The main findings from the study are highlighted below. Quantitative results for all questions asked in the core questionnaire can be found in supplement table 3.
Over both survey waves, a total of 3292 data sets could be evaluated, which corresponds to a response rate of 22.2% (summer semester) and 20.9% (winter semester) respectively. The number of data sets per site can be seen in figure 1.
Figure 1: Number of data sets per site. Total participants: 3292. n = number of participants per site, % = percent of total participants across both semesters; S = summer semester 2020, W = winter semester 2020/21, JMU = Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, FAU = Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, UR = Universität Regensburg, UniA = Universität Augsburg, TUM = Technische Universität München, LMU = Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Percentages do not add up to 100% due to rounding.
In the summer semester, students (n = 1500) agreed with an average of 3.7 (SD = 1.1) with the statement that they knew where to find information on the module and/or semester schedule – in the winter semester (n = 1695) this agreement was slightly stronger with an average of 4.0 (SD = 1.0); p ≤ 0.001.
Students considered the information provided also nearly as helpful in the summer semester (n = 1496, M = 3.8, SD = 0.9) as in the winter semester (n = 1689, M = 3.9, SD = 0.9); p ≤ 0.001.
However, students in the winter semester reported knowing a little more clearly whom to contact with questions (summer semester: n = 1485, M = 3.6, SD = 1.2; winter semester: n = 1674, M = 3.8, SD = 1.2; p ≤ 0.001).
Students most commonly used laptops both in the summer semester (85.5%, n = 1303) and the winter semester (86.4%, n = 1492). Tablets were used the second most in both semesters (summer: 42.2%, n = 643; winter: 41.2%, n = 712). Smartphones played a minor role for studying with 15.8% (n = 241) mentions in the summer semester and 11.1% (n = 192) in the winter semester. The decrease in smartphone use was statistically significant (p ≤ 0.001). In the summer semester, 10.6% (n = 162) of the responding students primarily used a desktop PC for learning; this tendency was stable in the winter semester at 12.6% (n = 217).
In the summer semester, 92.5% (n = 1389) of students reported being able to participate in synchronous online sessions with their technical equipment; this proportion was similar in the winter semester with 93.7% (n = 1594).
A webcam was available to 90.7% (n = 1361) of the participants in the summer semester and 92.7% (n = 1570) of the participants in the winter semester; p = 0.002.
In the summer semester, 83.0% (n = 1247) of students reported that their internet connection was stable enough to view instructional videos; in the winter semester, this was the case for 83.5% (n = 1419).
However, only 62.6% (n = 940) of the participants in the summer semester and 60.6% (n = 1030) of the participants in the winter semester considered the internet connection stable enough for participation in interactive, synchronous online sessions.
Communication with teachers
In both semesters, students agreed with the statement about missing the personal contact with teachers. However, this agreement was more pronounced in the winter semester (summer semester: n = 1539, M = 3.6, SD = 1.2; winter semester: n = 1690, M = 3.8, SD = 1.2; p ≤ 0.001).
Students primarily held contact with the faculty via E-mail in both semesters. Learning platforms were used second most often for this purpose. Video conferencing systems were used third most often. On-site meetings, phone, WhatsApp or similar, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter played a minor role in communication. The means of communication used between students and teachers are shown in figure 2a.
Communication with fellow students
In the summer semester (n = 1543), students agreed with the statement that they missed the personal contact with fellow students with an average of 4.4 (SD = 1.0); in the winter semester (n = 1692) they agreed even more strongly, on average with 4.6 (SD = 0.9); p ≤ 0.001.
In the communication between fellow students, WhatsApp or similar appeared to be most important. This was followed by on-site meetings, phone calls, video conferencing, Instagram and Facebook. E-mails, learning platforms and Twitter played minor roles. The tools used in communication among fellow students are shown in figure 2b.
Comparison with the previous semester
All in all, students neither agreed nor disagreed that the current semester was much more exhausting than the previous one (summer semester n = 1408, M = 3.1, SD = 1.4; winter semester n = 1444, M = 3.1, SD = 1.4); p = 0.675.
Prioritization of teaching forms
When asked about their preferred way of teaching, on-site teaching ranked number one by 55.5% (n = 767) in the summer semester and 65.7% (n = 1031) in the winter semester. Asynchronous digital teaching was second most often ranked number one (summer semester: 27.4%, n = 378; winter semester: 21.0%, n = 329). Synchronous online teaching was the least often prioritized form of teaching (summer semester: 17.1%, n = 236; winter semester: 13.3%, n = 209).
Preferred future form of teaching
When asked about online activities that should be kept for the future to supplement traditional on-site teaching, students most often selected teaching recordings. Scripts, etc. (e.g. slides, summary, journal article) were chosen second most often. Online self-tests were requested by more than half of the students in both the summer and winter semester.
The evaluation of different online activities to complement traditional on-site teaching in the future can be seen in figure 3.
In both survey waves, students were asked retrospectively about their concerns at the beginning of the respective semester and asked prospectively about their concerns regarding the upcoming semester.
Regarding the beginning of the summer semester 2020, students’ most often reported concern (78.8%) was not being able to perform practical trainings. This was reported less often (66.7%) regarding the upcoming winter semester 2020/21. In the second survey round, 80.0% of the students expressed this concern retrospectively for the beginning of the winter semester 2020/21 and 68.8% prospectively regarding the upcoming summer semester 2021.
The second strongest concern (78.3%) at the beginning of the summer semester 2020 was a lack of social exchange with fellow students. This significantly decreased to 64.2% regarding the upcoming winter semester 2020/21. In the second survey round, this concern was reported most often with 84.3% for the beginning of the winter semester 2020/21 and was still present at a high level with 75.9% regarding the upcoming summer semester 2021.
The third strongest concern regarding the beginning of the summer semester 2020 was poor information about the organization from the part of the faculty with 71.2%. This concern was expressed by 37.6% regarding the upcoming winter semester 2020/21. In the second survey round, it was at 55.4% regarding the beginning of the winter semester 2020/21 and at 31.4% regarding the upcoming summer semester 2021.
Concerns regarding the personal digital knowledge or technical equipment as well as concerns regarding the ability to use the learning platform were much less pronounced among students. The item regarding concerns about an insufficient integration of on-site and digital teaching was only asked in relation to the following semester.
Figure 4a shows retrospective and prospective student concerns as surveyed at the end of the summer semester 2020. Figure 4b shows retrospective and prospective student concerns as surveyed at the end of the winter semester 2020/21.
 only asked at LMU and TUM