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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 180-184

Perception, impact, and barriers of online learning among dental students in Chennai City


Department of Public Health Dentistry, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Dr. MGR Educational and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission27-Dec-2021
Date of Acceptance17-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication26-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. R Kesavan
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Dr. MGR Educational and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijcd.ijcd_33_21

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  Abstract 


Background: Electronic learning is an influential technological tool that blends the traditional teaching and electronic resources and had become an imperative platform in supporting the education system in recent years due to COVID-19 pandemic. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted among the dental students across Chennai to evaluate the impact of online learning and to identify the barriers faced that will aid in formulating alternative strategies to reduce the difficulties and improve the quality of learning. The study population was selected based on certain inclusion and exclusion criteria. The data collection was done through a validated questionnaire with assistance from Google Forms. Results: It was found that around 67% of the participants had not attended any online classes before COVID-19. Half of them had Internet connectivity issues during online classes and about 62% of the students faced lots of distractions during online classes. When the participants were asked about their learning preference, majority of them responded that they were comfortable with the traditional method. Conclusion: It was concluded that students had experienced connectivity and other technical issues during these classes and most of them were able to manage it. The major disadvantage of online classes was they were not able to reproduce a practical and clinical hands-on experience, which is indispensable for health-care students. However, the students were able to cope up with it since there was the only choice existing.

Keywords: Challenges, COVID-19, influence, insight, online learning


How to cite this article:
Kesavan R, Mary A V, Ganesh P, Raj P R, Priya V L, Elakiya S. Perception, impact, and barriers of online learning among dental students in Chennai City. Int J Community Dent 2021;9:180-4

How to cite this URL:
Kesavan R, Mary A V, Ganesh P, Raj P R, Priya V L, Elakiya S. Perception, impact, and barriers of online learning among dental students in Chennai City. Int J Community Dent [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 26];9:180-4. Available from: https://www.ijcommdent.com/text.asp?2021/9/2/180/340993




  Introduction Top


In recent years, electronic resources had become an imperative platform in supporting the education system owing to its quickness, accessibility, efficiency, and cost-effective in providing education to multiple individuals at anytime and anywhere across the globe, thus overcoming many traditional educational learning difficulties, such as geographical access, lack of classrooms, and financial constraints along with the scarcity of faculty.[1],[2]

E-learning or electronic learning is a powerful technological tool that blends the traditional teaching and electronic resources which supports and facilitates conventional education and learning methods through the use of information and communication technological tools (ICT).[3] Computer-based e-learning is a flexible method of e-learning delivered through interactive elements of the computer applications, IC tools such as CD-ROM, hard disk, and software associated with learning materials as required. On the other hand, web-based learning or online learning includes number of activities involving computers and interactive web-based networks simultaneously that acts as a replacement for the traditional classroom model.[4] It also delivers active and interactive learning, which encourages collaboration, better understanding, and personality development and cultivates social skills and knowledge or idea-sharing practices among students as well as the teachers/instructors. It has also been found to satisfy diverse learning styles across the world, which is considered a successful transformation in teaching and learning model.[5]

COVID-19 has dramatically reshaped the way global education is delivered. To reduce the disease transmission, all educational institutions including dental colleges were closed. Owing to the vast undergraduate dental syllabus and the pressure to complete it within the academic calendar, dental colleges resorted to online classes. The swift implementation of online classes led to a very new experience for both the students and educators.[6]

A conventional dental teaching–learning practice mainly involves lectures/problem-based learning and laboratory/preclinical demonstration by teachers on models followed by clinical skill training where successful student–patient interactions take place. In the current pandemic situation, proper utilization of available ICT tools guided by virtual reality practices can reduce the fear and anxiety among dental students to ensure restoration of dental practices once the pandemic ends.[7],[8]

Challenges to online education reported in the dental literature so far include issues relating to time management, use of technology tools, students' assessment, communication, and the lack of in-person interaction. Besides, online education may not be equitable in terms of access and the quality of teaching. Some students do not have access to laptops, or sufficient Internet connection at home. Challenges to the online environment during an emergency may delay the adoption of technology-enabled education.[9]

However, acceptance of these techniques needs a better understanding of advantages and limitations with sound knowledge. Hence, the present questionnaire survey was carried out to assess the perception, impact, and barriers of online learning among dental students.


  Materials and Methods Top


The present cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted among the dental students across Chennai to evaluate the impact of online learning and to identify the barriers faced that will aid in formulating alternative strategies to reduce the difficulties and improve the quality of learning. The study was conducted between June and October 2020. The ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Review Board of Dr. MGR Educational and Research Institute (DRMGRERI/TMDCH/EC/2021–22/1307036). The required information for the questionnaire was collected through published scientific articles pertaining to the study and a structured questionnaire comprising 20 questions in the English language was prepared and evaluated. The questionnaire consists of Section-A: socio-demographic status, Section-B: barriers of online learning, Section-C: impact of online learning, and Section-D: perception of online learning. The study population was selected by the following inclusion and exclusion criteria based on a convenient sampling method.

Inclusion criteria

  1. Undergradute dental students
  2. Students belonging to dental schools of Tamil Nadu
  3. Students who had English as their first language in school.


Exclusion criteria

  1. Dental students who do not belong to the state of Tamil Nadu
  2. Students who were not interested to participate in this study.


The questionnaire had both combinations of selected responses to certain questions and also few close-ended questions (Yes/No/don't know) along with demographic information such as age, gender, year of study, and occupation of the head of the family. The questionnaire was validated during a pilot study. It was found to have adequate internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = 0.70). The content validity was done by a panel of experts who evaluated the importance of every item in the questionnaire. Since this study was conducted during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period, online Google Forms were generated and distributed through social media platforms and all the participants were informed about the purpose of the study and assured that their participation was purely voluntary and confidential through an informed consent form.

Statistical analysis

The data obtained through Google Forms were transferred into Excel format and its analysis was done using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 26.0. (Armonk, NY: IBM Corp). Descriptive statistics including frequency and percentages were calculated for all the responses given by the participants. Comparison between genders was made using cross-tabulations and statistical significance was assessed using Pearson's Chi-square test.


  Results Top


This study was conducted among 275 participants between the age of 17–29 years with the mean of 21.08 years of which 163 (59.3%) were female and 112 (40.7%) were male respondents. The students who majorly participated in this study were final years contributing up to 26.2% (70) of the responses, followed by CRRI: 21.8% (60), 3rd year: 19.6% (54), 1st year: 19.3% (53), and 2nd year: 13.1% (36).

[Table 1] describes the frequency distribution for each response to the questionnaire among 275 participants. About 67% of the participants have not attended any online classes before COVID-19. Half of the respondents (52%) have faced Internet connectivity issues during online classes, but they also responded that it was manageable. Around 62% of the students faced lots of distractions during online classes.
Table 1: Responses of the participants to various questions

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[Table 2] depicts the comparisons between male and female participants having varied responses to specific questions. There was a remarkable difference in the time spent on online learning between the genders of which females seemed to spend more time on online classes than males. Females accounted for 44 (27.0%) and male 11 (9.8%) for spending 5–7 h on online learning.
Table 2: Comparison between gender for certain specific questions

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The study revealed that 78.2% (215) of the total participants had a negative impact on their health due to online classes and 63.3% (174) of the participants felt that they were not able to concentrate on online classes while attending classes from home.

Overall, when participants were asked about their preference on which method do they prefer for learning, they majorly responded that they are comfortable with the traditional method of teaching.


  Discussion Top


The present study was aimed to describe and clarify the perceptions, impact, and barriers of online teaching among dental students during the coronavirus pandemic situation. It is important to understand these perceptions to enable government and decision-makers to develop solutions immediately.[10] Due to the sudden shift from traditional learning experiences to online classes, dental students faced a lot of challenges such as lack of experience, lack of preparedness, and unequipped learning materials in the form of notes and textbooks. It is also evident that clinical teachings at chairside, laboratory skills, problem-based learning, and community field learning were not possible with the online teaching format.[6]

In this study, a remarkable difference in the time spent on online learning was observed between the genders of which females seemed to spend more time on online classes than males. Females accounted for 44 (27.0%) and male 11 (9.8%) for spending 5–7 h on online learning. Yu, in an observational study, noted that females could achieve higher learning outcomes than males because they were more persistent, committed with stronger self-regulation than males which also led to their significantly more positive perception toward online learning. The gender differences in learning outcomes also revealed that males were more stable in attitudes, while females performed well in engagement activities.[11]

In contrast to the present study, Yau and Tang have noted that males tend to use technology with positive and favorable attitudes, whereas females show less interest in technology-related courses like e-learning. They also revealed that time spending on technology-related courses as well as e-learning courses by males are believed to be more than the females.[12] From the above observations, it is clear that advanced technology provided convenience for students in pursuing e-learning courses easily irrespective of the gender difference.

The study revealed that 78.2% (215) of the total participants had a negative impact on their health due to online classes. Similar to the present study, Samra et al. reported that factors such as poor Internet connectivity, interrupted power supply, vague learning contents, overloaded assignments and poor learning environment leads to health problems and negative impact on overall health status.[14] On the other hand, Iurcov et al. identified a higher level of concern regarding their mental health than their physical health. Thus, the use of excessive technology caused disordered and unhealthy eating habits, appetite, and sleep disorders.[13]

About 63.3% (174) of the participants felt that they were not able to concentrate on online classes while attending classes from home. This could be due to lack of face-to-face interaction, increased stress levels, depression, and anxiety along with decreased physical activity[13] even though online learning allowed students to attend lecture classes at their own comfort zones, make better notes with available technologies, and also avoid long travel-related issues. A common reason for negative impact on both physical and mental status was attributed to the difficulty in adjusting to new learning methods, loss of connection during classes due to poor or unstable network availability, family-related disruptions and/or responsibilities at home, and poor communication between faculties and students.[14]

Majority of the respondents are comfortable with the traditional method over the online teaching method and prefer the traditional method of learning. The lack of patient or clinical exposure created a fear in the minds of dental students which appeared to be one of the major obstacles for e-learning.[15] Steps needed to be taken by incorporating innovative ideas such as clinical case discussions in a separate interactive class, video demonstration of clinical procedures and physical examination methods, and integrating clinical case discussions while teaching certain topics through social media platforms to aid in clinical interest and enhance diagnostic skills.[14],[16]


  Conclusion Top


The present study highlighted the difficulties as well as positive outcomes handled by dental students during online classes over the past 1 year due to COVID-19 pandemic. It was concluded that students had faced Internet connectivity and other technical issues during these classes and most of them were able to manage it. The major disadvantage of online classes was they were not able to reproduce practical and clinical hands-on experience, which is indispensable for health-care students. However, the students were able to cope up with it since there was no other option available.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Joshi A, Gupta K. Elementary education in Bharat (that is India): Insights from a postcolonial ethnographic study of a Gurukul. Int J Indian Cult Bus Manage 2017;15:100-20.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Linjawi AI, Alfadda LS. Students' perception, attitudes, and readiness toward online learning in dental education in Saudi Arabia: A cohort study. Adv Med Educ Pract 2018;9:855-63.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
El-Hamed Diab GM, Elgahsh NF. E-learning during COVID-19 pandemic: Obstacles faced nursing students and its effect on their attitudes while applying it. Am J Nurs Sci 2020;9:295-309.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Cook DA. Web-based learning: Pros, cons and controversies. Clin Med (Lond) 2007;7:37-42.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Alsabawy A, Cater-Steel A, Soar J. Determinants of perceived usefulness of e-learning systems. Comput Hum Behav 2016;64:843-58.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Nepal S, Atreya A, Menezes RG, Joshi RR. Students' perspective on online medical education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal. J Nepal Health Res Counc 2020;18:551-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Jang HW, Kim KJ. Use of online clinical videos for clinical skills training for medical students: Benefits and challenges. BMC Med Educ 2014;14:56.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Turkyilmaz I, Hariri NH, Jahangiri L. Student's perception of the impact of e-learning on dental education. J Contemp Dent Pract 2019;20:616-21.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Rajab MH, Gazal AM, Alkattan K. Challenges to online medical education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cureus 2020;12:E8966.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Abuhammad S. Barriers to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak: A qualitative review from parents' perspective. Heliyon 2020;6:e05482.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Yu Z. The effects of gender, educational level, and personality on online learning outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 2021;18:14.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Yau HK, Tang ST. Gender difference of time spent on computer to learn e-learning courses in Hong Kong higher education. In: Proceedings of the International Multi Conference of Engineers and Computer Scientists 2018. Vol. 2. Hong Kong: IMECS; 2018.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Iurcov R, Pop LM, Iorga M. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on academic activity and health status among Romanian medical dentistry students; A cross-sectional study. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021;18:6041.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Samra RK, Nirola A, Verma A, Nagpal A, Thakur M. Dental students' Perception on the impact of E-learning in continuing dental education during the current pandemic scenario. Indian J Dent Sci 2021;13:61.  Back to cited text no. 14
  [Full text]  
15.
Asiry MA. Dental students' perceptions of an online learning. Saudi Dent J 2017;29:167-70.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Mgutshini T. Online or not? A comparison of students' experiences of an online and an on-campus class. Curationis 2013;36:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 16
    



 
 
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