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An inquiry on the psychological well-being of the university students during emergency remote teaching: application of the EMPATHICS model


The current study investigated university students’ well-being during Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) via EMPATHICS framework in the aftermath of an earthquake that struck the Eastern part of Türkiye. The study had a mixed-methods research design, where quantitative data were analyzed through descriptives of the participants’ overall happiness indices, and qualitative data were analyzed through thematic analysis of those of narrations. Gathered through convenience sampling, the participants were constituted by 18 university students recruited from the department of Foreign Language Education at a state university in Türkiye. The results scrutinized that the participants did not exhibit elevated levels of well-being within the context of ERT. Additionally, the dimensions of the EMPHATICS framework were elaborated in detail to reveal their psychological well-being during ERT, which could also provide pedagogical implications for student well-being and suggestions for further research.


On February 6, an earthquake shook the eastern part of Türkiye, resulting in substantial destruction in 10 cities, as well as fatalities and relocation. This natural catastrophe had a significant influence not only on the physical environment but additionally on the psychological well-being of people, especially university students who were already dealing with an array of difficulties in both their professional and personal lives.

As a result of the traumatic experience of the earthquake, as well as the disruption of their daily routines and the uncertainty surrounding their academic progress, it is essential to understand the specific impacts and challenges faced by university students to develop effective interventions and support systems that promote their recovery and well-being. Although there has been much research on university students' or pre-service teachers' well-being, only a few studies have been conducted to investigate university students' well-being during emergency remote teaching (hereinafter, ERT) using the EMPATHICS framework, which is a model with 21 dimensions, proposed by Oxford (2016b, 2016c) as an alternative to Seligman's (2012) PERMA model (see Gabryś-Barker, 2022). In the chapter where she first introduced the model, Oxford (2016a, 2016b, 2016c) suggests in her own words that “the model dimensions are complex, interrelated, interacting, and evolving” (p. 16).

In brief, “PERMA is deemed inadequate in its capacity to adequately encapsulate the multifaceted and interrelated attributes associated with well-being. Life itself, including the state of well-being, is inherently intricate, marked by interconnections, subject to fluctuations, and characterized by a certain level of complexity” (Oxford, 2018), as evidenced to some extent in the studies by Lopez and Snyder (2011) and MacIntyre et al. (2016). In addition to the concerns stemming from Character, Duty, and Spirituality (CDS) within the PERMA framework, there arises an additional concern. “While the components constituting PERMA possess utility in the comprehension of well-being, they fall short of being all-encompassing. For instance, questions arise regarding emotions such as hope and optimism, which, while generally regarded as positive, do not neatly fit the category of emotions. Moreover, the absence of consideration for self-esteem, cognitive thought patterns, and empathy within PERMA is conspicuous. These components, among others, are undeniably integral to the concept of well-being. This is the rationale behind their incorporation into EMPATHICS, a more comprehensive vantage point on well-being” (Oxford, 2018). That is, also the rationale behind the use of the EMPATHICS model in the current study since these components all fit within the underlying concept.

Thus, by being one of the few studies to use the EMPATHICS model for pinpointing university students' well-being, the current study aims to investigate university students' well-being during ERT, which is regarded as a temporary shift to deliver education as an alternative model for teaching in the time of a crisis, and thus, conducted online (Hodges et al., 2020). In the current study, a mixed-methods research design, which was qualitatively driven was implemented that highlighted the utilization of the EMPATHICS framework to provide a basis for university students’ well-being during ERT. The selection of this framework grounded upon the notion that it had been widely used in well-being studies as a new one, albeit had never been used in the same context which was noted as ERT in the Turkish context. In that, by utilizing the EMPATHICS framework, it was scrutinized to provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing the well-being of the university students during ERT, for developing interventions that might promote their well-being. Specifically, taking pre-service English language teachers as the participants of the study, it was unveiled whether they had a positive and fulfilling experience during ERT in the time of a crisis in Türkiye, with the research questions arising:

How did university students define their level of overall happiness?

How was university students’ well-being affected after the transition to ERT according to the EMPATHICS framework?

Within this realm, the effectiveness of the EMPATHICS model in addressing their psychological needs after the transition to ERT is scrutinized encompassing a qualitatively driven mixed methodology through which descriptive and thematic analyses are conducted, and results are discussed around the main themes of the EMPATHICS framework, which is elaborated below in detail to provide an understanding for how university students’ well-being is affected after the transition to ERT by initially pinpointing their overall happiness scores, and whether the EMPHATICS framework is beneficial to address their psychological needs to be used for further research since there is a scarcity of research in this scope. Practical recommendations are pedagogical implications are showcased to provide a framework for further research.

Literature review


The multifaceted concept of well-being includes a person's physical health, mental health, social relationships, and overall degree of life satisfaction. In recent years, there has been an interest in understanding and improving well-being at both the individual and society levels. Numerous factors have been identified as influential to individual well-being over the last several years, including social relationships (Diener & Seligman, 2002; Keyes, 1998), physical health (Huppert & So, 2013; Steptoe et al., 2015), mental health (Diener et al., 2010; Ryff & Keyes, 1995), personality traits (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998; Steel et al., 2008), socioeconomic factors (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002), work and career (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017), personal growth (Ryan & Deci, 2000), and cultural factors (Oishi et al., 1999; Triandis, 2000). These factors can change between individuals and events, and they can interact in complex ways. Promoting and developing overall well-being necessitates an awareness of the interaction of these components as well as the complex nature of well-being.

Well-being has been defined and conceptualized in various ways across academic disciplines as a complicated and varied construct. The PERMA model, proposed by Seligman (2012), contends that there are five essential components to well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Since its initial conception, this model has been widely used to investigate and understand individuals' and society's well-being because “it is offered through inexpensive, mass-market, trade paperbacks, and thus offers a public good” (Oxford, 2018). Regardless of how much it has been used over the years, Oxford proposed a more promising, or at least more comprehensive model called EMPATHICS. It is a model with 21 dimensions and thus allows for a more thorough investigation of one's well-being.


  • “Emotions (including pleasant and painful emotions) and Empathy

  • Meaning and Motivation

  • Perseverance (1—hope, 2—optimism, 3—resilience)

  • Agency and Autonomy

  • Time

  • Hardiness and Habits of mind

  • Intelligences, Identity, Investment, Imagination

  • Character strengths

  • Self‐components (1—Self‐efficacy, 2—Self‐concept, 3–Self‐esteem, 4—Self-regulation)” (Oxford, 2016a)

By identifying the interaction of these characteristics presented above, the EMPATHICS model provides an extensive and holistic framework for exploring well-being. Individuals may improve their overall well-being and live happier, more meaningful lives by knowing and addressing these characteristics. If these dimensions are taken one at a time, Rebecca Oxford (2018) has defined each one as follows. Regarding emotions and empathy, emotions include physiological excitement, which can be interpreted as feelings. It is referred to as “the prime motivator” and is thought to be inseparable from cognition. There are also mixed feelings (for example, worry and satisfaction in the learner at the same time). On the other hand, empathy is a set of feelings triggered by and consistent with another person's well-being. It can include feelings of sympathy, compassion, empathetic sadness, and so on.

For meaning and motivation, meaning is known as a belief of one’s life attributed to be more significant than its presence, implying that individuals perceive the significance of their lives as they achieve self-actualization. Motivation is defined as a matter of having a strong desire to do something, or to hold a conscious arousal to actuate. To be driven in life, one must have a significant aim. Differently, perseverance is a combination of three components: hope, optimism, and resilience. Herein, hope is based upon reality nestled with a reasonable expectation. Yet, it is not the same as desires or dreams; it has actual objectives, purposes, and personal traits. Optimism is a positive expectation that, unlike hope, has a realistic basis. Resilience is the ability to spring back in the face of adversity, regardless of stress, trauma, or difficulty.

Regarding agency and autonomy, agency is referred to as the ability to self-regulate how one acts whereas autonomy is related with self-regulation and the formation of one's own identity. In terms of time, it does not merely follow a structural modeling as past–present–future since past and future behaviors may influence present behaviors together with cognition. Thus, it is the individual’s choice to relish the present moment, or not. On the other hand, hardiness and habits of mind are interrelated with one’s dedication and perseverance. Hardiness is the existential courage that transforms adversity into an advantage in life. It necessitates dedication, control, and challenge. Habits of mind are made up of abilities, experiences, and preferences, and they emphasize intellectual endeavors (for example, perseverance and impulse control).

Within the scope of intelligences, identity, investment, and imagination, intelligences are basically about Gardner’s (2011) system of multiple intelligences (a) musical, (b) logical‐mathematical, (c) verbal‐linguistic, (d) visual‐spatial, (e) bodily‐kinesthetic, (f) interpersonal (social), (g) intrapersonal (introspective), (h) existential (largely spiritual), and (i) naturalistic (ecological). Relatedly, identity encompasses one’s goals, beliefs, and actions. It also identifies one's language and intercultural communication whereas investment is typically defined as one's complicated connection with his target language. It is the community's desire, devotion, and language habits. Thereby, imagination is defined as a movement that an individual creates for and by himself to associate with some sort of planning, predicting, inferring, and organizing thanks to the skill of creativity.

In relation to character strengths, they are culturally influenced strengths that fall under six virtues, such as wisdom/knowledge (WK), courage, and transcendence. Character traits associated with WK include inventiveness, curiosity, a love of learning, open-mindedness, and perspective. However, there are also self-components listed as self-efficacy, self-concept, self-esteem, and self-regulation are the four subcomponents of self-components. To elaborate, self-efficacy is defined as the level of an individual’s ability to accomplish goals in life under certain conditions in a specific context. Self-concept defines a person's dimensions such as social, personal, academic, and physical dimensions and and includes self-schemas that can be neither low nor high. Self-esteem is one's own positive or negative judgment of oneself, based on emotion or intellect, and self-regulation is defined as the contrivance used to regulate emotions, motivation, cognition, and learning.

Previous studies

Although a myriad of studies has investigated the overall well-being of university students during ERT, not many of them have been conducted specifically with the students at the departments of foreign language education/language education, or clearly most of them have been specifically conducted during the COVID-19 period, as a fruitful period to study well-being, rather than country-specific crises. Nevertheless, to set a few of them, Thomas et al.’s (2021) study dealt with English as an Additional Language (EAL) students during the COVID-19 period and pursued to investigate how these students at Oxford’s preparatory level coped with ERT with the help of interviews. The results were mainly optimistic, in which students presented comments like “helpful”, “…the same as at school”, or “they definitely improved my English; that’s just a fact” (p. 3).

Another study that proposed some positive results would be Dvořáková et al. (2021)’s, where they found that 25.3% of the students believed to improve the skills of information technologies (IT) during ERT. This finding suggested that “online teaching, irrespective of the specific course content, had the capacity to enhance the development of overall digital competence. This competence was progressively becoming an essential component of the skillset” (p. 96). However, it was also seen that no matter how much comfort ERT brought to students, it paved the way towards some challenges. An example would be that “some students expressed frustration with instructors who utilized different platforms or failed to offer clear instructions regarding course completion” (p. 96). While it was reasonable that instructors might have their platform preferences based on their prior experience, the inconsistency in platform usage remained a drawback in ERT and should be reconsidered, as noted by Sun (2011).

Within the context of ERT, it is pivotal to transition to an examination of well-being studies conducted during the ERT period, with a specific focus on those utilizing the EMPATHICS model, to gain a more comprehensive academic exploration of students' experiences and their emotional well-being during these exceptional circumstances. However, there is still no study encompassing all components of the EMPATHICS model (Amorati & Hajek, 2023) during ERT, there are only a few studies conducted to study university students’ well-being using this model under different conditions or in different contexts. One related study that focuses on how pre-service English teachers reacted to the COVID-19 period—a great example of ERT—and how their ‘Positive Psychology in TEFL’ course impacted their well-being. She gathered the participants’ reflections on the basis of narrative inquiry. It was understood that “the students’ approaches to the course were unanimously optimistic. It seems that what students took from the course was its contribution to their personal development and well-being and as such, the course—in the words of one of the students,” stood out from other courses at the university”. Unfortunately, the course suffered from the lack of direct contact between the teacher and the students and between the students themselves. (Gabryś-Barker, 2022). Additionally, students claimed that they felt detached initially, but then they developed their own strategies for overcoming the separation from their friends and their school; also, they claimed that they strengthened their bonds with their families (Gabryś-Barker, 2022).

Another newly published study by Amorati and Hajek (2023) examines the effect of a project-based learning module on the students’ well-being in an advanced Italian language subject through a questionnaire created in light of the EMPATHICS model. The students were tasked with creating and self-publishing an illustrated story in Italian and the results indicated that the students achieved a sense of empowerment over their learning through active participation in a task they found enriching and socially significant. Furthermore, the project had a favorable impact on students' confidence in themselves and their self-image, bolstered their natural drive to learn Italian, and contributed to their overall feelings of inclusion and achievement (Amorati & Hajek, 2023), thus their well-being.


In the present study, a research design employing a qualitatively driven mixed-methods approach was employed. The richness of people's experiences and “lived realities” encompasses multiple dimensions. When phenomena exhibit diverse layers, opting to examine them from a singular perspective may lead to an incomplete and insufficient understanding (Mason, 2006). Hence, mixed-methods research involves a systematic approach that incorporates a minimum of two research methods, in our context narrations questionnaires, to address a unified and overarching research question (Morse & Niehaus, 2009). This design highlighted the application of the EMPATHICS framework as a foundation for examining the well-being of university students during ERT. The choice of this framework was based on its extensive use in the field of well-being research, albeit rare in the Turkish context. Through the utilization of the EMPATHICS framework, the primary objective of this research was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors that impacted the well-being of university students during ERT. The intention was to develop interventions that could enhance their well-being with the aim of determining whether they had a positive and fulfilling experience during ERT.

Research design

This research employed a qualitatively driven mixed-methods research design, combining quantitative and qualitative methods, to “provide a better understanding of research problems than either approach alone” (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007, p. 5) to gather comprehensive data on the psychological well-being of the university students, gathered through convenience sampling (Dörnyei, 2007; Nunan, 1992) from the department of foreign languages education in a state university in Türkiye.

In doing so, the quantitative data analysis procedure was executed via the questionnaire mentioned in the Instruments section which was composed of ‘6-point-Likert-type’ response items [(1) strongly disagree; (2) moderately disagree; (3) slightly disagree; (4) slightly agree; (5) moderately agree; (6) strongly agree]. For the qualitative part, narrative inquiry was used as a technique since narratives were defined as "discourses with a clear sequential order that connect events in a meaningful way for a definite audience and thus offer insights about the world and/or people's experiences of it (Hinchman & Hinchman, 1997, p. 16). The choice of narrative inquiry as a method was determined by the possibilities it offered, mostly individual insights into one’s own perceptions of the investigated phenomenon (Gabryś-Barker, 2022). As Trahar (2011, p. 48) emphasized,

[…] narrative inquiry focuses on the meanings that people ascribe to their experiences

[…] narrative inquiry concerns more than can be observed in daily practice. It also investigates the different ways in which people interpret the social world and their place within it.

Thematic analysis was applied to support the analysis of the narrations of the participants to yield themes and patterns.


Participants were composed of 18 university students recruited from the Department of Foreign Language Education at a state university in Türkiye through convenience sampling. In accordance with a demographic analysis of the participants, it was observed that among those 18 university students (11 female; 7 male), the highest frequency was reported by the third-year (N = 7) and fourth-year (N = 7) students. Besides, 1 of them was a first-year student where the other 2 were reported to be second-year students. One more to note, the participants’ ages were ranked among 18 and 35, with a mean score of 21.77. It was also noteworthy to mention that none of the participants were directly influenced by the devastating earthquake that occurred in the research context since it might affect the results due to the emotional factors that could not directly be observed, investigated, and measured.


The instruments of this study were two-folded: (1) an online questionnaire to check for the understanding of the participants’ current happiness levels together with (2) a narration assumed to be gathered from each participant on their well-being during emergency remote teaching. Accordingly, for the quantitative data, above mentioned online questionnaire was applied along with some questions to gather data on participants’ demographic information. The online questionnaire was standardized and proved to be a valid and reliable psychological assessment tool, the Oxford Happiness Inventory (Hills & Argyle, 2002) which was applied to gather information about the participants current happiness levels. The reason for choosing this instrument was that it was devised as a compact scale of personal happiness and psychological well-being mainly behaving consistently and cross-culturally (Argyle et al., 1989). Within this instrument, there were 29 items, 12 of which were reverse coded (R). Thus, the instrument was checked for reverse coding of 12 items in order not to be derailed from statistical purity and unity. In this regard, reverse-coded items were noted, and during data entry, the numerical values were coded accordingly from 1 to 6.

The inventory was noted by Argyle et al. (1989) to have an internal reliability of, 90 using Cronbach's alpha (Cronbach, 1951), and for the construct validity, it was confirmed through correlations with established measures of the three proposed components of happiness. Specifically, the happiness measure exhibited a positive correlation of + *0.32 with the positive affect scale of the Bradburn Balanced Affect measure (Bradburn, 1969), a negative correlation of − 0.52 with the Beck Depression Inventory, and a positive correlation of + *0.57 with Argyle's life satisfaction index (Francis et al., 1998), which made it to be proper to be used in social sciences research as a reliable and valid instrument. Specifically, the reliability analysis for this context was reported to be *0.88 by Cronbach’s alpha (Table 1).

Table 1 Oxford’s happiness inventory

Secondarily, the participants were awaited to comment on whether ERT had any impact on their well-being based on their personal experiences, through the elements of the EMPATHICS framework as a part of qualitative data collection processes. In this vein, the participants were asked a structured open-ended question that required them to write a narrative text:

Please comment on your hybrid education practices as a pre-service EFL teacher, due to the emergency remote teaching resulted from the difficult times that Türkiye has been going through for over 1 month in at least 250 words. In your narration, please mention the topics of emotion and empathy, meaning and motivation, perseverance (resilience), agency and autonomy, time, hardiness, habits of mind, intelligences, character strength, self-components (i.e., self-efficacy).

Ensuring the issues of reliability and validity, since narrative inquiry is a qualitative approach contending to be “useful in providing detailed information about particular groups’ and individuals’ lives, perspectives and beliefs” (Briggs et al., 2012, p. 124). Thanks to its nature fed by the non-positivist paradigm, narratives are “reflections on—not of—the world as it is known” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, as cited in Coulter & Smith, 2009, p. 578). Thus, it is already objective. Besides, narrative inquiry is grounded upon three key tenets that ensure objectivity; (1) personal and social dimension; (2) temporal dimension; and (3) place (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). The first two are interrelated to four further directions; (a) inward direction (i.e., internal conditions or dispositions, such as hope), or outward direction (i.e., environment); (b) backward direction and forward direction to represent past, present, and future. Yet, the latter one, place, denotes the physical setting (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000).

Additionally, regarding the issues of validity, the methodological concerns are listed as (1) the limits of language; (2) the limits of reflection; (3) the resistance of people against social desirability; and (4) the complexity of the text (Polkinghorne, 2007). To ensure the validity of the qualitative part of the current study, for the issue, it could be stated that an intelligible language was used by proper prosodic features to unravel both positive and negative emotions which was the basis for the study. Thus, the narrations were desired to be gathered in the English language so as not to mingle with linguistic and prosodic features of the native language, which might penetrate its validity. No translations were needed since both researchers and participants used the English language for the narration part. In doing so, the main aspect that was ensured through triangulation since multiple individuals analyzed the same data where two narrative inquirers as the researchers (two experts in the field of education, specifically in the field of language education) of the present study together with an independent researcher (expert in the field of qualitative research) that might contribute to data analysis from different angles by means of transferability, confirmability, and dependability of the results.

As for the second concern, narrative inquirers were excluded from the reflection process, albeit the privilege was attributed to the narrator, which strengthened the validity of the current study. Therefore, the narrations were used as they were gathered from each participant without any further correction of the language being used. But to note, researchers as the narrative inquirers were “not disembodied recorders of someone else’s experience” since they were “also having an experience of the experience” (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 81). Sharing equal importance in the data collection process, both narrators and narrative inquirers were given utmost importance throughout the process to ensure validity. To help more on the issue, when needed, the narrators were given extra time to pen down their narrations, which might help to explore the meaning of the emotions reflectively, to define their own inconsistencies, and to challenge the stability of their own subjectivities with no further direction of the researchers, which might hazard validity.

Regarding the third issue of (dis)comfort to pinpoint social desirability, both of the parties, namely the narrative inquirer, and narrator, should “feel comfortable to share their beliefs, assumptions and vulnerabilities” to experience “discomfort, ambiguity, and transformation” (Wolgemuth & Donohue, 2006, p. 1030). That said, participants were given a flexible environment to compose their narrations “offering individual perspectives where judgments were not expressed” to “glimpse a broad vision of reality, and to experience a participatory way of thinking” (Ackerman & Maslin-Ostrowski, 2002, p. 120). To ensure this, participants were previously taken into online in-person interviews to know more about each other, to learn about the research procedure, to ensure anonymity together with confidentiality, and to establish trust in-betweens since this might facilitate the level of openness between the narrative inquirers and narrators over time (Seidman, 1991, as cited in Polkinghorne, 2007).

On the fourth issue of text complexity, narrative inquirers were ensured that “simply producing the texts they had expected” might not be gathered since the data collection process was touching because ERT was conducted right after the devastating earthquake in Türkiye. Therefore, they were open to listening or reading the unexpected and/or unusual to ensure their voices were being heard. Similarly, to ensure reliability, since narrations were subjective and personal pieces of information, alternative interpretations of the data could add up to the persuasiveness of the study. Since data were context-specific, coherence of the data and trustworthiness was a matter of judgment (Torrance, 2013). Herein, since “the problem of criteria seems to be one of the most difficult and important problems facing social and educational research” (Smith, 1990, p. 167), and the present study could be acknowledged as making a “distinctive contribution to the development of knowledge” in the education discipline (Dunleavy, 2003, p. 27), the reliability was ensured by the commentaries of two narrative inquirers as the researchers (two experts in the field of education, specifically in the field of language education) of the present study together with an independent researcher (expert in the field of qualitative research) to add up to the pantheons of current knowledge since as for the reliability and validity issues regarding narrative inquiry, it was reported that persuasiveness and the coherence of the data were to supersede reliability as the data were more subjective and context-specific (Riessman, 1993).


The present study has been conceived in response to the seismic upheaval caused by a devastating earthquake, which compelled the nation to swiftly transition to emergency remote teaching as a measure to ensure educational continuity amidst the crisis. The participants for this research were deliberately selected during the spring term of the academic year 2022–2023, between the months of March–April, a period when the effects of the earthquake-induced disruptions were most pronounced. Extensive efforts were made to establish contact with potential participants, employing communication channels such as WhatsApp groups and email correspondence. Ultimately, a total of 18 individuals demonstrated their willingness to engage in this research, actively participating in both phases of the study.

All participants were informed of the voluntary nature of their participation prior to their participation. To preserve anonymity, formal consent forms were collected, and pseudonyms were issued. Participants were made aware of the study's strong confidentiality standards, which ensured that any information submitted to the researchers would be used solely for scientific reasons while protecting their identities. Furthermore, the researcher reassured the participants that their involvement would not yield personal advantages but would potentially contribute to future studies, as well. To guarantee sensitivity to participants' mental well-being, all references to the phrase "earthquake" or aspects associated with seismic occurrences were carefully avoided in the questionnaire items used in this study. Finally, it is the participants' own voices that both the researcher and readers are attempting to hear; thus, they can be reported and interpreted for others to read and learn from the perspective that they are holding. In this vein, participants' narrative inquiries have not undergone any change of grammar, punctuation, wording, and the like, also to maintain authenticity.

Data analysis

Following the data collection process by convenience sampling, the raw data were taken to an analysis by parting quantitative data at one side and that of qualitative one at the other side. For quantitative data, statistical procedures were employed via SPSS Version 26.0 after entering all the valid data in. Means, standard deviations, and frequencies were noted for each item as a part of descriptive statistics to spot “…general tendencies in the data and the overall spread of the scores” (Dörnyei, 2007, p. 213). Then, the scores of the questionnaire were categorized and identified according to the interpretation made by Wright & Kehoe (2008): 1–2: not happy, 2–3: somewhat happy, 3–4: not particularly happy or unhappy, 4: somewhat happy or moderately happy, 4–5: rather happy, 5–6: very happy, 6: too happy.

On the other hand, the data gathered qualitatively, which were noted as the narrative texts of the participants, were analyzed through thematic analysis. The selection of each statistical technique primarily depended upon accuracy and precision in essence. Common themes, patterns, and factors influencing the psychological well-being of university students were identified through the dimensions of the EMPATHICS framework.

Findings and results

Results of the quantitative data

As depicted in the Table 2, the participants exhibited a wide range of overall happiness scores, with the highest recorded mean score being 4.87 and the lowest recorded mean score being 2.07. Additionally, the calculated mean of the participants' overall happiness scores yielded as 3.68 (SD = *0.70), suggesting that the participants were generally “not particularly happy or unhappy”. This finding implied that the university students, within the context of ERT, did not exhibit elevated levels of well-being.

Table 2 Participants’ overall happiness scores

Table 3 offered an overview of the mean scores for the items within the questionnaire. Evidently, the items exhibiting the highest mean scores were as follows: Item 27, "I don't have fun with other people" (M = 4.78; SD = 1.17); Item 16, "I find beauty in some things" (M = 4.67; SD = 1.37); and Item 7, "I find most things amusing" (M = 4.22; SD = 1.21). Notably, it should be acknowledged that Item 27 was reverse-coded. Consequently, it could be inferred that the participants, in general, experienced a sense of enjoyment in their interactions with others, found beauty in certain aspects of their lives, and perceived amusement in various aspects of their daily experiences.

Table 3 Mean scores for questionnaire items

Results of the qualitative data

To get more detailed information on the gist of the university students’ current well-being during ERT, university students were asked to write a narration. Below are the excerpts from the participants’ narrations. It appeared that abrupt changes in circumstances, inability to meet academic expectations as university students, a sense of confinement to their homes despite previously active social lives, the presence of biases, and a profound sense of despair towards online courses, combined with the distress experienced during online learning, resulted in a notable absence of positive affect from online education.

I feel like I lost the best times of my life because it was the first year, I attended university… I felt a little lost because being at home all the time made me feel depressed. (Ayşe, 20)

Fear of the future, fear of falling short, fear of a lackluster life regardless of how much one tries… I believe these thoughts should be considered before remote teaching if we are to see how and why the learners’ aptitude and feelings towards education develop the way they do. (Mehmet, 20)

I could not feel anything; I even forgot that I was a student and continued to do what I used to do as an employee. (Ali, 35)

I don’t like hybrid education because I can’t focus on my lessons. I don’t feel like that I’m studying at university. (Seda, 19)

I still do the things I like drawing and watching films and I can say that I am in a good mood but I really missed my classmates and I no longer feel like I am a student at a university. (Ceren, 18)

…I feel much more bored because I have to listen to my instructor who's talking without stopping and the course may last longer than expected. (Hasan, 23)

Some students, on the other hand, reported that they developed a feeling of empathy for those who have been in difficult situations because of the unfavorable circumstances they faced, and that they continue to live their lives with the motto "I do what I can, and that's all I can do." Despite their concerns about online education, they embrace their academic path with perseverance, motivated by a desire to make a real difference within their constraints.

…. I can say that with the lack of space, the anxiety and grim emotions that came with the loss of my relatives, I didn't have the time, resilience, or even will, to participate in online classes. (Damla, 21)

As i got used to emergencies over the last 5 years, i realized i cannot feel anxious even if things go wrong. Before this year, when university had a classroom problem that we can do nothing to solve, i would still worry about what to do. I simply lost that feeling of anxiety, knowing full well everything must work fine in the even if there is no guarantee to it. Instead of worrying over the things that i cannot control, i learned to perfect my control over the things that i can. "I do what i can, and that's all i can do." became my new motto in life. (İbrahim, 22)

The participants were able to generate empathy for the earthquake victims, and they recognized the accessibility and convenience of online education as a feasible alternative. It implies concern for others' well-being and a knowledge of the difficulties they confront. Participants also stated that those impacted by the tragedy need time to recover emotionally, and they emphasized the potential benefits of hybrid education in meeting their needs. It displays an understanding of the disaster's impact on people's lives and a perspective that emphasizes their well-being. Based on these findings, it may be concluded that the participants indicated an awareness of the emotional well-being of earthquake victims and exhibited empathic attitudes within the EMPATHICS framework's "empathy" dimension.

I think that it is more useful nowadays because many students cannot go to face-to-face education. Numerous students are victim of the earthquake. We should show our empathy towards them. I am also a victim of the earthquake. I could not go to the university if education was face to face. Accesible to online education more easier than face to face education. Because I do not have to attend the class instantly. (Ahmet, 21)

…people who have affected by the disaster needed some time to mentally feel alright and some other people lost their houses or their families, so I think such a hybrid education decision was good for them. (Aslı, 22)

In terms of motivation, the participants' narrations included themes of despair, lack of motivation, and decreasing engagement. They indicated a sensation of being uninspired and unconnected, both in general and in the context of schooling in particular. Reading and other previously delightful activities have lost their attraction, suggesting a major decrease in personal interests. Responsibilities and activities were viewed as lacking in purpose or significance, which contributed to the participants' general lack of motivation.

I felt very depressed and unmotivated about everything.” (Fatma, 20).

In terms of education, it has not gone well. I don't have much motivation even to participate in sessions synchronously. (Esra, 20)

Since we moved on to a hybrid education, I have trouble keeping in touch with the classes and lessons. I used to read and finish roughly one book in one week in the first semester. But I no longer have the motivation to do so. (Ceren, 18)

I can say that i don’t have motivation to do anything, and my responsibilities feel like there is no point or meaning in them. (Meltem, 20)

In perseverance, the participants displayed various levels of emotional well-being. During substantial losses inflicted by the earthquake, one participant said he drew strength and perseverance from his mother. They were usually grateful for the option to engage in remote teaching, which allowed them to work and study at the same time. Furthermore, one exhibited a great desire to pursue a program in the United States, demonstrating resilience and persistence. Another participant's endurance appeared to be motivated by the safety of acquaintances from the earthquake-affected area, which resulted in the return to normal routines and studies. Other participants' narratives revealed conflicting emotions, such as aimlessness, a wish for the present term to finish fast without jeopardizing academic achievement, and a perceived breakdown of resilience because of the obstacles of online education. The participants identified some benefits of hybrid education, which had improved their deep-thinking abilities, self-efficacy, and ability to handle adversity with positive thinking and proactive ways.

My perseverance is my mother. I lost many friends of mine from the earthquake. I lost my home also. My mother and me could go out after the earthquake happened. If I lost my mother, I would not be that strong. In brief, remote teaching is a advantage for me since I can work and study. Nowadays, my motivation is going to USA with the program of CAMP USA. I focus on this program. Remote education works for me. (Ahmet, 21)

…But after my friends from earthquake area come near us and been safe, I started to study and do my daily routines again. (Fatma, 20)

I just want to end this term quickly and without decreasing my GPA. (Esra, 20).

I am aimless. (Emre, 26).

Besides, online education breaks my resilience since some of the courses take longer to end. In another word, having to focus on someone who keeps listening on a screen is rather hard and discouraging as it is boring. (Hasan, 23)

On the contrary, it develops my deeply thinking skill on the topic due to the statement I have given above. Correlatively, it makes me notice that I am self efficate person since it has taught me to even comprehend some factors such as subject topics (not totally but partly). Overall, though hybrid education has mostly affected me negatively, I have seen some advantages with respect to it. (Hasan, 23)

… studying from home has been rewarding as the results from classes have been higher for me. I have been on social media and seeing what has been happening and also what other people, especially the victims of the earthquake, have been doing, and it has made me realize that whatever the situation is, we as capable creatures are able to overcome it with positive thoughts and more working on our ideas and the options that are open to us (Elif, 21)

Within the agency dimension, the participant indicated a decreased feeling of emotional well-being. In the online classroom, where one struggled to properly articulate his thoughts, he revealed sentiments of not being an agent and competent. One also expressed a sense of loss of autonomy, as she felt obligated to passively listen to her teacher rather than actively participate.

I don't feel agent and competent enough while taking part in the online classroom and the classroom where only my instructor takes place for, I am unable to reflect my opinion with my emotions. In addition, hybrid education breaks my autonomy as I have to sit and listen to my teacher (Hasan, 23)

While hybrid classrooms offer the convenience of online learning, participants recognized the possibility for additional time consumption if the instance lasted longer than typical face-to-face sessions. It emphasizes concerns regarding allocation and management in the hybrid learning environment. The participants' narrations also highlighted difficulties in managing time properly and a lack of synchronization with the department's schedule. These resulted in dissatisfaction, suggesting a negative emotional influence within the "time" dimension. The participants' experiences indicated difficulties and frustrations with time management and synchronization in their educational setting, which damaged their emotional well-being.

Hybrid classrooms are synchronously held both online and face to face. Even though this helps us gain some more time on Online, they might cause us to lose more time if it lasts longer than face to face environment under normal conditions. (Hasan, 23)

After the aftermaths of the earthquake, because I lack time management, i couldn't physically make myself a schedule that was synced with our department's schedule. I still cannot, and thus far, this term has been a disappointing one for me. (Damla, 21)

Participants expressed worries about the lack of interactive learning experiences and their preferred learning styles. They understood that, while online classes matched their personal learning preferences, they were concerned about the detrimental effects it would have on students who thrive on active interaction. It implies an awareness of how different intelligences and learning styles affect emotional well-being. They also acknowledged having trouble reading facial expressions, body language, and moods of both their instructors and fellow students, which hindered their learning and relationship. In addition, one participant was dissatisfied with the overall efficiency of the emergency remote teaching. These findings suggest that the constraints and limitations of online education have an impact on participants' emotional well-being within the "intelligences" dimension, particularly in terms of catering to their preferred learning styles, facilitating emotional expression, and fostering empathetic connections.

Personally, as someone who prefers reading and writing to learn over interaction, I do not mind the classes myself, as they are way easier to keep track of. But the reasons I stated are sure to have a negative effect on most learners, especially those who learn actively and through interaction. They may be doubtful of how well they're taught, or how sitting in front of a computer counts as formal education, which are valid concerns that do not seem to have easy solutions. (Mehmet, 20)

Online education is not suitable for my traditional learning style, and therefore I did not like it. During the online education process, I feel that I have lack of emotion and empathy. I cannot see teachers' facial expressions in virtual classrooms, cannot perceive their body language, and therefore have difficulty understanding what they feel or could show how I felt. (Ali, 35)

… as I have to conduct the education online mostly, we can't see the faces of other people as in real life and this greatly hinders us from perceiving their feelings. (Hasan, 23)

I think that the distance education model applied due to both the pandemic and the earthquake is not efficient enough for me. (Mustafa, 22)

The participant raised concerns about their qualifications to practice as an English teacher. This demonstrates a lack of confidence in their own abilities and a low sense of self-efficacy. The participant's anxiety about his competency in his chosen career suggests that he may face emotional difficulties because of feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

I doubt myself that I have the necessary professional qualifications to practice the profession of English teacher. (Mustafa, 22)

Participants responded that the change to online schooling has impacted their self-concepts and judgments of their self-appearance in the self-concept dimension. Because of the lack of face-to-face encounters, they claim becoming more asocial, suffering body dysmorphia, and altering their self-presentation. It shows that self-perception and social interactions may influence their emotional well-being. They also emphasized preferences and comfort levels in different learning contexts, as well as a preference for complimentary sources delivered in class rather than online, showing that the learning environment may impact participants' self-concepts and interactions. Some of the narratives also revealed insights into the participants' self-concepts as portrayed by others, indicating a complex and diverse self-image. Overall, these extracts imply that the writers' emotional well-being in the "self-concept" category is impacted by their online education experiences, self-perception, social connections, learning choices, and external assessments of their identity.

… being in online schooling made me change about the way i was thinking of my self appearance because i got used to being at home and not showing my face to people most of the time. Because i always dressed in pajamas or didn't put makeup on or didn't get to meet my classmates and professors face to face, i started being more asocial and started to have body dysmorphia. (Fatma, 20)

In terms of understanding and motivation, course materials are presented through tools such as reading, watching videos, and interactive materials. However, I prefer these tools to be presented as complementary sources in class rather than online … During hybrid or online education, as a full-time employee, I could have been more comfortable, and that was the case because there was no obligation to attend class. (Ali, 35)

In my personal life, people say that I am a brazen, good-hearted, cheerful, oddball with a rough diamond in him. (Emre, 26)

It is possible that the participant's emotional well-being has a detrimental influence on her self-esteem. The participant experienced sentiments of despair and being robbed of something that could not be reclaimed in the classroom setting. Furthermore, one described himself as humble, uneducated, and plebeian, implying a self-deprecating viewpoint. It reflects a poor sense of self-esteem since the person perceives himself as having low self-worth and lacks confidence in his or her own expertise or position. The participant's negative feelings and self-deprecating language suggested possible issues in her emotional well-being connected to self-esteem and a poor self-perception.

In school, I am depressed, robbed of something not coming back. Hybrid education is a cherry on the top in my humble, uneducated, plebeian opinion. (Emre, 26)

Finally, in terms of self-regulation, the participants stated that their emotional well-being was hampered by anxiety and sadness, which made it difficult for them to attend lessons. It shows that their mental health concerns influenced their involvement and participation in the learning process, implying difficulties with self-regulation. They also suggested a lack of interest and a negative attitude toward the department or major, which may impede the writer's motivation and self-regulation in engaging with the educational content, and they highlighted issues with responsibility-taking, as participants expressed a sense of detachment and a tendency to postpone watching recorded lectures, indicating challenges in self-regulation and time management. Overall, these extracts imply that participants' emotional well-being in the "self-regulation" dimension is influenced by mental health concerns, indifference in the topic of study, and difficulty accepting responsibility and controlling their participation in online education.

This experience affected me in ways I cannot even describe. I couldn’t attend the classes because of anxiety and depression (I’m diagnosed) … I don’t know if hybrid education was the best solution or not, but I can say it meant nothing to me. I don’t like my department/major anyway. (Meltem, 20)

I don't feel particularly less interested in online education. I just can't shake the feeling of "It is being recorded so I can watch it later. (İbrahim, 22)


Although there has not been any research in the literature that has investigated student well-being during ERT through the EMPATHICS framework, there is a couple of studies that measure student well-being during ERT with the help of other frameworks or theories. For example, when compared with Stančić and Senić Ružić (2022)’s findings, our study seemed to be in line with it, in that the teaching/learning practice during ERT did not seem to provide adequate support to university students’ basic needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, leaving students to their already existing capacities to cope with the challenges of online learning, as well.

In terms of pre-service teacher well-being, a study conducted by Ramazanoğlu and Uluyol (2023) revealed that “pre-service teachers’ opinions on the effectiveness and online trust were: concerns about the fact that remote teaching is not as effective as face-to-face education, anxiety about failing to achieve permanent learning, need for face-to-face communication, negative impact on student achievement, being doubtful of inability to make the student more active, anxiety about being inefficient, fear of personal privacy, lack of a good learning environment, concern about exposure to theft of personal information, and distrust in the remote teaching environment.” (p. 58). Interestingly, while the context is different since ERT was applied during the Covid-19 pandemic, in another study conducted by Ağçam et al. (2021), participants, who were also pre-service EFL teachers, were reported to “found ERT flexible, time-saving, and favorable for learners who felt more confident in virtual classrooms, and some considered ERT as an opportunity for self-actualization.” (p.16) Nonetheless as in our study, the majority favored face-to-face education over ERT appreciating the enhanced effectiveness of in-class education.

In terms of our research, a mixed-methods approach was adopted to ensure the reliability and validity of the results, demystifying the collection, analysis, and interpretation of both quantitative and qualitative data in a single and/or a series of studies (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2009) where the inclusion of the qualitative component allowed for a more nuanced understanding of the participants' attributions and subjective interpretations (Pedregon et al., 2012) of their emotional well-being, and quantitative part composed of axiological and epistemological assumptions (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). Hence, findings of the qualitative part suggested that university students, specifically pre-service English language teachers, seemed to have mostly appalling experiences, expressing hardship and struggles in terms of their education. This aligns with the quantitative findings, which indicated a lack of elevated (not particularly happy or unhappy) well-being among the participants. This also explains the strength of employing a mixed-methods research design in which “either one could not be enough to provide enough understanding of the research problem than either approach alone” (Cresswell & Plano Clark, 2007, p. 5). By integrating both quantitative and qualitative data, this study achieved a deeper understanding of the emotional well-being of university students within the context of emergency remote teaching.

Additionally, collecting data shortly after a significant event enabled us to capture the acute effects and immediate changes in emotional well-being that might have resulted from such an event and brought abrupt shifts in circumstances, disrupted daily routines, introduced new challenges and stressors, and eventually a shift to ERT. By collecting data within a month of the earthquake, we gained insights into the immediate emotional responses and adaptations of the participants to these circumstances, making the data valuable for understanding the initial impact of the earthquake on emotional well-being thanks to the time effect. “Time effect refers to a time interval in which the information contained in the data set is meaningful and effective” (Podsakoff & Dalton, 1987).


In conclusion, the analysis of the excerpts provided in this study offers valuable insights into the emotional well-being of individuals within the context of emergency remote teaching, as examined through the lens of the EMPATHICS framework. The findings reveal a rich tapestry of emotional experiences encompassing various dimensions.

The first two dimensions, emotion, and empathy, emerge as participants demonstrate a heightened sense of empathy towards individuals affected by disasters, such as earthquakes, recognizing the shared adversity and the need for compassion and support. However, the motivational dimension reflects a lack of enthusiasm and drive among some participants, evidenced by expressions of depression, lack of motivation, and a sense of aimlessness. The dimension of perseverance comes to the fore as participants recount stories of resilience and determination in the face of adversity, with some individuals finding renewed strength and purpose through their experiences. Conversely, the agency dimension indicates a sense of disempowerment and diminished autonomy, as participants describe feeling constrained by the limitations of online classrooms and the reduced opportunities for active participation and self-expression.

The dimension of time reveals a complex interplay between advantages and disadvantages. While participants appreciate the flexibility and convenience offered by hybrid education and remote teaching, concerns are expressed regarding the potential for extended duration and increased time commitments, particularly when compared to traditional face-to-face instruction. In terms of intelligences, participants with a preference for reading and writing express adaptability and a relatively positive outlook, while acknowledging the potential negative impact on learners who thrive on interactive and social learning experiences.

Self-efficacy concerns come to the fore as participants question their own qualifications and abilities as university students, highlighting a potential barrier to their overall emotional well-being. Similarly, self-concept is influenced by the shift to online schooling, with participants reporting changes in self-perception related to appearance, social interaction, and body image. Self-esteem appears to be negatively affected by feelings of depression, dissatisfaction, and a sense of loss. Lastly, the self-regulation dimension reveals varied challenges, including struggles with anxiety, depression, responsibility-taking, and time management. Participants describe difficulties in attending classes, maintaining focus, and fully engaging with the learning materials and platforms. Taken together, these findings underscore the complex interplay of emotions and the multifaceted nature of emotional well-being in the context of emergency remote teaching and hybrid education.

These insights carry important implications for educators, policymakers, and institutions. It is crucial to acknowledge and address the emotional needs of students, especially during times of crisis and educational transitions. Developing strategies and interventions that support empathy, motivation, perseverance, agency, time management, intelligences, self-efficacy, self-concept, self-esteem, and self-regulation is paramount. Such efforts can contribute to fostering resilience, enhancing engagement, and promoting positive emotional well-being among learners in emergency and hybrid educational contexts. Further research is needed to explore these dimensions more comprehensively and to design evidence-based interventions that holistically support students' emotional well-being to optimize their learning experiences and outcomes. Since this research has a small sample size, further research is also needed to understand the well-being of university students with larger populations. Lastly, further research is also needed to be conducted with teachers since “teacher well-being” has also been linked with student well-being (Mercer & Gregersen, 2020), and is has been believed to be directly linked to teacher burnout (Puertas Molero et al., 2019), which is recommended as a matter of inquiry for further research.

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The authors are grateful to the participants who took part in this study.


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Üzmez, A., Kavakli Ulutaş, N. An inquiry on the psychological well-being of the university students during emergency remote teaching: application of the EMPATHICS model. Smart Learn. Environ. 11, 17 (2024).

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