The Impact of COVID-19 Psychological Distress on Students' Academic Challenges in University

  • Kate Shostak University of Victoria
  • Allyson Hadwin University of Victoria
  • Paweena Sukhawathanakul University of Victoria
Keywords: Keywords: academic challenges; university students; COVID-19; stress; well-being, GPA; self-regulated learning; remote learning


The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant disruptions in the learning environment for many post-secondary students with many shifting entirely to remote online learning, which can compound existing academic challenges. While emerging evidence has suggested that COVID-19 impacts students’ well-being and stress, little is known about how the pandemic has affected students academically. This study investigates how different types of academic challenges mediate the relationship between students’ COVID-19 psychological distress and their academic performance. Participants (n=496) completed an online survey that measured COVID-19 psychological distress, self-reported grade point average (GPA), and academic challenges. Mediational analyses estimating indirect pathways were conducted using structural equation modelling on Mplus. Our results showed that all challenges increased along with COVID-19 distress, but specific challenges had a significant relationship with the expected GPA. We found that out of the five academic challenge areas, metacognitive, motivational, and social and emotional challenges emerged as the salient challenge areas that fully mediated the relationship between COVID-19 distress and GPA. Contrary to our prediction, while more significant COVID-19 distress predicted more social and emotional challenges, these challenges were associated to higher GPA. Future research is invited to help students manage and cope with their academic challenges.

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