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Since 2020, university courses and services have been affected by the COVID-19 global health emergency. Necessary safety measures have compelled educational systems to quickly convert to distance learning and, consequently, to modify their instructional design processes so that they can meet students’ needs. Changes have been seen in all teaching contexts, but in vocational higher education courses characterised by hands-on workshops that provide an experiential form of learning, professors are particularly pressed to find suitable formats for their virtual courses that allow students to participate and feel motivated to learn. Through the use of two qualitative case studies – a first-year and a third-year Education Sciences degree course, a three-year programme, at the University of Macerata, Italy – the present study focuses on motivational drivers. This article specifically describes and analyses the second case study, taking into account the lessons learnt and the inputs from the first case study. The data collection tools (questionnaire, observation grids) were designed starting from interpretative categories identified through analysing the first case study, in order to test the following research hypotheses and explore their connotations: (1) active student participation in group work can be a motivational challenge; and (2) both professor and peer feedback can be a key promoting aspect. The results of the study highlight the potential role of collaborative task-oriented practical learning activities in bridging students’ participation and feedback processes and fostering their motivation.
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