The response rate for course evaluations was as follows. The response rate for Mind, Brain and Behavior 2 in September 2019 was eight out of 11 (73%), and in May 2020 semester was 11 out of 13 (85%). The response rate for Diseases, Immunity and Therapeutics 1 in September 2019 semester was nine out of 11 (82%), and in May 2020 semester was 10 out of 14 (71%). The response rate for Human Structure and Function 1 in September 2019 semester was 12 out of 12 (100%), and in May 2020 semester was 19 out of 19 (100%). The response rate for Human Structure and Function 2 in September 2019 semester was eight out of 10 (80%), and in May 2020 semester was 10 out of 13 (77%). For Clinical Skills I (CS 1), in September 2019 semester, the response rate was eight out of 10 (80%), and in May 2020 semester was 17 out of 19 (89.4%). The response rate for Clinical Skills 2 (CS-2) in September 2019 semester was nine out of nine (100%), and in May 2020 semester, 16 out of 16 (100%). We did not include evaluations of Mind, Brain and Behavior 1 and Diseases, Immunity and Therapeutics 2 in the data analysis as the response rate and sample size is too small for those two courses. Students’ responses for most of the questions, mean values have no statistically significant difference (p<0.05) between on-campus teaching and online teaching (Tables 1-4). Even if there is a difference, the mean values or students’ responses were better with online teaching (Tables 1-4). Students’ performance in assessments in each course was compared between September 2019 and May 2020 semesters. There was no statistically significant difference (p<0.05) between the two semesters (Table 5) except for two courses, Mind, Brain and Behavior 2 and clinical skills 2.
We were able to interview all ten students out of ten students that were invited for the interviews (100% response rate). We were able to interview nine faculty members out of 12 faculty members that were invited for an interview (75% response rate). Thematic analysis of the qualitative data identified the following themes.
Previous experience with online teaching and learning
Most faculty members said they did not have any previous experiences with online teaching. Four faculty members did distance learning programs for their education. All other faculty members felt that this online teaching and training are new. Few students did some online courses in the past but not in the medical school. The students who did online programs before joining the medical school felt that it could help the students with part-time jobs. Most of the faculty members felt that they never thought of online teaching in medical school before the pandemic. One faculty member quoted that ‘you do not have to have where people are coming together and using facilities. And so, you save space and save costs. But because they are learning and learning requires interaction, you know, person to person interaction and person-to-person questions require not only verbal but also nonverbal cues. And got much more from in person learning than you can ever get from online learning. (faculty interviewee no.3)’
One of the faculty members quoted that ‘I thought that online teaching would be useful and it is an additional benefit, like, you know, for example, if the student is already on campus and like an additional teaching, we can use the online teaching at the next level. So, I was thinking it like that, like, you know, as a pre-reading or like as a complementary educational tool after the class lecture (faculty interviewee 4).’
Stimulators for online teaching
All faculty members and students felt that the major stimulator for online teaching in the current circumstances is the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19. All of them felt that this pandemic forced us to do online teaching. To complete education, especially in this tough and unprecedented times, online instruction for basic science courses is the only option. One of the faculty members quoted that, ‘we have all kinds of resources and technologies and this can be simulated on devices like laptops, mobiles, and then the students can learn and practice using those technologies that are available (faculty interviewee 1).’
The other major stimulator mentioned by students is saving time. One student quoted that, ‘I think it’s time, even before if I wake up at 6 am, I will spend most of the time in getting dressed up for school and getting ready and now even though I wake up at 6 am I will spend 15 min for fresh up, and I can use the rest of the time to pre-read (student interviewee 1).’ Students also felt that online education could be helpful for students with financial issues and physical disabilities.
Obstacles for online teaching
The major barriers mentioned by faculty members and students are technological difficulties, power issues, and network problems, which can happen sometimes. Some of the faculty members might not understand or acknowledge the technical challenges that students are going through. The other obstacle is time differences (different time zones). This is especially an issue with synchronous online instruction. The other obstacle for synchronous online instruction is that faculty members get fatigued of online education as they are required to spend more time explaining the same concept, and it could have been done in less time in on-campus teaching. One student felt that some of the faculty members were not ready for online classes. One student felt that class could be very monotonous in online education when there is no personal interaction between the students and faculty members.
Advantages of online teaching
The major advantages of online teaching are the availability of many resources and technologies and complementing the didactic lectures with these technologies. Online teaching is very convenient and flexible. The other advantage cited by the faculty members and students is that online teaching can have sessions recorded and recorded videos can be played again. Students can always go back to the point where there was a conclusion that, as in in-person lectures, we can’t do that. The other advantage mentioned was that faculty and students could be anywhere in the world. One of the most important advantages mentioned by students is saving time with online teaching, as they are not required to go to the school’s campus. The other advantage is that introverts and shy students became very communicative and interacting well during online classes.
Disadvantages of online teaching
Most of the faculty members and students felt that the major obstacle for online teaching is the lack of hands-on experiences and personal interaction. Even though we were conducting virtual labs, some faculty members and students felt that they are missing labs and hands-on experiences, especially for courses like anatomy and clinical skills. Online teaching is lacking classroom experience, which is the major disadvantage of missing personal connection. One faculty member quoted that ‘there is verbal communication and there is nonverbal communication. As a teacher, you can look into the students’ eyes and ask them questions, and they can look into the teacher’s eye and answer or ask questions also (faculty interviewee 3).’ Professional training requires visual, auditory, tactile, and every part of your faculties to be ministering to the student. Sometimes students can switch off the camera and disappear from the class. Some faculty members quoted that it is very difficult to track students’ attendance during class hours.
Another disadvantage associated with online teaching is the lack of motivation for students. Procrastination is one of the problems in online learning and training. Students must be kept motivated, and communication between faculty and students is the key. One of the faculty members quoted that, ‘the main obstacle for online teaching is the self-motivation of the students that might be missing. In face-to-face interactions, they learn from group studies and with the faculty interaction and then the personal experiences that they do have and then hands-on experiences. They are missing like a lot of group interaction (faculty interviewee 7).’