The results revealed that online lectures were well-received by the students undergoing clinical clerkship, and they preferred them to onsite lectures mainly because of ease of access—contrary to the lecturers’ responses.
During the early term, both lecturers and students were not familiar with the new telecommunication method, especially use of the Teams application, which resulted in low scores for the total satisfaction and future preference outcomes. However, gradually, familiarity with the online mode increased, which was indicated in the increased scores for the outcomes. Thus, familiarity with the telecommunication method could solve minor problems, such as difficulty in using Teams and an unstable online signal, which was reflected in the results of the study, that indicated that there were only minor problems pertaining to the method of conducting lectures amid the COVID-19 pandemic .
There was no significant difference in the understanding of the lectures delivered through online and onsite modes, which is the most important factor in teaching . The quality of online instruction did not differ significantly from that delivered onsite when the lecturer was visible on the screen while they presented the slides .
In the early term, students hesitated in questioning the lecturers. However, they became less reluctant in asking questions or using the chat function during the later term. This implies that the chat option may be helpful in overcoming the hesitation in asking questions .
The ease of debating with the lecturer or other students in the online mode was less than that in onsite lectures. Some students claimed that it was difficult to understand who was being addressed, even though they could see the students and the lecturer via multi-screen feature. Difficulty in assessing the situation might be one of the drawbacks of online teaching. Accessibility would improve in an online format as students become more accustomed to online lectures. Further qualitative studies to understand the student experience may reveal improved findings in such a small group.
The most striking difference between the two modes was in terms of accessibility, which contributed to the total satisfaction and future preference outcomes. Students could easily attend online lectures from their homes. Given the fact that attendance is important for success in medical education , accessibility should also be considered as an important factor for success in the telecommunication era.
The preference and satisfaction of lecturers and students clearly depend on the circumstances in which they provide and attend lectures, respectively . Surrounding noise is one of the problems that can lead to disruption of an online lecture. Use of headsets that have a noise cancelation function and microphones might solve the issue of having limited space within a room. Eye fatigue due to constant exposure to a screen for a long time is another problem associated with online teaching. To overcome this challenge, lecturers should pay attention to the number of lectures organized per day and their duration. Hybrid classes (i.e., a combination of onsite and online modes) with optimal number of lectures in both modes might improve students’ academic achievement .
In contrast to the students’ future preference, the lecturers preferred onsite classes; this may be because they themselves had attended only onsite lectures as medical students. The generation gap between students and lecturers should be bridged though proper training for lecturers in the telecommunication method . The current teaching methodology might benefit from a paradigm shift in didactics.
This study also had some limitations. First, the number of participants was relatively small, and we could not determine the target sample size because the population at a single site was limited. Second, discussing the online questionnaires with the lecturer brought in some bias in the answers. Third, the limited questions could not gauge the exact quality of the lectures. Fourth, we could not evaluate the onsite and online lectures by using same scales because the timings of onsite and online lectures were different, and they were held during different periods. Additionally, time is also an important determinant, and the quality of lectures improved with time as the students and lecturers became more accustomed to them. Fifth, the quality of lectures was not standardized because the study was observational in nature. Lastly, we did not have a randomized control group. Randomized studies of online and onsite lecture groups are further needed to clarify the efficacy of online lectures.
Online lectures are expected to become more pervasive to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Through this study, we can conclude that the online mode is acceptable for teaching medical students undergoing clinical clerkship.