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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 432-438

Assessing the sudden shift from classroom to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Students' perspective

1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Himachal Dental College, Sundernagar, Himachal Pradesh, India
2 Department of Public Health Dentistry, School of Dental Sciences, Sharda University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Babu Banarasi Das College of Dental Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
4 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Institute of Dental Sciences (IDS), Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India
5 MDS, Oral Medicine and Radiology, Private Practitioner and General Consultant, Greater Noida, India
6 Consultant Dental Surgeon, Kathmandu, Nepal

Date of Submission18-Oct-2021
Date of Decision16-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance22-Sep-2022
Date of Web Publication19-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Swati Sharma
Department of Public Health Dentistry, School of Dental Sciences, Sharda University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaphd.jiaphd_189_21

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Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has led all educational institutions to temporarily close and provide online learning to their students. Aim: This study aims to assess students' perspectives of such a “sudden shift” from classroom-based teaching methodologies to the use of online platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Materials and Methods: An online questionnaire was distributed among students across the globe using a combination of convenience and snowball sampling. The questionnaire was pretested, prevalidated, and contained 24 close ended and one open-ended question (s) divided into 4 sections. Data obtained were transferred to SPSS version 21.0 and on applying the Shapiro–Wilk test, data were found to be parametric. Therefore, the independent samples t-test and multivariate linear regression were applied to analyze the data keeping P value significant at ≤0.5. Results: Of the total of 715 responses received, most students belonged to India (35.2%) followed by Saudi Arabia (14.5%). Majority of them belonged to the dental background (30.2%) followed by medical (16.1%) and architecture (12.9%). 50.1% used their cellular data to access the Internet and 59.2% of students preferred using a mobile phone. 44.8% of students reported technical issues (P = 0.01), resulting in only 33.4% of the students being able to understand the entire lecture/activity completely (P = 0.01). 58.7% of the students did not prefer online learning (P = 0.03). Linear regression revealed a significant preference for offline learning between students pursuing all levels of education. Conclusions: Although students preferred offline learning, universities are encouraged to sensitize their students to online learning techniques so that they are prepared to “suddenly shift” to online learning due to a variety of reasons (pandemics, natural disasters, and chronic illness).

Keywords: COVID-19, Internet, online learning, pandemics, students

How to cite this article:
Thakar S, Sharma S, Anuradha K P, Shivalingesh K K, Uppal MK, Mishra S, Pokharel P. Assessing the sudden shift from classroom to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Students' perspective. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2022;20:432-8

How to cite this URL:
Thakar S, Sharma S, Anuradha K P, Shivalingesh K K, Uppal MK, Mishra S, Pokharel P. Assessing the sudden shift from classroom to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Students' perspective. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2022 [cited 2024 Mar 3];20:432-8. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/aphd/pages/default.aspx/text.asp?2022/20/4/432/364020

  Introduction Top

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has put the entire human race in a lockdown by creating different consequences. Among many commercial sectors, the education sector is also undergoing through a critical transference currently. By keeping the severity of COVID-19 pandemic in consideration, governments of various countries decided a take a preventive measure resulting in terms of a complete lockdown of their nation. Due to this circumstance, educational institutions got closed and students across as well as the academic staff across the globe were confined to their homes. It is well known that the teaching–learning processes for most of the professional courses are classroom-based and practical-oriented. In India, the schooling system significantly varies in terms of influential capacity, academic staff, and arrangement. Under lockdown, academic institutions and learners equally were under distress to continue with their academic teaching and the only option to revolutionize their teaching-learning was possible in one way: by going completely online. The transition to offline learning by the institutions was guided by the fact that the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT)-based learning was already well received and was found to be feasible in schools, as well as in higher education system through distance learning.[1] Online-based learning was done primarily through recorded modules, online teaching, discussions, and presentations as well as conducting online examinations.

In the Internet era, students have an option to pursue the online courses as per their choice through Internet-based or web-based learning.[2] The use of ICT-enabled platform has significantly increased since 2012 which is considerably visible through an increased demand of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).[3] The MOOCs offered using online platforms by various universities of international repute also validate the importance of ICT-based online learning. The Government of India also took the initiative by motivating the School and University academic staff for preparing their lectures or course module in digital form. Some digital platforms such as e-PG Pathshala, Consortium for Educational Communication, Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds, and National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning are enthusiastically available for development of e-learning and MOOCs. The advantages of online learning include no limitations of time and space, and few courses also provide flexible submission of assignments and multiple attempts to pass the course. However, this system has a few drawbacks, namely, evaluating its effectiveness in comparison to classroom teaching; administrative issues, requirement of academic skills, technical skills, learner motivation, time and support for studies, technical problems, cost and access to the Internet.[4],[5] However, the results of a systematic review by Pei and Wu concluded that there was no evidence that offline learning works better in comparison to online learning and commended on the advantages of online learning.[2]

Researchers have pointed out the fact that online teaching does not encompass a “one size fits all approach” and depends on the types of technology in use and the curriculum being taught. 6 Specialized attention needs to be given while teaching pedagogy and construction of learning experiences. Such a concept does not work particularly well in group assignments as it seems to focus less the delivery and pay more attention to the completion of the task/content.[6] There is also a concept of the “isolated learner,” who can tend to miss out during these group tasks due to anxiety or other technical issues.[7],[8]

Due to the extensiveness of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in India, succeeding the government's guidelines of “nonstop teaching and learning,” most Indian Schools and Universities have started online education. In a short time period, millions of faculty members started to teach in front of a computer screen, and their students have to stay at home and take the courses through the Internet. Thus, the present study aimed to assess students' perspectives of such a “sudden shift” from classroom-based teaching methodologies to the use of online platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  Materials and Methods Top

The present study was designed as a qualitative, cross-sectional study in which data was collected using Google forms. To ensure maximum participation, the questionnaire was primarily distributed through two methods: firstly, using a QR code/link using a combination of convenience (directly distributed to known students) and snowball sampling (students were asked to forward the link/QR code to their known student colleagues/peers) and secondly, by sharing it on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. The questionnaire was pretested and prevalidated (Cronbach's α: 0.77) and was distributed in English only. It was divided into four different sections and contained a total of 25 questions. The first section recorded the demographic details, which included the country of residence, highest qualification, practicing areas and years of experience, while the second, third and fourth sections covered the aspects of Internet access and device used (13 questions), used techniques for online teaching (5 questions) and perceptions regarding online learning (7 questions), respectively. The student's consent to actively participate in the survey (inclusion criteria) and freedom either to decline or answer the questionnaire was displayed prior to starting the questionnaire and consent was implied when a student clicked the “next” button. Among the total submissions, if a student failed to answer ≥1 question, the response was excluded from the analysis. To maintain confidentiality of data, the questionnaire did not collect any personal details (name, age, gender, E-mail id, and phone number) and access was only with the primary investigator who coded the data prior to sending it for analysis to the statistician.

The study was conducted over a period of 32 days (March 29, 2020–April 29, 2020) and before implementing the study, a pilot study was executed on a group of 25 students whose responses were excluded during the final analysis. Statistical analysis included tests for normality (Shapiro–Wilk test), independent samples t-test followed by multivariate linear regression using IBM SPSS version 21.0 (Armonk, NY: IBM Corp), keeping P value significant at ≤ 0.05.[9]

  Results Top

In the present study, a total of 887 responses were received from the students of different countries like India, Nepal, USA, Nigeria, Bhutan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, out of which 715 (80.6%) were comprehensive and considered appropriate for the further analysis.

Students' demographics

Reponses were collected from Students from 7 countries and most students belonged to India (35.2%) followed by Saudi Arabia (14.5%), while the least responses were observed from the USA (6.6%) and Australia (5.8%) and is depicted in [Table 1].
Table 1: Students' demographics

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Course and level pursued by the students

It was observed the higher percentage of participation from dental background students (30.2%) followed by medical (16.1%) and Architecture (12.9%), while the least respondents noticed from (remove the) students perusing legal studies (1.9%) as a career. In the survey, the maximum participation of the students was at the level of graduate (45.9%), while the least were pursuing the doctorate degree (Ph.D.) (8.3%) [Table 2].
Table 2: Course and level pursued by the students

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Responses to section 2 of the questionnaire

Analysis of the data revealed that 50% of the students (50.1%) mostly used their cellular digital data to access the Internet. Approximately 59.2% students prefer the mobiles phone as a preferred device to see the online lectures. Total 44.8% students reported about the technical issues related to the low signal bandwidth, bad connectivity during the online lectures which was further found to be significant (P = 0.01). Majority (45.6%) of students reported about the consumption of huge data which results the frequently recharge of their mobile net pack as a consequence of the online lectures [Table 3].
Table 3: Responses to Section 2 of the questionnaire

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Responses to section 3 of the questionnaire

The complete analysis demonstrates (remove the) zoom (94.5%) as one of the most preferred software used by the teachers followed by Google classrooms (2.8%). It is clear that 89.1% of students were recommended to use the zoom software by their university/institute whereas approximately 70.1% of the students were found with the prior knowledge of using the software, which was found to be significant (P = 0.02). In contrast, only 18.3% of students reported having a previous experience of using their university/institute-recommended software and 27.7% of the students were aware of better software that could be used by their university/institute for online learning activities [Table 4].
Table 4: Responses to Section 3 of the questionnaire

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Responses to section 4 of the questionnaire

The responses indicated that only 33.4% of the students were able to understand the entire lecture/activity completely (P = 0.01) and only 39.9% were able to clear their doubts while attending the activity. “No” and “maybe” was observed in 58.7% and 14.7% of the students when they responded to the question “I prefer online learning to classroom learning” and the result obtained was statistically significant (P = 0.03). 57.1% of the students reported that they were sometimes distracted while attending learning activities at home, and PowerPoint was observed to be the most preferred method of teaching by the teachers (75.4%) which was followed by video presentations (9.1%). No online recording of the lectures was made available to 66.9% of the students for future reference/in case any of the students missed the class due to reasons like network issues, etc., Rest between lectures/online activity was reported as “yes” and “sometimes” by 38.2% and 18.2% of the students, respectively. Unless stated, all the responses obtained were not found to be statistically significant [Table 5].
Table 5: Responses to Section 4 of the questionnaire

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Association between the level of education and the preference for offline learning

The results of the multiple linear regression between the level of education and its relation to the preference for offline learning revealed a significant association between students pursuing all levels of education, i.e., Postgraduation (P = 0.01), Internship (P = 0.03), and Ph.D.(P = 0.03), keeping the UGs as a constant. This indicates the need for focusing on proper training in online teaching methods for students to address the technical issues faced by them while attending such courses/lectures online so that its rapid resolution can be done by the students itself [Table 6].
Table 6: Association between the level of education and the preference for offline learning using the multivariate linear regression analysis

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Feedback regarding online learning

An open-ended feedback (optional) regarding the experience of students regarding online learning was asked in the end and a total of 199 responses were recorded. Common responses such as “yes,” “no,” and repeated responses were omitted, leaving a total of 73 feedbacks which are attached in [Supplementary Table 1]. The responses ranged from “It was a fun and interactive time with online learning. I was more relaxed to ask questions as a person who suffers from anxiety and such thoughts in class. I learned better definitely” to “I really want to thank the management that brought the Idea and the teachers who sacrifice their time to make sure we receive a sound education despite all our noise making while class in going on God will bless you all thanks for all your efforts please stay safe wish to meet all my teacher soon “ to “Teachers should use the Timetable to schedule their classes instead of taking classes as it is convenient for them” to “Lectures timing should be informed prior to students. Sometimes we miss lectures due to sudden scheduling” and “Connectivity Issues” and so forth.

Since this question obtained a qualitative response, it was not amenable to statistical analysis. It has been presented for research purposes and the interest of the researchers only as we value the feedback of every student obtained in the present study.

  Discussion Top

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students across all institutions have been compulsorily made to shift to online learning. It was observed that 29.9% of students in the present study were not accustomed to the existing software/digital platform used by their institution during lockdown and could have led to initial difficulties in accessing the online content offered by the teachers. Okello-Obura and Magara reported a Lack of IT knowledge as a barrier to effectively access e-services among 40% students of Makerere University, Uganda, and is comparable to the results of the present study.[10]

A majority of the students, i.e., 50.1% used their mobile data for Internet access, and the most common device used was their smartphone (59.2%) followed by laptops (39.2%). In agreement to the results, The EDUCAUSE report (2014) stated that nearly 86 percent of undergraduates owned a smartphone as of last year, and nearly half (47%) owned a tablet.[11]

Researchers have acknowledged the fact that the mobile platform's unique capabilities which include easy connectivity, compact size, easy of carrying, wireless nature, use of cameras, and sensors, GPS etc., has a great potential to enrich the academic experience for students.[12] In providing further benefit to the students, the commercial competitive industry has compelled manufacturers to present new creative features of competitive traits which benefits the students in their education.[13]

Issues faced in Internet connectivity while attending lectures were reported as sometimes and most of the times by 44.8% and 16.8% of the students, respectively. The same issues have been reported by various researchers across the globe. Another issue pertaining to access of the e-learning is the need to constantly recharge their Internet mobile data packs adding somewhat of a financial constraint; 45.6% of the respondents of the present study reported recharging their mobile packs constantly and the same has been supported by Apuke and Iyendo among three selected universities within North-Eastern Nigeria and additionally reported that increased Internet usage led to speed lags and low access connectivity.[14]

Section 4 assessed the perceptions regarding online learning among the students and it was observed that 39.3% of the students reported that they could not understand the online lecture completely and 27.3% reported “Maybe;” the differences observed were statistically significant. These alarming percentages reveal that content delivery via online learning is not effectively reaching the students. This is also reflected in the fact that 58.7% did not prefer online learning and while answering another question, it was reported that 63.9% of students reported that online teaching was “Not better than classrooms” and only 10.4% reported it to be “better than classrooms.” In agreement to the study results, psychology students in an Australian University enrolled by Kemp and Grieve expressed a strong preference for class discussions to be conducted face-to-face, reporting that they felt more engaged, and received more immediate feedback, than in online discussion.[15]

Approximately 40.5% of students reported not having any learning material with them (books and notes) and 34.8% reported having some study materials with them. This could be attributed to the fact that the spread of COVID-19 pandemic was so sudden that universities had to close all of a sudden and students had to rush to their homes in a hurry and thus left their books behind.

A total of 57.1% of students reported that they were “sometimes” distracted while attending their online lectures. In agreement, Winter et al. reported that students were concerned both about the potential impact of “social” distractions on their academic work, but also about the impact of academic work impinging on their social space.[16] A total of 75.4% of students reported that power point was the most preferred medium by their teachers to impact education followed by teaching on camera without using any method.[17] There have been various researchers who have documented that students prefer power point as a better educational tool as compared to the lecture method and/or chalk and talk method. Students find power point presentations to be more entertaining, better structured and organized in emphasizing key points.[18],[19] In contrast, Sewasew D reported that lecture method (87.3%) was better preferred as compared to PowerPoint presentations among their study subjects.[20]

The present study is prone to certain limitations, one of which could be the inadvertent creeping of the “Social desirability bias” by the students and comprehension bias due to differences in understanding the English language by the students as the study adopted a global approach. The researchers of the present study tried to reduce the incidence of bias as no personal data were asked and the students were assured of the confidentiality of their data. The questionnaire was also validated by language experts to reduce the incidence of comprehension bias by the students.


  1. We recommend that all universities/institutions establish a “emergency learning cell” as a part of their “continuous learning program” in which both teachers and students can be demonstrated regarding the technicalities as well as familiarize both regarding the software used during online learning by the university in case of such an emergency in the future
  2. Inclusion of online learning with focus on effective techniques to engage the students online as a topic in the teacher's training program
  3. Mock drills are conducted once every year so that the teachers and students get acquainted regarding the softwares commissioned by their university/institute for online learning
  4. Feedback regarding their online teaching methodology (confidential) during this pandemic and mock drills should be obtained by each university/institute from their students and the suggestions should be implemented effectively.

  Conclusions Top

In the present study, it was reported that a majority of the students preferred classroom learning as compared to online learning, and most of them faced technical and/or connectivity issues while attending the lectures/activities online. The most common medium to access the lectures was a smartphone and Internet was most accessed through mobile data. Most students have a tendency to get “sometimes” distracted during their online activities. Due to the rapid and progressive nature of the pandemic, a lockdown was enforced almost immediately in all counties and the focus was entirely shifted to online learning with both students and teachers having no time to prepare/get acquainted with online learning software/technology. After the world returns to normalcy, we should strive to take positive feedback and train teachers and students reading online teaching so that both of them face minimum inconvenience incase of such emergencies (pandemics, earthquakes, and tsunamis) in the future.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Daniel J. Making sense of MOOCs: Musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility. Open Educ Res 2013;2012:18.  Back to cited text no. 3
Banchariya S. MHRD's SWAYAM programme aims to make study material available to all. Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/mhrds-swayam-programme-aims-to-make-study-material-available-to-all/articleshow/67955817.cms. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 12].  Back to cited text no. 4
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IBM Corp. Released. In: IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows. Ver. 21.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp; 2012.  Back to cited text no. 9
Okello-Obura C, Magara E. Electronic Information access and utilization by Makerere University students in Uganda. Evid Based Libr Inf Pract 2008;3:39-56.  Back to cited text no. 10
Dahlstrom E, Bichsel J. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research; 2014. p. 14. Available from: https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2014/10/ers1406.pdf. [Last accessed on 2022 Jun 15].  Back to cited text no. 11
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Winter J, Cotton D, Gavin J, Yorke JD. Effective e-learning? Multi-tasking, distractions and boundary management by graduate students in an online environment. ALT-J Res Learn Technol 2010;18:71-83.  Back to cited text no. 16
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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]


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