COVID-19 has affected university students’ learning experiences on a great scale. The aim of this study was to understand the enablers and barriers to the effectiveness of online learning in a university course during the COVID-19 pandemic, using a qualitative case study approach. Participants were 44 first-year university students enrolled in a digital game history and analysis course at a private university. Structured and semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect the data, which were then organized and transcribed into full text. Inductive data analysis was applied with content analysis. The researcher used axial coding to compose themes by considering the commonalities among codes created. Five main themes emerged, namely online content, online assignments, online assessment, instructor behavior and practices, and psychological issues. Based on the findings, taking online courses at home and joining online classes from home positively affected students’ mood during the lockdown. On the other hand, students declared feeling pressure due to many online courses. All themes and codes are reported in detail together with direct quotations from students.

Practitioner Notes

1. Content analysis indicated five main themes: online content, online assignments, online assessment, instructor behaviors and practices, and psychological issues. 2. The results indicate that students are aware of both enablers and barriers to online learning especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 3. Well-structured online content, assignments and assessment are factors that make online learning successful. 4. Findings on the theme of instructor behaviors and practices can help instructors to be aware of the effects of their behavior and attitudes on students’ learning in online environments. 5. Student reflections on the theme of psychological issues can support instructors or instructional designers to tailor the online learning environment to the needs of learners in the COVID-19 period.