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   Table of Contents      
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 106-112

Perspective of Medical and Dental Students and Teachers Toward Online Teaching in Pharmacology During COVID-19 Pandemic


Department of Pharmacology, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission30-Oct-2021
Date of Decision04-Apr-2022
Date of Acceptance08-Jun-2022
Date of Web Publication03-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
MD Vandana Tayal
Department of Pharmacology, First Floor, Pathology Block, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi 110002, Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/mamcjms.mamcjms_120_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: In the light of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic on medical education systems worldwide, several institutions switched to online mode of teaching-learning. Therefore, this study was planned to evaluate the perception, difficulties faced, and preference of second year medical/dental students and their teachers toward the online learning and live-streamed lectures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This was a cross-sectional, questionnaire based observational study. Data were collected by administering pretested, self-administered, online circulated, structured questionnaire via Google Forms. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the study results. Results: In this study, 198 and 77 responses were obtained from MBBS and BDS students, respectively, and 14 responses from their teachers. Most students agreed that it was a good idea to conduct online teaching during lockdown. Majority of the students were able to adapt even without previous experience. “GoToWebinar” and “Cisco Webex” were reported as good online teaching platforms. Smart phones or tablets were most commonly used to attend classes. Major challenges reported were related to lack of skills, interest, attention, time management, resources (including internet connectivity), and poor communication among others. The students felt that the optimum duration of lectures should be 30 to 45 minutes. Majority of students and teachers alike felt that online teaching is a good option to be adopted for repeat classes or to gain extra knowledge in the future. Overall rating of online teaching (out of 10) was reported as good by both students (MBBS students mean score: 7.49 ± 1.57) and teachers (mean score: 7 ± 1.58). Conclusions: The situation arising out of the pandemic gave rise to a situation where online resources had to be used for teaching. The shift of medical education to online platforms presented a spectrum of issues for educators and students alike. It would be worth considering addressing these issues, so as to strengthen electronic learning processes in the institute.

Keywords: Online teaching, COVID-19 pandemic, medical eduation


How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Tayal V, Akhtar R, Chawla S, Roy V. Perspective of Medical and Dental Students and Teachers Toward Online Teaching in Pharmacology During COVID-19 Pandemic. MAMC J Med Sci 2022;8:106-12

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Tayal V, Akhtar R, Chawla S, Roy V. Perspective of Medical and Dental Students and Teachers Toward Online Teaching in Pharmacology During COVID-19 Pandemic. MAMC J Med Sci [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 25];8:106-12. Available from: https://www.mamcjms.in/text.asp?2022/8/2/106/354396




  Introduction Top


The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to closure of educational institutions across the world. To keep academic activities going, a shift to online platforms in educational institutes had to be made.

Electronic (e) or online learning can be defined as “the use of electronic technology and media to deliver, support, and enhance both learning and teaching and involves communication between learners and teachers utilizing online content.”[1] The e-learning method requires an internet connection with good speed and a computer or mobile. e-learning platforms comprise of live-streamed lectures, audiovisual clips, and virtual models. Online learning can provide students with “easier and more effective access to a wider variety and greater quantity of information.”[1] In contrast to traditional didactic models of instruction, these educational media have ability to update material in a timely manner to ensure delivery of the latest evidence-based content to trainees. Also, learners can use it according to their own pace of learning and it provides good opportunity of self‑directed learning.[2] At the same time, the teacher can evaluate competencies through online assessments, enabling learners to receive feedback for self‑improvement.[3] However, there are several barriers for online learning, such as technical issues, academic and social interaction, technical skills, learner motivation, time and support for studies, cost, and access to the internet.[4] Further, an ineffective design and arrangement of multimedia materials could result in low-quality online learning.[5]

In order to continue teaching and learning practices, our institute, which is a tertiary care teaching hospital, also resorted to an entirely online mode of teaching as a solution to the COVID-19 crisis. Changes in teaching, learning, and assessment methods were done. Implementation of e-learning was done for the first time in this institute. Therefore, it is crucial that account be taken of the difficulties and shortcomings felt by the students and teachers. This will be helpful in getting insights for further improvement.

Hence, the present study aims to evaluate the perception, difficulties faced, and preference of second year medical and dental students and their teachers toward the online learning and live-streamed lectures during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  Methods Top


Study design: It was a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based observational study. The information about the study was provided in the online questionnaire and the participation was considered equivalent to the consent for the same. All the data was anonymized and pooled for analysis. No pressure or coercion was executed on any of the participants to share the data. Privacy was maintained during data collection.

Study duration: The study was conducted for 3 months (between September 2020 and November 2020).

Sample size: A minimum of 150 responses from MBBS students and 50 responses from dental students were targeted.

Inclusion criteria:

  1. Participants of ≥18 years of age.
  2. Second year MBBS students (batch joining second year in 2019).
  3. Second year BDS students (batch joining second year in 2019 and 2020).
  4. Teachers, faculty, medical officers, senior residents of the Department of Pharmacology who were involved in teaching and assessment of MBBS/BDS students.


There were no exclusion criteria.

Methodology

The data were collected through pretested, self-administered, online circulated, structured questionnaire via Google Forms. There were separate questionnaires for:
  1. Students (separate questionnaires were prepared for MBBS and BDS students)
  2. Teachers


The online questionnaire for students had five sections:

Section A: demographic information

Section B: perception toward online teaching and tools used for conduct of MBBS/ BDS class

Section C: electronic technology based − difficulties faced during online teaching/interaction

Section D: perception toward the instructor

Section E: perception toward online tool used for conducting tests/assessments.

The online questionnaire for teachers had four sections:

Section A: demographic information

Section B: perception toward online teaching and tool used for conducting class

Section C: electronic technology based − experience, difficulties faced during conduct of online sessions

Section D: perception toward established connect with students.

Statistical analysis

Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the study results. Suitable statistical tools were used to validate and analyze the data.


  Results Top


A total of 198 responses were obtained from MBBS students and 77 responses were obtained from the dental students while 14 responses were obtained from the MBBS and BDS teachers of the department. Demographic information is shown in [Table 1].
Table 1 Demographic and baseline details of medical/dental students and their teachers

Click here to view


About 170 (86.3%) and 72 (93.5%) of MBBS and BDS students, respectively, attended between 75% and 100% of online classes.

A) Perception toward online teaching and learning methodology during COVID-19 lockdown phase in medical and dental students:

When the MBBS students were enquired whether it was a good idea to conduct online teaching during lockdown, majority (i.e., 62.6%) of the students agreed. About 85.9% students thought that online classes were a viable alternative if for any reason lockdown is imposed again and regular classes are suspended. Similarly, majority of BDS students (74%) felt it was a good idea to conduct online teaching during the lockdown period.

However, less than half (43.1%) of MBBS students felt that they were able to adapt quickly during the switch from classroom teaching to online teaching, whereas 24.6% felt it was not easy and it took a lot of time with eventual success, and 8.2% found it very difficult. In contrast, only 18.2% BDS students felt that the online teaching tool/software used was difficult to adapt to whereas, 81.8% felt that it was not.

The most commonly used device to attend online classes was smart phone or tablet among both MBBS and BDS students. Respondents were aware of multiple online teaching platforms like GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, YouTube, Zoom, etc.

Online lectures were found to be really interesting by 46.2% MBBS students whereas, 50.3% students felt they were not that good. Among BDS students, 41.6% agreed and 5.2% strongly agreed that they were very much enthusiastic and interested in attending these online lectures. However, only 13% BDS students felt that online classes were better as compared to actual lectures in the college.

Perception toward the instructor

During online classes, 84.7% MBBS students revealed that they were able to ask their doubts and they were answered by the teachers, whereas 14.3% could not ask any questions as they did not know where the option of asking questions in the software was. A total of 67.5% BDS students reported that the teacher cleared their doubts, 71.1% participants agreed and 18.4% strongly agreed that the teachers encouraged the students to ask questions and give answers during online lectures. Various means of clarifying doubts included asking questions orally, writing in the chat section, or later on through WhatsApp or e-mail.

Majority of the MBBS students, 67.7%, did not believe that online classes were better than actual lectures in college and found it was difficult for them to learn via online mode. Of these, 16.8% found it really dull and 22.3% felt it was just a one-way flow of information. A majority of the BDS students, that is, 59.8% students also disagreed that they were more attentive during online sessions than offline classroom lectures.

However, few points mentioned in favor of online classes as compared to actual lectures in college were convenience of own space, no disturbance from other students, and also unnecessary travelling was avoided. About 43.4% BDS students did not feel that online classes should be incorporated in curriculum along with classroom teaching. Majority of the students, 61.6%, felt that online classes could be adopted for repeat classes for improvement purpose [Figure 1].
Figure 1 Perspective of teachers and students for the adoption of online classes as a mode of teaching.

Click here to view


Electronic technology based − difficulties faced during online teaching/interaction

A total of 66.8% of MBBS and 49.4% of BDS students faced some technical issues during online classes. The students rated the technical components and facilitating and inhibiting factors of live-streamed classes [Table 2].
Table 2 Rating of various parameters related to live-streamed classes

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On enquiring about the factors contributing to important drawbacks in online classes, 64% BDS students felt that there was no personal contact with teacher, 48% felt that the social aspect (going to class with friends) was missing, 74.7% felt that they had less focus in comparison to regular classes, 18.7% students felt that the internet data was expensive.

Perception toward online tool used for conducting tests/assessments

Overall, 49.5% MBBS students and 50.6% BDS students found the online tests conducted by department to be useful. And 95.4% of MBBS and 83.1% BDS students liked the software “Google Forms” used for conducting the online tests.

Both MBBS and BDS students felt that multiple choice questions (MCQ) format for online tests was better than asking to write short answers.

The MBBS students were asked to grade their overall experience of the online teaching conducted by the Department of Pharmacology by giving a score from 1 to 10 (1 being “very poor” and 10 being “excellent”). The mean score was found to be 7.49 ± 1.57. Similarly, on asking BDS students about their overall experience 26.7% rated it as excellent and 49.3% rated it as good.

B) Teachers’ perceptions toward online teaching adopted with medical and dental students

Perception toward online teaching and the tool used for conducting class

All the teachers found online classes a viable alternative to classroom teaching during the COVID pandemic. However, all felt that the quality of interaction is reduced during an online class as one is not able to see the student. Majority (85.7%) of the teachers felt that every department in college should have dedicated areas with smart boards, computer tablet, fast internet, etc., while 14.3% felt that the existing infrastructure was sufficient.

Half of the teachers believed that they would not mind having short formal training to be more effective, 12.5% thought that although it was somewhat difficult initially, they were eventually able to come to speed with extra skills required for online class.

About 75% of the teachers were satisfied with “GoToWebinar (LogMeIn Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, US)” provided by the college for taking online class while remaining felt other platforms such as Microsoft teams were better.

Electronic technology based: experience, difficulties faced during conduct of online sessions

About 75% teachers reported having technical issues like loss of internet, loss of electricity, etc., during an online class sometimes and 12.5% reported it most of the times. A total of 57.1% teachers responded that they knew whom to contact to receive support and report issues when they faced difficulties with the online learning system. While 75% teachers felt that a computer technician should be provided during an online class for taking care of things just like a lecture theater attendant during normal class.

About 71.4% teachers felt that online classes can act as a supplement to regular classes after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Majority of the teachers, that is, 57.1% felt that online classes can be adopted as a mode of teaching to gain extra knowledge on specific topics, and 50% felt that they can be adopted for taking repeat classes for improvement. [Figure 1] highlights that not only the teachers, but also MBBS students felt that online teaching could be adopted for extra knowledge and repeat classes.

On enquiring about the factors facilitating live streamed lectures, 13 (92.9%) teachers responded that they had convenience of own space, three (35.7%) responded that there was no disturbance from the students, five (35.7%) felt that it was time saving, two (14.3%) felt that it was less tiring, and one (7.1%) responded that it was optimal use of technology.

As far as the factors creating hindrance in taking live stream lectures were concerned, 85.7% responded that there was technology failure, 85.7% felt that they could not visualize response from the students, nine (64.3%) felt that it was boring to speak in front of the screen, three (21.4%) felt it was more time consuming to prepare for such a session, and one (7.1%) held the poor internet connectivity issues as a hindrance for these classes.

Perception towards online assessments

About 50% teachers were very much satisfied with the performance of students in the online tests conducted, whereas 12.5% were not satisfied at all. A total of 62.5% teachers were unsure if the students used unfair means/cheated during online MCQ tests.

Perception toward established connect with students

Overall, 11 (78.6%) teachers responded that students sometimes raised doubts as they were able to encourage students to ask questions and give answers during online lectures. An overwhelming majority of teachers, that is, 92.9% reported that they were able to clear doubts mostly during real time while the lecture was going on.

Only six (42.9%) teachers agreed that they felt a good connection with the students throughout the online lecture. Majority (57.1%) of the teachers agreed that they were able to stimulate interest in the topic through online teaching.

The teachers were asked to grade their overall experience of online teaching by giving a score of 1 to 10 (1 being “very poor” and 10 being “excellent”). The mean score was 7 ± 1.58.


  Discussion Top


Medical education and healthcare institutions all over the world faced a great challenge with the ongoing spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While the government recommended that colleges be closed immediately, students and academic institutions both faced the issue of providing good quality learning through online platforms. Internet accessibility is still not a widespread resource in a low and middle-income nation such as India.[6]

The introduction of the new competency-based curriculum for students enrolled in 2019 was a particular source of concern in India around the time of the pandemic’s onset. Most of the country’s institutes had set up a day-by-day schedule for phase 1. It was also about the time it would take to prepare for phase 2 in terms of objectives, integration, and scheduling. Teachers in phase 2 were required to be trained on the new curriculum as well. These processes, however, were hampered.[7]

In this study, most students believed it was a good idea to conduct online teaching during lockdown and that it could be a viable alternative if a lockdown is reimposed. Majority of students were able to adapt to online platforms, although most had no previous experience. This is similar to a previous study where majority of medical schools managed the rapid switch to online learning (78%) and most students were satisfied with the quantity (67%) and quality (62%) of the courses.[8]

“GoToWebinar” was reported as a good teaching platform in general, although small groups of students (such as BDS students) preferred more interactive platforms such as “Cisco Webex (Cisco, San Jose, California US).”

Smartphones or tablets were most commonly used to attend classes by students, whereas desktops were used by most teachers to take these classes. This is in contrast with a recent study in which most participants preferred a computer (79%), fewer preferred a tablet (20%), and only very few used a smartphone (1%).[8]

Most students were not able to develop interest in online lectures. Other studies too have reported similar results stating that this mode of teaching creates a sense of boredom during lectures and causes students to feel less motivated to attend future lessons.[9] Most students believed they could get their queries and doubts sorted in online sessions in real time. Around 93% of the teachers too believed that they could clear student doubts in real time.

Almost a third of the participants believed that the online classes were better which can be mostly attributed to the convenience of attending from own space. Previous studies indicate that online formats allow the students an easy accessibility to educational material as per their convenience, in their preferred environments, and repeatedly.[7] Some reasons why online teaching was considered better were: time saving, no disturbance, flexibility to attend from anywhere, can be attended from the comfort of home and sometimes when there is some other urgent work or when one is sick, no issue of lack of visibility for backbenchers, taking notes and screenshots was easier, makes asking questions easy and sometimes less embarrassing, and one on one interaction with the presenter.

Main challenges faced during online teaching and learning were lack of skills, time management, lack of infrastructure or resources, poor communication at various levels, negative attitude towards new technologies, and student engagement.[10] In addition, there may be isolation due to shifting from the medical school setting to home, reduced discussions with peers, increased dependence on email, and an uninterrupted internet access.[7]

Students also reported a general lack of attention in their online sessions and poor internet connectivity in some areas. A recent study from the UK has reported similar difficulties faced by students, observing that the commonly perceived barriers to using online teaching platforms included family distraction (26.76%) and poor internet connection (21.53%).[11]

Most students found the online tests via “Google Forms” to be useful. They also preferred the MCQ format over short answer questions. Cheating was believed to be possible by more than half the students in both the student populations, signifying a substantial need for improvement in this aspect. Similar issues have been reported with online examination platforms wherein ethical challenges, and several difficulties are encountered in terms of its implementation. For example, there might be risks such as leaked questions, which would prevent an accurate in-person assessment.[9] Some strategies suggested to overcome use of unfair means/cheating during online MCQ tests were making papers in such a way that students either can answer or waste time in looking for the same, and developing or using a software in which opening multiple tabs of browsers can disqualify you from the exam.

It is clear that the students felt that the college campus provides an environment that encourages their learning like a strict schedule, dedicated area for lecture, audiovisual aids, direct access to teacher for clearing any doubt, etc. This is apparent also from the fact that a large majority of students felt that the online classes provided them mental peace during the period of lockdown. Traditional teaching methods (including mentoring, face-to-face contact, and supervision) play an important role in the development of higher-order cognitive skills, and apart from face-to-face contact, interaction and discussion are also currently among the best way for students to learn these important skills.[12]

The optimum duration of live streamed lectures as felt by the students was around 30 to 45 minutes. About 50% teachers also felt that the optimum duration of live-streamed lecture as per attention span should be 30 to 45 minutes.

All the teachers believed that the quality of interaction is reduced during an online class as one is not able to physically see the student. This corroborates well with a recent study which reported that slightly less than half of the respondents (45.5%) thought that online learning was less effective in building skills and knowledge and 41% thought that the interaction level was somewhat less effective.[12] However, some studies have reported exactly the opposite too with 59.73% of students reporting that online teaching sessions have been interactive, with students finding the opportunity to interact via the chat box or by directly speaking to the lecturer.[11]

Inadequate infrastructure for online teaching in institutions is also reported in some studies.[11],[12] An overwhelming majority of teachers also felt that every department in college should have dedicated areas with smart boards, computer tablet, fast internet, a short formal training, and a computer technician available for help as in offline sessions for it to be more effective. Majority of the teachers felt that online classes can act as a supplement to regular classes after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Some studies, however, also report that there might be more infrastructure available for online teaching in medical schools than initially expected.[8]

Many medical schools in India started online lectures for students. However, most of these are traditional lectures given in electronic mode without much attention to the educational requirements of online learning. In addition, few integrate evaluation components. Talking about online/digital/simulation-based learning may seem impressive, but the fact remains that we in India are still far from such a modality.[7] A recent systematic review of the literature has shown that “blended learning” (combination of online and offline teaching) has a better impact on knowledge outcomes than traditional learning. Online education proved to be effective during COVID pandemic.[12]


  Conclusion Top


Online teaching–learning during COVID-19 enabled effective academic engagement with the students. e-learning which was the only way possible during the pandemic, raised pertinent issues which need to be addressed so that the experience gained in online teaching can be used to strengthen the online teaching resources for future use. Using the four main components of skills, resources, institutional initiatives and assistance, and attitude, a student-centered strategy using technology should be adopted, including doubt clarification sessions via web portals, virtual bedside simulation programs, creative conceptualization, and student participation. Such methods necessitate strategy, qualified staff, and financial resources. It is important that technology-enabled educational processes be encouraged in addition to the conventional teaching learning methods.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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Muilenburg LY, Berge ZL. Student barriers to online learning: a factor analytic study. Distance Educ 2005;26:29-48.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Mayer RE. Multimedia learning. In: The Psychology of Learning and Motivation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002. 85-139. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/cbo9781139164603  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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Chatterjee S. The COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of a medical student in India. Int J Med Stud 2020;8:82-3.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Sahi PK, Mishra D, Singh T. Medical education amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian Pediatr 2020;57:652-7. doi: 10.1007/s13312-020- 1894-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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Stoehr F, Müller L, Brady A et al. How COVID-19 kick-started online learning in medical education − the DigiMed study. PLoS One 2021;16:e0257394. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257394.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Alsoufi A, Alsuyihili A, Msherghi A et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical education: medical students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding electronic learning. PLoS One 2020;15:e0242905. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242905.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Nimavat N, Singh S, Fichadiya N et al. Online medical education in India − different challenges and probable solutions in the age of COVID-19. Adv Med Educ Pract 2021;12:237-243. doi: 10.2147/AME P.S295728.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
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Dost S, Hossain A, Shehab M, Abdelwahed A, Al-Nusair L. Perceptions of medical students towards online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national cross-sectional survey of 2721 UK medical students. BMJ Open 2020;10:e042378. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen- 2020-042378.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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AlQhtani A, AlSwedan N, Almulhim A et al. Online versus classroom teaching for medical students during COVID-19: measuring effectiveness and satisfaction. BMC Med Educ 2021;21:452. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021- 02888-1.  Back to cited text no. 12
    


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