Dental students’ experiences of remote emergency online learning at the University of the Witwatersrand during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:COVID-19; Dental education; Emergency remote learning; Online learning; Blended learning; South Africa
The challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic provide opportunities to improve dental education. This study explored students’ experiences of emergency remote learning (ERL). A descriptive, cross-sectional, online survey was sent to 154 Bachelor of Dentistry students at the University of the Witwatersrand in October 2020. The questionnaire included questions about demographics and 25 questions about device ownership, data and Internet usage, online teaching and learning experiences, and future needs. Quantitative
and qualitative data were analysed using descriptive and inferential tests and content analysis. The survey response rate was 67.5% (99/154). After ERL, 63.3% fewer respondents preferred contact teaching over online teaching, while more preferred mostly online (percentage change of 216.7%) and some online components (percentage change of 80.6%). The number of respondents with no preferred modality decreased by 88.2% from before to after ERL. Respondents’ main reasons for preferring contact learning before ERL (n=51) were that it ‘allows more interaction’ (n=30) and having had ‘no or limited experience of online learning’ (n=9). Beyond
ERL, the main reason for preferring online learning was ‘promotes effective learning’ (n=20). Changes in respondents’ preferred teaching modalities after ERL have important implications for integrating online learning into the dental curriculum.
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