The mandatory lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced Colombian universities to suddenly shift to virtual learning without having broad experience in this modality [16, 17]. This study describes student perception of remote classes in order to gain insight into the academic impact of virtual learning on a biochemistry course and identify conceptual elements to redefine pedagogical actions in pandemic and post-pandemic times. This study was conducted considering the suggestions of UNESCO, which mention the importance of implementing pedagogical strategies focused on people to maintain the teacher-student relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic . Therefore, assessing student perception of remote classes will be valuable to enhance teaching quality in post-pandemic times.
The students highlighted the quality of the content and materials used in the remote classes, which promoted the understanding of the topics, motivation, and self-learning. Furthermore, the students manifested an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the theoretical concepts, which improved their ability to solve assignments, quizzes, and prepare for exams. These findings indicate that the quality of remote classes significantly reduces the time dedicated to students by teachers. On the other hand, it has been observed that the teaching quality of biochemistry in undergraduate courses influences students to conduct biochemical research during graduate studies in Colombia. There is an increasing interest of graduate students in developing biochemical and biomedical research, which requires solid basic concepts of biochemistry. From another perspective, the mutual construction of basic concepts between teachers and students through remote classes (i.e., an elaboration that implies an effective transmission of information) is benefited by a clear communication through the virtual environment. Therefore, remote classes should include visual, phonetic, and language clarity, which is markedly influenced by selecting versatile video platforms and proper internet connectivity. Nowadays, college students rely significantly on their visual abilities for the learning process [19, 20].
Recording and sharing videos of remote classes facilitate permanent contact with concepts and encourages students to review the topics at any time; therefore, favoring the learning process, as previously described for other virtual education tools [14, 15]. Recording classes could also provide benefits when teaching courses to students from diverse career programs. In this case, students likely have different backgrounds on the basic concepts, which can be partially overcome by reviewing the recorded classes.
Universidad Nacional de Colombia admits top students from different ethnic and minority groups (e.g., mestizos, Afro-Colombian, indigenous, among others) and territories, including regions involved in the recently ended Colombian armed conflict . Students from these areas usually have adverse economic conditions that can potentially affect their academic performance and capacity to attend traditional classes. For this reason, the possibility of attending asynchronous pre-recorded classes, such as those implemented in this study, will positively impact the academic performance of this group of students and contribute to reducing desertion, a situation that has markedly increased in Colombia for years .
The analysis of student perception described in this work demonstrates that the virtual learning process of theoretical courses, such as biochemistry, could be an adequate alternative for Colombian public universities to adopt in the post-COVID-19 future. Particularly, low-income populations could be provided with the opportunity to undertake professional training through virtual learning. In addition, remote classes can also significantly benefit the extramural programs offered by Universidad Nacional de Colombia, preventing teachers from traveling to remote areas away from the main university campus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed traditional pedagogical strategies, whereby virtual approaches and online resources are complementary and enhance the conventional campus-based lectures. This situation provides an ideal opportunity to reconfigure the classical educational platforms and public education policies related to basic sciences, such as biochemistry, in Colombia. The observations from this work can be extrapolated to the university education system of other developing countries or public universities in Latin America, where SARS-CoV2 transmission was thought to reduce, but, on the contrary, outbreaks are also attributed to asymptomatic young people, including university students [22, 23].
Limitations and considerations for further research
This study has several limitations that should be indicated. First, the study was restricted to students from dentistry and biology programs. Although student perception in this academic population was obtained and analyzed, the biochemistry course at Universidad Nacional de Colombia is also offered to students from agronomic engineering, veterinary medicine, and nursing programs, whose perceptions would enrich the findings of this study. In addition, although the sample size is statistically valid, it could be increased to strengthen and confirm the conclusions of this report. A larger sample size would corroborate our suggestion to combine remote classes with traditional campus-based lectures in the post-COVID-19 future to enhance the learning process of biochemistry in the public education system of Colombia.
While recording and sharing videos of remote biochemistry classes appear to have increased the assessment performance of the study participants. Comparative analyses of grades from different experimental groups with and without access to the recorded classes can allow corroborating this positive aspect emphasized by the students.
Another limitation is related to the fact that some students reported experiencing reduced attention to the remote classes throughout the semester. This observation requires teachers to implement novel pedagogical strategies to avoid student distractions throughout the remote academic semester. In this regard, when the students were asked about what additional educational resources they would like to see implemented during the remote biochemistry classes, some of the responses were: “forums”, “gamification”, “debates”, “virtual laboratories”, “interactive workshops”, and “active breaks”, among others. These responses could be considered to enhance the pedagogical effectiveness of the remote biochemistry classes at Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Consequently, the implementation of novel pedagogical strategies remains to be explored and implemented in future remote classes to ease the learning of biochemistry for undergraduate students in a lockdown environment.