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Table of Contents
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 239-246

Assessing the satisfaction of students with the learning methods used during the coronavirus pandemic in Saudi Universities


Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission15-Oct-2020
Date of Decision28-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance13-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication08-Jul-2022

Correspondence Address:
Ahmed Fathalla Ibrahim El Fouhil
Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, King Saud University, P. O. Box: 2925(28), Riyadh 11461
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jnsm.jnsm_131_21

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  Abstract 


Objectives: The aim was to assess Saudi students' satisfaction with two methods of lecture delivery used during coronavirus pandemic, namely live online sessions (LOS) and recorded online lectures (ROL), and students' perspectives regarding distance and traditional education. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted on 600 Saudi students from 22 Saudi universities during December 2020. A questionnaire, formed of both multiple choices and open-ended questions, was designed at the Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and distributed via social media applications. Collected data were statistically analyzed. Results: Participants were satisfied with both methods and recommended to implement both of them. They had better outcomes with ROL, felt it more appropriate for preparation for exams, and for enhancement of focus ability. Students of health and sciences colleges had more preference of LOS regarding satisfaction and implementation, and of ROL for preparation for examinations and enhancement of focus ability. Students of humanities colleges preferred ROL in all aspects. Being time saving and giving more flexibility for learners, students suggested implementation of distance learning for selected theoretical courses. Using better technologies for communication and training teachers and students on ways to use educational programs is recommended. Traditional practical classes should be small, more interactive, recorded, and available on website. Conclusion: Students were satisfied with both methods with more preference of one of them in some aspects and suggested continuous innovation in learning.

Keywords: Coronavirus pandemic, distance learning, Saudi Universities, students' satisfaction, traditional learning


How to cite this article:
Alyahya KI, Ibrahim El Fouhil AF. Assessing the satisfaction of students with the learning methods used during the coronavirus pandemic in Saudi Universities. J Nat Sci Med 2022;5:239-46

How to cite this URL:
Alyahya KI, Ibrahim El Fouhil AF. Assessing the satisfaction of students with the learning methods used during the coronavirus pandemic in Saudi Universities. J Nat Sci Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 11];5:239-46. Available from: https://www.jnsmonline.org/text.asp?2022/5/3/239/350294




  Introduction Top


All over the world, the field of education is affected by a paradigm shift owing to a new awakening in the teaching–learning process. Currently, the responsibility for education is on the learner, and the teacher is viewed as a facilitator. By understanding that traditional teaching methods no longer enthuse the students, the universities, colleges, and academic institutions continuously strive to innovate methods that will sustain their interest and make the learning process more productive and interesting.[1]

Distance learning is a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in the classroom.[2] The advent of the Internet and the growth of the Web have now transformed distance teaching from a broadcast mode to an interactive mode. When combined with other network tools such as Listservs, Usenet newsgroups, and video teleconferencing, the Web acts as a virtual classroom to bring together a community of learners for interactive education. The e-learning process needs a strong Internet connection and modern devices, such as mobile phones and iPods, because remote learning requires effective learning platforms for video files, audio files, chats, shares, and homework.[3]

In a matter of weeks, coronavirus pandemic has changed how students are educated around the world. Those changes provide a glimpse at how education may change in the long term.[4],[5] Owing to the health situation around the world, Saudi Arabia, which follows traditional learning at its universities, was pushed to use learning alternatives and to accelerate the e-learning process through its known and accredited platforms. Having a complete remote-learning infrastructure and an advanced integrated online education system, Saudi universities have ensured the continuation of education using the e-learning methods.[6]

The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness of two methods for lecture delivery used during the coronavirus pandemic at Saudi universities (i.e., live online sessions [LOS] and recorded online lectures [ROL]) from the students' point of view and to check the possibility of implementing one or both of them in the curriculum. In addition, students' perspectives regarding distance and traditional education, strengths and weaknesses of online learning, as well as students' suggestions regarding improvement of learning at Saudi universities were checked and evaluated.


  Materials and Methods Top


Study design

A quantitative, observational, and cross-sectional study was conducted in Saudi Arabia to assess the effectiveness of two methods for lecture delivery (i.e., LOS and ROL) from the students' point of view and to check the possibility of implementing one or both of them in the curriculum. In addition, students' preference between distance education and traditional education as well as strengths and weaknesses of online learning was checked and evaluated. A questionnaire was designed at the Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The targeted population of this study was Saudi students at different Saudi universities. The sample size of 665 participants was calculated using a single proportion formula at the 95% level of significance and 5% allowable error, which was based on the results of previous studies. Inclusion criteria were Saudi students of both sexes who had access to the online survey (via Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat). Exclusion criteria were non-Saudi students, students younger than 18 years old, and students who could not access the online survey owing to the lack of the Internet.

Questionnaire

A structured questionnaire of 22 questions was designed after an extensive literature review of previous studies to fulfill the study objectives and research questions. To test the validity of the questionnaire, a pilot study was conducted on a sample of 65 participants (which represent approximately 10% of the sample size) who were excluded from the final study. In addition, the pilot study was designed to obtain feedback on the ease of the questionnaire and to estimate the time needed to complete it. To measure the reliability and internal consistency of the questionnaire, Cronbach's alpha (α) test has been performed. All items showed a significant reliability (0.8≤ α <0.9). The questionnaire consisted of four parts. The first part dealt with sociodemographic characteristics of the participants, which included gender, university name, major, and level of information technology (IT) knowledge. The second part was composed of five multiple choices questions, which investigated participants' experience and preference regarding the two methods for lecture delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, i. e., LOS and ROL. The third part was composed of 10 agree/disagree questions and dealt with the comparison of participants' preference between traditional and distance learning methods. The fourth part was composed of three open-ended questions and covered the strengths and weaknesses of online learning and suggestions for improving learning in general.

Data collection

Valuable data were collected over a 5-day period in December 2020. The online questionnaire, in the Arabic language, was distributed via several social media applications (including WhatsApp, Twitter, and Snapchat) because these social applications are the most popular in Saudi Arabia. A random convenient sampling technique was used to select participants. The obtained data were stored in a protected electronic format using an anonymous self-administered Google online questionnaire format.

Statistical analysis

The collected data were entered into Microsoft Excel version 2011 (Microsoft Corporation). The Chi-square test with 95% confidence intervals was used to examine significant associations between the sociodemographic characteristics of participants, their knowledge, and their experiences with online learning versus traditional learning. The mean score was calculated to compare the responses of participants for agree/disagree questions. Statistical analysis was performed using StatPac Statistics Calculator Version 4.0 (StatPac, Inc.). A one-sample t-test between proportions was performed to compare percentages within each group. A two-sample t-test between proportions was performed to compare percentages between two groups. Differences were considered significant when P ≤ 0.05, highly significant when P ≤ 0.01, and very highly significant when P ≤ 0.001.

Open-ended questions

Answers to each question were exported from the survey. Common themes or categories were identified, recorded, and organized. If needed, subcategories were created. Finally, the main themes were presented.

Ethical approval

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board, College of Medicine, King Saud University (Project No. E-20-5466; December 01, 2020). Written informed consent was obtained.


  Results Top


This study was conducted on 665 Saudi students, studying at 22 different universities all over the kingdom, who fulfilled the criteria and completed the questionnaire during the designed period. After excluding the sample used in the pilot study (65 participants), a total number of 600 participants (51% of females and 49% of males) constituted the studied sample. A total of 500 participants were students at health and sciences colleges, and 100 participants were students at humanities colleges. The knowledge levels of IT were low for 10% of participants, intermediate for 65%, and high for 25%.

[Figure 1] shows the satisfaction of participants regarding ROL and LOS. Concerning the first statement of the questionnaire, which is “I feel more satisfied with and enthusiastic about this method,” 35% of the participants felt satisfied with and enthusiastic about both methods (highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01 vs. ROL and LOS); a similar number of participants preferred one method (25% for each method). Concerning the second statement, “I recommend the method to be implemented in the next academic year,” 38% recommended both methods (highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01 vs. ROL, and very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001, vs. LOS); 26% recommended ROL, and 24% recommended LOS. Regarding the third statement, “Often, I have better outcome with this method,” 34% of participants preferred ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS, and highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01, vs. both methods); 25% accepted both methods, and 20% preferred LOS. Regarding the fourth statement, “I feel that this method is more appropriate for preparation for evaluations and exams,” 42% of participants felt that ROL was more appropriate (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001, vs. LOS and vs. both methods); 24% felt that both methods were appropriate, and 18% felt that LOS was more appropriate. Regarding the fifth statement, “This method enhances my ability to focus,” 41% of participants preferred ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods); 24% were satisfied with both methods, and 20% preferred LOS.
Figure 1: Recorded Online Lectures Versus Live Online Sessions (Overall, N = 600)

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[Figure 2] shows the opinions of students in health and sciences colleges regarding both methods. Forty percent of students felt satisfied with and enthusiastic about both methods (highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01 vs. LOS, and very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. ROL); 29% with LOS (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. ROL); and 16% with ROL. Regarding the second statement, 44.6% of students recommended the implementation of both methods (highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01 vs. LOS, and very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. ROL), 29% recommended LOS (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001, vs. ROL), and 15% recommended ROL. A total of 29% of students had good outcomes with both methods, 24.8% had better outcomes with ROL, and 23% had better outcomes with LOS. For preparation for evaluations and examinations, 33.4% of students felt that ROL was more appropriate (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS), 27.8% were satisfied with both methods (significant difference, P ≤ 0.05 vs. LOS), while 20.6% felt that LOS was more appropriate. The ability to focus was enhanced for 32.2% of students with ROL (highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.01 vs. LOS), for 27.8% with both methods, and for 23% with LOS.
Figure 2: Recorded Online Lectures Versus Live Online Sessions (Health and Sciences Colleges,N = 500).

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[Figure 3] shows opinions of students from humanities colleges. A total of 70% of students felt more satisfied with and enthusiastic about ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods), 10% with both methods, while 5% with LOS. A total of 75% of students recommended the implementation of ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods), 5% recommended LOS, and 5% recommended both methods. A total of 80% of students had better outcomes with ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods), 5% with LOS, and 5% with both methods. A total of 85% of students felt that ROL was more appropriate for preparation for evaluations and exams (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods), 5% felt that LOS was more appropriate, and 5% were satisfied with both methods. The ability to focus was enhanced in 85% of students with ROL (very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001 vs. LOS and vs. both methods), in 5% with LOS, and in 5% with both methods.
Figure 3: Recorded Online Lectures Versus Live Online Sessions (Humanities Colleges, N = 100)

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[Table 1] compares the opinions of students from health and sciences colleges and those from humanities colleges. Regarding opinions of students from humanities college, there was a very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001, in favor of ROL for all statements compared to students from health and sciences colleges (70%/16% for the first statement; 75%/15% for the second statement; 80%/24.8% for the third statement; 85%/33.4% for the fourth statement; 85%/32.2% for the fifth statement). Regarding the opinions of students from health and sciences colleges, there was a very highly significant difference, P ≤ 0.001, in favor of LOS for all statements (29%/5% for the first statement; 29%/5% for the second statement; 23%/5% for the third statement; 20.6%/5% for the fourth statement; 23%/5% for the fifth statement) as well as for both methods (40%/10% for the first statement; 44.6%/5% for the second statement; 29%/5% for the third statement; 27.8%/5% for the fourth statement; 27.8%/5% for the fifth statement).
Table 1: Health and Sciences Colleges (n=500) versus Humanities Colleges (n=100)

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[Table 2] shows participants' perspectives on distance versus traditional learning methods. Regarding the first statement, “Online sessions can be complementary to traditional methods,” 67% (402/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) of the participants agreed with that statement (mean score of 3.7; P ≤ 0.001), while 19% (114/600– “Strongly Disagree” or Disagree”) did not agree. Regarding the second statement, “Online sessions can completely replace traditional teaching methods,” 46% (276/600– “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) were against the complete replacement of traditional teaching methods with online sessions (mean score of 2.87; P ≤ 0.05), while 38% (228/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) were for the complete replacement. Regarding the third statement, “Online sessions have better outcome than traditional teaching methods,” 49.5% (297/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) did not believe that online sessions had better outcome (mean score of 2.7; P ≤ 0.001), while 28% (168/600– “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) agreed that online sessions had better outcome. Regarding the fourth statement, “I feel more satisfied when practicing e-learning methods,” 56.5% (339/600– “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) were more satisfied with e-learning (mean score of 3.49; P ≤ 0.001), while 22.5% (135/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or Disagree”) were not comfortable with it. Regarding the fifth statement “I believe that face-to-face teaching methods are crucial for learning,” 72% (432/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) believed in face-to-face teaching (mean score of 3.94; P ≤ 0.001), while 13.5% (81/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) were not for it. Regarding the sixth statement, “I believe that distance learning methods are not suitable for practical colleges,” 67.5% (405/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) agreed with that statement (mean score of 3.92; P ≤ 0.001), while 13% (78/600– “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) did not agree. Regarding the seventh statement, “I feel more confident when studying using traditional methods of teaching,” 53% (318/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) were more confident in traditional methods (mean score of 3.52; P ≤ 0.001), while 20% (120/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) were less confident in traditional methods. Regarding the eighth statement “I recommend implementing some distance learning methods in the curriculum,” 68.5% (411/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) recommended the implementation (mean score 3.89; P ≤ 0.001), while 9.5% (57/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) did not recommend the implementation. Regarding the ninth statement “Distance learning saves a lot of time for learners,” 75.5% (453/600– “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) agreed with that statement (mean score 4.04; P ≤ 0.001), while 10.5% (63/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) did not agree. Regarding the tenth statement, “Distance learning gives more flexibility to learners,” 71% (426/600 – “Strongly Agree” or “Agree”) agreed (mean score of 3.91; P ≤ 0.001), while 12% (72/600 – “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”) disagreed.
Table 2: Distance learning versus traditional learning

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The main themes for the open-ended questions are as follows:

Question 1: What did you like the most about e-learning methods?

  • Time saving and time flexibility
  • Psychological comfort and pressure relief
  • Higher concentration and no distraction
  • Theoretical courses are easier to perform online
  • Students can listen to the recorded lectures more than once.


Question 2: What did you dislike most about e-learning methods?

  • Technical Web problems
  • Little or no benefit regarding practical courses
  • Students: Loss of direct interaction with the teacher decreases students' motivation, independent learning increases loads on students
  • Teachers: Lack of motivation, late response to students' questions, lack of expertise and skill needed for live sessions
  • Online exams: Unfamiliarity, worry from disconnection, not enough time.


Question 3: What suggestions do you have to improve learning in general?

  • Web: Use better programs and technologies to improve direct communication between teachers and students, improve the websites used to perform the tests
  • Increase the time of live lectures to allow student intervention and fixing of technical problems
  • Use e-learning only for general preparatory and theoretical courses
  • Record all lectures, live or given by traditional ways
  • Train teachers and students on ways to use educational programs
  • Traditional classes: More interactive, with smaller number of students, recorded, and available on college website
  • Innovation, whether in distance education or in traditional education
  • Provide options for both distance and traditional education and allow students to choose the method that suits them.



  Discussion Top


This study is a cross-sectional study conducted on students at Saudi universities during the coronavirus pandemic to assess the effectiveness of two methods for lecture delivery (i.e., LOS and ROL) from the students' point of view as well as students' preference between distance education and traditional education. Compared to previous studies assessing the effectiveness of distance and traditional learning using surveys, we tested a larger population (665 students) studying at a larger number of universities (22 universities).

Regarding participants' satisfaction with the two methods for lecture delivery, we showed that participants were satisfied with and enthusiastic about both methods, and they recommended both of them to be implemented in academic curriculum. However, participants had better outcome with ROL and felt that this method was more appropriate for preparation for evaluations and exams and enhanced their focus ability more. A comparison between preferences of students from health and sciences colleges and those from humanities colleges showed that the former accepted both methods and favored LOS for satisfaction, enthusiasm, and implementation into the curriculum and ROL for preparation for evaluations and exams and enhancement of focus ability, while the latter preferred ROL (70%–85%) for all aspects. This result is obtained because students from health and sciences colleges have practical courses that require immediate interaction with course instructors (in favor of LOS), while students from humanities college, taking theoretical courses, think that ROL is sufficient for them.

Comparing participants' satisfaction with distance and traditional learning, this study showed that students agreed that adding online sessions was complementary to traditional methods. Similar results were obtained in a survey conducted in Pakistan.[7] In contrast, students disagreed with the complete replacement of online sessions instead of traditional methods. Previous surveys have reported that e-learning cannot completely replace traditional learning.[8],[9],[10] Participants also believe that traditional teaching methods have better outcomes than online sessions and that face-to-face teaching methods are crucial for learning. The results of this study may be influenced by the large number of students from health and sciences colleges compared to that from humanities colleges (500/100).

Students from health and sciences colleges, who have practical classes in most courses, prefer face-to-face teaching methods. In accordance with this suggestion, participants believe that distance learning is not suitable for practical colleges and feel more confident with traditional methods of teaching. A study conducted at Najran University on 80 Saudi students from the Nursing College revealed that the mean of the students' overall satisfaction with e-learning was more than that of traditional learning.[11] The small number of students tested, for only one designed course, in Elfaki's study[11] may influence the validity and reliability of results of such report. However, participants recommended implementing some distance learning methods in the curriculum because they felt more comfortable when practicing e-learning methods because they are time-saving and provide more flexibility to learners.

In their responses on the advantages of e-learning methods, participants mentioned that they are time saving; thus, the participants have more time to spend with family and friends. In addition, the flexibility in schedule provides 24/7 accessibility for students who have time management problems. The comfort and convenience of learning from home relieve pressure, increase concentration, and minimize distraction, especially regarding theoretical courses that do not require attendance. Similar responses have been obtained from interviews used to assess the e-learning efficiency and satisfaction of students at the Faculty of IT, Rangsit University, Thailand.[12]

Regarding the disadvantages of e-learning, technical Web problems as well as lack of expertise and skills needed are the major issues. Khan and Jumani[7] have reported that at Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan, students from the Bachelor of Computer Science and Master of Computer Science programs mentioned that despite being more motivating and more effective than traditional systems, e-learning is not a suitable mode of education for students in Pakistan owing to lack of information and communication technologies (ICT) at the universities. Alenezi et al.,[13] in a study on Saudi Arabian students from 5 universities, have shown that enjoyment, computer anxiety, computer self-efficacy, and Internet experience affect students' intention to use e-learning. In this study, participants believe that distance learning has little or no benefit for practical courses that require continuous interaction between teachers and students and immediate responses from teachers to students' questions, which leads to increase in students' loads. In addition, the unfamiliarity with online examinations, in general, is another drawback for students.

The participants proposed suggestions and solutions to improve learning in general. They suggested the use of better programs and technologies for communication and testing performance together with insurance of continuous training programs for both teachers and students. Bendania[9] has mentioned that it is appropriate for e-learning centers to work in the direction, where instructors and students work hand in hand with educators and ICT professionals to develop appropriate/tailored methods that benefit from the use of ICT and on-line tools to enhance teaching and learning. In addition, the participants suggested that distance learning should be restricted to theoretical and general preparatory courses. Live lectures should be extended to provide more time for interactions between students and teachers and should be recorded. Regarding practical courses, the participants suggested that traditional classes should be shorter, more interactive, with smaller number of students, recorded, and available on college website. The final request from students was to continuously innovate both learning methods with a hope that 1 day, in Saudi universities, every student will have an opportunity or option to choose to take any course using the method that suits him/her, whether face to face or online.

Regarding the limitations of this study, the small number of students from humanities colleges compared to that from health and sciences colleges could have affected the results; however, this study tried to eliminate or minimize such effects by comparing opinions of students from both categories.


  Conclusion Top


We aimed to assess the effectiveness of two methods of lecture delivery used during the coronavirus pandemic in Saudi universities as well as students' perspectives regarding distance and traditional education. We suggest that the use of ICT in education will make the teaching–learning process more attractive and more motivating. The implementation of methods for lecture delivery, such ROL and LOS, in addition to traditional methods for selected theoretical courses will improve students' achievement. The continuous training of teachers and students regarding the use of ICT is required. Further, implementation of small classes in traditional learning is another factor for its success. Finally, we recommend continuous innovation of distance and traditional learning at Saudi Universities together with continuous assessment of students' satisfaction with new implemented methods.

Financial support and sponsorship

The authors extend their appreciation to the Deanship of Scientific Research, King Saud University for supporting and funding this work through the research group no. (RG-1441- 517).

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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