected])
Categories: Education Management and Leadership, Technology, Curriculum Evaluation/Quality Assurance/Accreditation
Published Date: 26/05/2020


Under the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic and as a part of the social distancing measures taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, suspension of in-campus activities was declared in all educational institutions in almost all countries all over the world. Distance learning through different learning management systems and platforms totally replaced fac-to-face learning, and tremendous efforts are being offered by all faculty to continue teaching and assessment of their courses. This opinion aims to highlight the importance of creating a monitoring portfolio that contains appropriate indicators, both quantitative and qualitative, to address the strengths and weaknesses of technology dependent learning from an educational and not only a technical perspective. Documents and data in such portfolios will possibly guarantee evidence-based and purposeful evaluation of the online learning experience and its outcomes during the COVID-19 outbreak.   

Keywords: Monitoring; Online Learning; Portfolio; COVID-19


As faculty, we will never forget that evening moment when suspension of in-campus events was declared as part of the curfew measures taken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone was telling him/ herself; I’ve just finished a lecture or a couple in the morning and my students were there in my office asking, discussing and laughing.

At King Abdulaziz University KAU and all universities, emergency measures were taken to adapt for the sudden shift of face-to-face learning environment (that mostly used to be technology assisted) into totally online educational environment (Taylor et al., 2020). Many online workshops started immediately, and all faculty were pursued to attend. These workshops aimed to help faculty master the use of available technology in delivering their courses; conveying synchronous sessions, recording lectures to practice flipped classes, doing small group discussions besides to many others and most importantly running assessments and exams. Similar workshops were conducted to students to reassure them and support the use of learning management systems LMS.

Many LMS and platforms are being friendly used by both faculty and students all over the world for more than a month till now. All faculty are becoming more expert in online teaching and assessment and many courses and subjects have been successfully delivered. Of course, there will be sometime (hopefully not too far) that this whole experience would be judged, and outcomes be evaluated. This judgment needs to be evidence-based, and we must develop and record some indicators on the effectiveness of the currently running online learning and assessment.

Suggested portfolio

This brief aims to outline measures and indicators to be considered for monitoring online education and to be included in the suggested portfolio.

1. Monitoring Technology tool used/ LMS

Daily reports that contain numbers of the followings can be issued;

  • Users, synchronous sessions and downloads
  • Discussion boards and assessments
  • Workshops for both faculty and students
  • Number and response to communications with technical support team

2. Monitoring Faculty performance and satisfaction

  • Self-perceived proficiency (using check lists with items on familiarity with options in the LMS, response to students’ interactions and even level of anxiety)
  • Peer-assessment; colleagues can join as participants (although it was greatly implemented and appreciated between colleagues who needed support due to the sudden shift to complete online teaching, still it may be annoying to others and could be considered optional)
  • Questionnaires for faculty satisfaction  

3. Monitoring Student engagement

  • Attendance rate in live sessions and participation in discussion boards and formative assessments
  • Number of chats in live sessions and contributing students’ ratio
  • Teacher-student interaction referring to video recordings

4. Monitoring Student Satisfaction

  • Surveys containing items about software utility, engagement and assessment  
  • Online interviews/ focus groups

5. Monitoring Student achievement

  • Pre/ post assessment to monitor effectiveness of individual sessions  
  • Results of formative and summative assessments that can be used for both horizontal (other online courses taken by same students now) and longitudinal comparisons (with previous assessment of the same students)

We recommend that all faculty start preparing Portfolios for the COVID-19 Online Learning Experience [COVID-19 OLP], that contains but not limited to

  • Reflections and selfreport (strengths and weaknesses in using technology)
  • Indicators concerning the technology tool (software and facilities)
  • Indicators of students’ engagement, satisfaction and achievement

Surveys and rubrics in these portfolios may contain variable items according to the educational program, also the technology tool indicators might differ from a portfolio to another according to the tool used. Experts from the quality units and ICT departments can help in providing appropriate surveys and check lists for different portfolios.

These portfolios can be discussed in the time being in departmental / modular meetings to set a portfolio for each department, and those can be further assessed in higher board levels.

Take Home Messages

Great efforts are being done by all educational institutions under these unprecedented exceptional circumstances, we just need to record some indicators/ criteria of what is running on. Some institutions produce like daily reports that describe accomplished classes, exams, workshops and users’ numbers. Such reports which reflect technical aspect are extremely required, but we also need a monitoring portfolio with a holistic educational perspective.  

Triangulation of information extracted from these portfolios would probably improve the efforts currently being carried out in online teaching and assessment. It would ultimately help educational institutions to define the pros and cons of technology-dependent learning over technology-blended learning to reach a reasonable consensus on the use of technology in education after we recover the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notes On Contributors

Zienab Alrefaie MD, DipPaed, FAIMER Fellow 2019, Professor of Physiology, Director of Endocrine Module and member in Phase One Curriculum Committee and the founder of the PhD program in physiology department, Faculty of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University. She has been a member of the Quality Unit for a couple of years during preparation and achievement of national accreditation of MBBCH program 2017.  ORCID iD:


Abdulmonem Al-Hayani MBBS, DipFMS, PhD, LIFBA, MHA, is Vice President for Educational Affairs and Professor of Anatomy at King Abdul Aziz University. He has been Dean of Students Affairs and the vice dean for basic sciences at the college of medicine. He was involved in establishing new universities and medical colleges, developing and designing policies, curriculums and organization structures over many years.


Mohammed A Hassanien: Msc, MD, MHPE, FAIMER Fellow. Associate professor of Medical Education and Clinical Biochemistry. Currently, he is the consultant of the vice president for academic affairs and director of assessment unit, college of pharmacy at King Abdulaziz university, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and college of medicine, Tanta university, Egypt. ORCID iD:




Taylor, D., Grant, J., Hamdy, H., Grant, L., et al. (2020) 'Transformation to learning from a distance', MedEdPublish, 9[1], 76.




There are no conflicts of interest.
This has been published under Creative Commons "CC BY-SA 4.0" (

Ethics Statement

Ethical approval was not required as this article is an opinion piece, based on the authors' experience.

External Funding

This article has not had any External Funding


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Hebat Allah A. Amin - (11/06/2020)
An interesting article with an interesting topic.
The suggsted e-portfolio in the present state is a wonderful idea to enhance the online learning experience.
Possible Conflict of Interest:


Hui Meng Er - (04/06/2020) Panel Member Icon
This opinion piece recommends the use of portfolio to document the evidences on the effectiveness of online education. A number of indicators have been proposed and some of them are quantitative. However, the reliability of such data will also depend on other factors such as internet accessibility and suitability of remote environment for online learning. Narrative data are important to provide further insights. There are numerous literatures on the use of technology in education which could be used as references to guide implementation. I suggest to strengthen the discussion on how the portfolio could contribute further to these evidences and also potential areas of research that address the gaps in literatures. A language check should be carried out to improve the quality of the manuscript.
Noha Elrafie - (01/06/2020)
In light of the current situation, the world is using distant learning in teaching students which necessitates documentation of students’ activities, in absence of face to face monitoring. The authors tackled an important side of this documentation which is the e-portfolio which can be used to record the students’ achievements and skills during the lockdown period, and this should be sustained by follow up and reinforced by additional methods as mentioned.
Hayam Ezz Eldin - (30/05/2020)
Under the current halt of face-face teaching and learning, the authors discussed a much-needed issue of experience documentation, the holistic e-portfolio that they illustrated can be adopted as an initial step to be followed by institutions to reach a better understanding of what goes right, what goes wrong, what can be sustained and what needs further improvement.
Ayman Elsamanoudy - (29/05/2020)
The authors discussed the importance of e- portfolio in monitoring the strengths and weaknesses of technology enhanced learning from the educational appoint of view in a concise manner. They succeeded to declare the key performance indicators of the helpful role of e-portfolio in monitoring their learning process. They also recommended a discussion of their portfolio contents as lock-down fades out and to be reported to the higher board levels.In this way, I recommend the authors to extend their study by measuring the perception of both students and Faculty of such experience and evaluating the educational impact of e-portfolio during COVID-19 pandemic lock-down
P Ravi Shankar - (27/05/2020) Panel Member Icon
This is a personal view article on developing and using an online portfolio to monitor online learning during the pandemic. The authors have provided the outline of an online portfolio. They can expand on this portfolio and also try to include issues which are more specific to online learning. The authors have provided a broad outline but more details may be required. The rationale for why a particular item has been included can also be provided. There are issues with English language which do interfere with the readability of the manuscript. These can be addressed in a revised version.
James Gray - (26/05/2020)
An interesting short paper however I would suggest that much of what is suggested here applies just as much to "normal" learning as online as the measurement of engagement is just as important in either scenario. There are some english issues which are slightly distracting when reading through which the authors may wish to review. Mainly I would perhaps have liked to see more on the online specific aspects and how these are being managed rather than simply a statement of the things that should be. In this way this would have contributed more to others who are still trying to work this aspect out.