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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 916-922

Evaluation of distance learning and online exam experience of Turkish undergraduate dental students during the Covid-19 pandemic


Department of Endodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Karabuk University, Karabuk, Turkey

Date of Submission07-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance28-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication16-Jun-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Y Ozbay
Department of Endodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Karabük University, Karabük – 78050
Turkey
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/njcp.njcp_1949_21

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   Abstract 


Background: Although distance education has been received as an effective educational method in dentistry, the assessment of distance learning and online-exam methods in instantaneous conditions such as a pandemic has not been completely researched. Aims: The purpose of the present study was to assess student satisfaction with the distance learning and online-exam experience of dental students in Turkey during the pandemic. Subjects and Methods: Dental students in selected Turkish universities were invited to participate in the research. As a data collection tool, socio-demographic data and a web-based questionnaire consisting of 23 questions, addressing the problems experienced in education during the Covid-19 pandemic period and questioning the solutions of students regarding these problems were used. Satisfaction and attitudes towards distance education and online exams were examined. Results: A total of 1375 students participated in the study. The percentages of students at the various grades of dental school were as follows: first grade = 11.2%, second grade = 18.2%, third grade = 28.3%, fourth grade = 27%, and fifth grade = 15.1%. There is a significant relationship between classes and all scale expressions (P < 0.05). While 11.2% of the students who responded had not experienced any problems, the most common problem was that practical training could not be performed (45.8%) and the lessons were inefficient (29.7%). Conclusions: Dental students demonstrated a low degree of satisfaction and a negative attitude towards distance learning and the quality of presentation of educational material.

Keywords: Covid-19, dental education, distance education, online exam


How to cite this article:
Cirakoglu N Y, Ozbay Y. Evaluation of distance learning and online exam experience of Turkish undergraduate dental students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Niger J Clin Pract 2022;25:916-22

How to cite this URL:
Cirakoglu N Y, Ozbay Y. Evaluation of distance learning and online exam experience of Turkish undergraduate dental students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Niger J Clin Pract [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 29];25:916-22. Available from: https://www.njcponline.com/text.asp?2022/25/6/916/347621




   Introduction Top


In December 2019, a number of patients in Wuhan, China were presented with pneumonia which was later discovered to be highly infectious. On January 8, 2020, the pathogen was announced to be a novel coronavirus and the disease was named as named “Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19)” by the World Health Organization (WHO).[1] On January 30, 2020, WHO announced COVID-19 pandemic as a public health emergency.[2],[3] Transmission of the novel coronavirus occurs via virus-containing droplets and aerosols.[4]

The first case of COVID-19 in Turkey was diagnosed on March 10, 2020. Higher education in all universities was temporarily halted on March 16, 2020.[5] On March 26, 2020, the Turkish Higher Education Council declared that education in universities would be implemented via distance learning, and that on-campus instructions to be suspended.[6]

Distance education is a learning method that depends on the affiliation of information and communication technologies such as digital content, online seminars, graphs, and online interaction to be convenient for the learning pattern of students and facilitate their learning process.[7]

Distance education enables students to reach the learning process including instructor and knowledge without the obligation of being physically in the classroom.[8] Until the pandemic, face-to-face education had been the only settled method for dental faculties in Turkey. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the academic dental community faced a myriad of challenges. It has been challenging for both lecturers and students to adapt themselves to a relatively new educational method including examinations, considering the fact that dental education necessitates lecturer-student interaction in the preclinical and clinical environment. Therefore, self-assessment of dental students might be beneficial in terms of enhancing education methodology and clearing up students' concerns.

The purpose of the present study was to assess student satisfaction with the distance learning experience of dental students in Turkey during the pandemic and utilize student feedback to improve education methodology where distance learning is a part of education or become the only practicable method.


   Materials and Methods Top


This study was an online survey to assess technology-based distance learning experiences amongst dental students in Turkey. This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Non-Interventional Clinical Research of Karabük University, Turkey (2020/324) in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration for Human Researches. The research was carried out descriptively. The population of the study, in the 2019-2020 academic year, included all students studying dentistry at the state and private universities in Turkey (n = 1375). It was aimed to reach the all universities. The sample of the research was formed by the student who accepted to participate in the study and filled out the questionnaire on the internet. The demographic characteristics of the students included in the sampling are presented in [Table 1].
Table 1: Elements of the questionnaire

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As a data collection tool, socio-demographic data and a web-based questionnaire consisting of 23 questions, including open and closed-ended questions, addressing the problems dental students experienced in education during the Covid-19 pandemic period and questioning the solutions of students regarding these problems were used. The answers to the first 15 questions were determined as “I agree”, “I partially agree” and “I do not agree”. Only one option was allowed to answer all closed-ended questions, while four questions were specified as open-ended. These questions are “Please write down the primary problems you have about your education during the pandemic.” “Please write your suggestions for solutions to the problems you have about your education during the pandemic “.” Please write down the primary problems you experienced regarding the online exam system during the pandemic process and “ Please write down your solution suggestions for the problems you have with the exam system during the pandemic.”

The questionnaire was generated using a Google platform, and afterward, the link was sent to the participants via their email accounts for them to fill the questionnaire anonymously. On the landing page of the questionnaire, students were presented with an informed consent page, and the students who accepted were able to continue the survey. The questionnaires were collected between 21.07.2020 and 20.08.2020. Since some participants did not answer all questions, each question was analyzed according to the total number of answers.

Statistical analyse

The data were collected by the relevant researcher with a clinical study, transferred to the Microsoft Excel program, edited, cleaned, and made suitable for analysis. Frequency Analysis, Cross Tables, and Chi-Square Tests were used in the analyses. Data analysis was tested using IBM SPSS Statistics 26.0 (Statistical Package for Social Science) package programs. The statistical significance level was set at P < 0.05.


   Results Top


A total of 1375 students (513 male and 862 female) with a mean age of 21,4 years (ranging from 17 to 25 years) participated in the study. The percentages of students at the various grades of dental school were as follows: first grade = 11.2%, second grade = 18.2%, third grade = 28.3%, fourth grade = 27% and fifth grade = 15.1%. [Table 1] The answers given by the students to the questions determined as “I agree”, “I partially agree” and “I do not agree” of the survey are shown in [Table 2].
Table 2: Demographic background of participants (first section of the questionnaire)

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On evaluations about how the pandemic affects the education and examination process, the most approved statement is “ Distance-learning is not sufficient for practical lessons “ with 82.4%, while the least approved statement with 8.9% is “Problems with the exam system in distance education negatively affected my exam grades”.

There is a significant relationship between gender and the feedbacks to S3, S4, S5, S6, S10, and S14 (P < 0.05). While the rate of participation of female students in statements S3, S5, S6, and S14 is higher, the level of participation of male students in statements S4 and S10 is higher [Table 3]. There is a significant relationship between classes and all scale expressions (P < 0.05) [Table 4].
Table 3: Responses of participants

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Table 4: Answers given by the participants according to the classes

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While the participation rate of seniors in S1, S2, S5, S6, S7, S8, and S13 expressions was lower, the rate of agreeing with S4, S9, S10, S11, S12, S14, and S15 statements was higher. The distribution of the answers given by the students to the problems they experienced during distance education is shown in [Table 5].
Table 5: Primary educational problems during the pandemic

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When the problems experienced by students in distance education are examined; 32% did not answer this question. While 11.2% of the students claimed no problems, the most common problem was that practical training could not be done (45.8%) and the lessons were inefficient (29.7%).

There is a significant relationship between gender and S16, S18, and S19 (P < 0.05). On the other hand, a meaningful relationship with gender was not found in the solution suggestions for the problems related to distance education (P > 0.05).

According to the answers given, it was observed that female students had more problems with distance education and that they had more problems than male students about “inefficient lessons”.

Male students had fewer problems with the online exam system. Also, systemic errors, connection problems, and inability to focus are found to be higher in female students [Table 6]. In the solution of the problems experienced in the online exam system, female students have more suggestions than male students, while it is seen that these suggestions focus on systemic improvement and increasing the duration of the exam. Suggestions for educational problems and problems related to the exam system are categorized and presented in [Figure 1]. To quote the students' suggestions, the following examples can be given: “Theoretical courses can continue in the same way, but I think that the school should be opened for practical lessons.” “Let the make-up exam be available for students who have problems in the exam.”
Table 6: Problems experienced regarding the online exam system

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Figure 1: Primary educational problems during the pandemic

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There is a significant relationship between the classes of students and S16, S17, S18, and S19 (P < 0.05). The seniors have the fewest number of problems with distance education. While 3rd and 4th grades consider the lack of practical training as their biggest problem, at a higher rate than the other grades, internet connection problems and computer problems are mostly seen in 1st graders. The inefficiency of the lessons was seen as the most problematic in the 2nd grade. The fewest number of solutions for distance education were suggested by the seniors. While the 3rd grades recommend that practical lessons be conducted face-to-face and theoretical lessons with distance education at a higher rate than the other grades, the 2nd graders recommend the transition to face-to-face education at a higher rate than other grades.

The 4th and 5th grades have the fewest problems with the online exam system. Also, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades are the ones that experience the most systemic errors.


   Discussion Top


The occurrence of an improbable pandemic disease necessitates imperative alterations on the routine daily actions and habits, counting the teaching approaches in educational institutes. Such an unexpected alteration in the teaching approach produces challenges in terms of transmitting essential scientific knowledge to the students. Current studies have shown that, such as dentists, dental students are at high risk of infection since they closely treat patients as part of their dental education.[9],[10] Therefore, this study was planned to assess different positive and negative effects of distance learning and the concerning feedback of dental students in universities in Turkey.

A recent study has shown that less than half of the participant dental students expressed a positive attitude toward distance learning.[11] In contrast, only 11.2% of the participants in the current study did not report negatively about their experimental distance learning. In addition, concerning the online exam system, which was not investigated in previous studies, the rate of participants not experiencing problems was found to be 39.5% (less than half of the participants). Satisfaction and positive perception towards distance learning do not seem to be positively correlated with gender and grade in our study. These results were not consistent with previous studies conducted among dental students in Croatian and Iraqi universities. However, significant differences within different demographic variables were observed. As far as gender is concerned, males expressed higher satisfaction and a more positive perception than females towards distance learning, which is incompatible with other studies that females are keener on engaging in distance learning.[12],[13],[14]

On the other hand, other studies have declined the effect of gender in terms of students' perception and feedback regarding distance learning methods.[15],[16] Moreover, the attitudes of the 5th year students towards distance learning were significantly more favorable than their juniors.[14],[17] This result was in line with the finding of our study. Also according to the results of our study, the grade that has the least difficulty with the online exam system is the 4th grade. Nevertheless, there is no study investigating the problems related to the online exam system where we can compare this finding. The reason for this situation may be that the upper classes think that their knowledge and competencies about their profession are better and their theoretical course load decreases.

There are studies with conflicting results in the literature regarding the satisfaction with distance learning, with a similar dropout rate amongst participants of traditional classroom education.[18] Also, another study has reported a higher dropout rate for online education than conventional education.[19] This result can be attributed to the disruption of online education by students' daily activities and mismanagement of personal time. Similarly, according to our study, the proportion of students who are thinking unsuccessful in school life, worrying about performing their profession, and having the idea of leaving the school is higher. However, in general, students' level of satisfaction with online education programs is influenced by several factors, primarily the quality of the course.[20] This result was in line with the findings of our study.

In our study, the most common problem of students regarding the online education system is the lack of practical education (45.8%) and the inefficiency of the courses (29.7%). Since the lack of practical training will cause the inefficient lessons indirectly, it can be evaluated within the same problem. Since practical training is a crucial part of dental education, students' concerns are sensible. As a solution to this situation, the efficiency and quality of online courses can be increased in various ways. For example, practical course presentations with the addition of demonstrations and videos can be given to the dental students.

Furthermore, most of the students agreed that combining distance learning with traditional classroom learning is the best method for the optimal educational process. This finding is compatible with the results of a previous systematic review and meta-analysis[21] and other studies focused on medical and dental students.[14],[22]

In addition, technical difficulties related to the online education system (power cut and technical problems) and resource problems such as computers and the internet are also important problems reported by students (%26). Therefore, if face-to-face training cannot be initiated for a while due to the pandemic, arrangements can be made to improve technical problems.

The sudden transition to distance learning with no arrangements due to pandemics negatively affected the performance of the lecturers. When the routine education system in Turkey is considered, it is obvious that most of the lecturers have no previous experience in this field. This situation also may have negatively affected their performance. Additionally, distance learning programs could be routine educational ways of the educational process and their applications could be experienced before. However, the distance education system might have been very limited in many universities or even at all in Turkey. Therefore, even if face-to-face education is started after the pandemic is over, the distance education system must be considered and evaluated as an auxiliary education system.

Similar to other questionnaire studies, this study has inherent limitations whereby the cause-effect relationship could not be determined, instead, associations with certain variables could be evaluated. There are not many survey studies addressing the problems related to distance education during the pandemic. Therefore, we could only discuss published studies and other distance education studies published in previous years. Thus, naturally, considering the psychologically negative effects of the pandemic process, the attitudes of the students will not be the same compared to a distance education carried out in a normal period. Moreover, the current survey focused on evaluating online education for undergraduates only. Therefore, the evaluation of the use of distant learning for postgraduate education and assessment of webinars as a tool for continuing professional development might be considered in future studies.


   Conclusions Top


In general, the results of our study showed a low degree of satisfaction and a negative attitude towards distance learning and the quality of presentation of the scientific material. Therefore, it may be recommended to make some arrangements in the distance education system to increase the efficiency of the lessons and to carry out studies in order to access scientific resources and lecture notes more easily. We conclude that distance learning should be utilized and combined with the traditional classroom curriculum and some courses for students to develop computer and internet skills should be arranged.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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