The spread of COVID-19 has led to the closure of educational institutions around the world. This has challenged universities' readiness for a crisis that requires the help of advanced technologies, including hardware and software, to enable effective online learning. This closure accelerated the development of online learning environments so that learning was not interrupted.1 Many institutions have been interested in how best to deliver online course content, engage learners, and conduct assessments. Hence, COVID-19, while being a danger to humanity, has evolved institutions for investing in online learning.
Online learning systems are web-based software for distributing, monitoring, and managing courses over the Internet.2 It involves the implementation of technological advances to direct, design and deliver learning content and to facilitate two-way communication between students and Faculty .3 Contain features such as whiteboards, chat rooms, polls, quizzes, discussion forums, and polls that allow faculty and students to communicate online and share course content side-by-side.
The faculty said online learning helped ensure distance learning was manageable, and students could conveniently access teachers and teaching materials. It has also reduced the use of travel resources and other expenses. It facilitated administrative tasks such as lecture recording and attendance assessment. Both students and teachers were of the opinion that online learning modalities had encouraged student centrality during this lockdown. The student had become a self-directed student and was learning asynchronously at any time of the day.
Teachers and students said that through online learning modalities they were unable to teach and learn practical and clinical work. They could only teach and evaluate the components of knowledge. Due to the lack of immediate feedback, teachers were unable to assess student understanding during online classes. Students also reported a limited attention span and resource-intensive nature of online learning as a limitation. Some teachers also claimed that while studying online, students misbehaved and tried to access online resources during assessments.
The most common problems associated with online education, in general, included the availability of the Internet in provincial and rural areas, the speed and cost of the Internet, the availability of electronic devices to access the Internet, and the lack of interaction between students and teachers. While the specific problems associated with online training of veterinary subjects included the lack of application of the clinical context, the lack of online information on certain subjects, such as veterinary anatomy, the difficulty of teaching practical lessons online, and the lack of contact with the animals.
To improve online education in general, it is recommended to provide platforms for online learning, provide students with electronic devices to access the Internet, improve Internet speed, provide cheaper or even free Internet packages during the pandemic, provide training to teachers, and improve the interaction between students and teachers. Additionally, to enhance online veterinary education, it is recommended to provide virtual resources to mimic lab work, teach hands-on lessons via interactive tools, such as 3D videos and animations, and provide accessible e-books and instructional videos for hands-on lessons.
RECOMMENDATION TO IMPROVE
The students' recommendations regarding the improvement of online learning were summarized as follows:
Universities should provide online learning platforms with easy access to study materials.
Provide students with electronic devices, such as computers and tablets, to access the Internet.
Improving internet speeds and providing cheaper or even free internet packages during the pandemic.
Provide training to teachers on e-learning tools and IT skills.
Improve the way of teaching by encouraging students to learn in different methods and attract them to study online.
Provide virtual resources to simulate lab work or live streaming directly from the lab.
Improve the interaction between students and teachers by assigning different fun activities.
Hands-on learning through interactive tools, such as videos and 3D animations, is significantly more effective than text materials such as power points and pdfs, voice recordings should be provided with the lesson text.
Decreasing the amount of work in the classroom could help reduce student stress.
Provide quizzes and online assignments after each lesson to measure student understanding.
Teachers and students suggested the continuing development of the faculty. They recommended reduced cognitive load and greater interactivity when teaching online. Those in clinical years have suggested ways to start case-based learning online. However, some were also of the opinion that there should be revision classes along with psychomotor practices on teaching after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. To improve the quality, they suggested purchasing premium software and other supervision software to detect cheating and plagiarism.
The current study supports the use of online learning in medical and dental institutions, considering its various advantages. The e-learning modalities encourage student-centered learning and are easily managed during this lockdown situation. It is worth considering here that online learning is currently in a nascent stage in Pakistan. It started as "emergency remote learning" and with further investment, we can overcome any limitations. Teachers need to be trained in the use of online modes and in developing lesson plans with reduced cognitive load and greater interactivity.