Online Education: Lessons Learned from Teaching Undergraduate Courses

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Essam Zaneldin, Souzan Kabbani


As a result of the ‘COVID-19’ pandemic, the urgent introduction of online distance education into the learning process has become an eminent change in the delivery of courses, requiring urgent decisions and effective mechanisms to implement into the educational process as well as the analysis of the current traditional teaching process. This paper presents the result of an online questionnaire survey conducted among instructors and undergraduate students of an institution in a developing country during the ‘Spring 2020’ and ‘Fall 2020’ semesters to explore their experience and feedback related to online education. Issues related to the logistics and infrastructure, interaction between instructors and students, communication problems, available policies and procedures, technical support, and other problems associated with online teaching/learning are presented. The data received from the survey respondents was analyzed and the analysis results has suggested that online education may be more effective for lecture-based courses but when studying scientific courses that requires problem solving, the priority should be given to traditional methods of teaching, particularly for courses that have lab components. Despite facing some challenges and difficulties, the responses received from students indicated that, in general, they are quite satisfied with online teaching and expressed their desire to continue offering courses using this mode of delivery even during normal times. Data analysis also showed that online teaching resulted in a slightly better-than-expected performance as compared to face-to-face lecturing and boosted student’s learning experience. Course instructors and students indicated that the reason for this better performance is due to the online availability of lecture notes and other learning material, including the recordings of lectures. This is in addition to the fact that online classes allow students to attend from anywhere and conveniently access course material anytime and anywhere. Students, however, have listed some concerns associated with online learning including the inadequate time provided for online exams and the unfair evaluation and assessment of students’ work. This is in addition to the technical problems frequently encountered during online classes and exams and the absence of an efficient technical support system and a clear policy related to this relatively new delivery method. The results also revealed that around 62% of the surveyed students indicated that blended learning, a combination of online learning and traditional face-to-face lecturing, can be useful and recommended using it in future course delivery. Instructors, on the other hand, indicated that, despite the several benefits of online learning, the engagement of students was minimal, and the online learning infrastructure and learning management system need to be improved. Finally, recommendations and lessons learned from the online learning experience are presented

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