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IS COVID-19 SHAPING OUR STUDENTS' LEARNING PROCESS?

C. Pinto 1, L. Babo 2, J. Mendonça3

1School of Engineering, Polytechnic of Porto, Centre for Mathematics, University of Porto (PORTUGAL)
2Porto Accounting and Business School, Polytechnic of Porto CEOS.PP, Porto (PORTUGAL)
3School of Engineering, Polytechnic of Porto (PORTUGAL)
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the whole Educational framework, at all learning levels. In particular, it disrupted the higher education system. Universities acquiesced in adapting their courses to the fully online regime, and, in a very narrow window of time, teachers and students had to dramatically change the teaching archetype and become online teaching and learning `experts’. Since March 2020, online learning has thus taken the leading role in Educational theatre, and a variety of issues have been re-thought and re-aligned. The pandemic reverberations have been heterogeneous, from learning quality, learning technology, students’ motivation, students’ engagement, peers and family support, communication with peers and the teacher, to time management.

In this paper, we discuss the results of a survey conducted among students attending a Math Course, in the second semester of a bachelor degree of Biomedical Engineering, in the academic year of 2019/2020. These are the students which started the semester with two weeks of in-situ classes and had to shift abruptly to fully online learning. We were interested in measuring how this change influenced their satisfaction with the learning process. Students replied to questions related to engagement, communication, time management, acquired knowledge, type of online courses (asynchronous vs synchronous), preferred teaching method (in-situ vs other). The statistical analysis of the results has brought to light dissatisfactions. Students did not like the fully online system. Almost 60% preferred the in-situ classes and the remaining said they would appreciate a mixed framework, in which the online framework was devoted either to theoretical classes or to appointment with the teachers, to clarify questions raised during classes. Students referred lack of motivation, lack of focus, more time consuming, as handicaps of online classes. They also emphasized the need for social interaction with their peers and communication with peers and the teacher as essential in their learning process.

With the COVID-19 pandemic far from being resolved, added to the environmental conditions of the ahead Winter, the foreseeable future for higher education will be, at least in some part, online. Universities must continue to respond to this major challenge and 2020 will be undoubtedly a year to remember and to start unravelling the true potential of online learning.