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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 177-183

Dental students' perceptions and academic performance in a preclinical fixed prosthodontics course delivered remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic


1 Department of Restorative and Prosthetic Dental Science, College of Dentistry; King Abdullah International Medical Research Center; King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Preventive Dental Sciences, College of Dentistry, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences; King Abdullah International Medical Research Center; King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center; King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences; Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission31-May-2021
Date of Decision20-Sep-2021
Date of Acceptance09-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Hayam Alfallaj
Department of Restorative and Prosthetic Dental Science, College of Dentistry, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, P.O. Box 22490, Riyadh 11426
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/sjoralsci.sjoralsci_30_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: The quarantine, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forced dental schools globally to change to distant learning methods which include viewing previously recorded lectures or attending online virtual classes.
Aims: The aim of this study was to assess the impact of three methods of teaching: Online interactive virtual classes, recorded lectures, and real-life classroom lectures on the academic performance of dental students. The second aim was to evaluate the students' perceptions of the two remote teaching methods as a substitute for traditional classroom lectures.
Materials and Methods: The cross-sectional study was conducted with the second-year dental students at the College of Dentistry, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, during the spring semester of 2020. The last six lectures of a Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics course were delivered remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students' performance in these lectures was compared to their performance in the first nine lectures of the course delivered traditionally before the quarantine period. An online survey was distributed to the students at the end of the course with questions about their perceptions regarding the different teaching methods used to deliver the didactic component of the course.
Results and Discussion: The performance of 104 students (56 males and 48 females) was assessed through the number of correct responses for each teaching method. The percentage of students who responded correctly to all the questions was 44% for the classroom lecture format, 75% in the interactive virtual class format, and 78% in the recorded lecture format. The response rate to the online survey was 87.5%. The majority of the students (78%) indicated that the interactive virtual classes were an effective learning method. The perception about viewing recorded material was also positive as 83% of the students agreed that it is an adequate learning method when the classroom lectures were canceled. Nevertheless, only 43% indicated that recorded material could be used as a substitute for classroom attendance.
Conclusion: The students' performance in the lectures taught remotely in interactive virtual classes or by viewing recorded lectures was both effective and comparable to traditional classroom lectures. The dental students were generally satisfied with the remote online education.

Keywords: COVID-19, dental education, distance education, lecture recording, prosthodontics, teaching


How to cite this article:
Alfallaj H, Alkadhi R, Shaheen N. Dental students' perceptions and academic performance in a preclinical fixed prosthodontics course delivered remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Saudi J Oral Sci 2021;8:177-83

How to cite this URL:
Alfallaj H, Alkadhi R, Shaheen N. Dental students' perceptions and academic performance in a preclinical fixed prosthodontics course delivered remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Saudi J Oral Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 28];8:177-83. Available from: https://www.saudijos.org/text.asp?2021/8/3/177/334301




  Introduction Top


During the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, to contain the spread of the virus, most of the dental schools globally had to change their traditional face-to-face teaching to online distant learning.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] varying between giving students an access to recorded lectures or interacting with them virtually through online platforms.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5]

Providing undergraduate dental students with online educational resources is not novel in the undergraduate programs.[6] Literature before the COVID-19 pandemic reports a positive attitude of dental students to online education,[7],[8],[9],[10] with some variations in terms of whether the online material should be used as a supplement or substitute to attending classroom lectures.[11],[12] The positive feedback was mostly attributed to the flexibility offered by online learning, allowing the students to view the educational material in their preferred time and location.[7],[13] In addition to its usefulness in reviewing examination material with less stress, especially when attending a classroom lecture was not feasible.[14] During the pandemic, literature also reported a general acceptance of dental students to online learning of the didactic components of the registered courses,[15],[16],[17] with an expected dissatisfaction toward distance learning of the preclinical and clinical components of the courses.[16]

Literature reflects contradictory findings regarding the performance of dental students in preclinical laboratory procedures after attending a live demonstration or viewing previously recorded material. Although the majority of these studies reported no significant differences in the students' performance,[18],[19],[20] a study by Gorucu-Coskuner et al. reported improved outcomes in the group who viewed video recorded demonstrations.[21] Another study pertaining to a clinical procedure reported a better performance of the dental students who attended a face-to-face demonstration, compared with the group who viewed videos.[22] In addition, studies that assessed dental students' performance in the didactic components of the undergraduate courses generally reported better outcomes when the materials were taught in a blended-learning technique, in which both online and face-to-face instructions were used.[23],[24],[25],[26] The aim of the current study was to assess the impact of the different methods of teaching, online interactive virtual classes, recorded lectures, and real-life classroom lectures, on the academic performance of the dental students. Furthermore, to evaluate the students' perceptions towards the two remote methods of teaching as a substitute for traditional classroom lectures.


  Materials and Methods Top


A cross-sectional study was conducted to assess the performance of the students in the didactic component of the Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics course in the spring semester of 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The course was provided to 2nd-year dental students (n = 104; 48-female and 56-male) at the College of Dentistry, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), Saudi Arabia. Ethical approval for conducting the study was obtained from the Institutional Review Board at the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center-KAIMRC (RC20/275/R).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the primary undergraduate didactic teaching method for the DMD program at the university was face-to-face lectures in a classroom setting. All lectures are recorded on the Mediasite platform (https://mediasite.com) and posted to students on the Blackboard following the class. The format of lecture capturing includes video recording or audio recording over presentation slides, the format used is based on the faculty member's preference. For all the DMD students, lecture attendance is mandatory, and the students will not be eligible to write the final examination if they failed to attend at least 75% of the lectures. The week after the Saudi government issued the quarantine directive and suspended all schools, the College of Dentistry at KSAU-HS employed its virtual learning solution, using Blackboard Collaborate, to create an online virtual classroom environment. In several courses, faculty members were given the option to use previous recordings of their lectures which were posted to students on Blackboard as a substitute for virtual live lectures.

The Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics course consists of 15 lectures. Nine lectures were given to the students in a real-life classroom room setting before the school suspension. During the suspension period, three lectures (Lectures 10, 11, and 12) were presented online via interactive virtual classes through the Blackboard platform. Attendance was mandatory, and the students were given the opportunity to participate and ask questions. The remaining three lectures (13, 14, and 15) were provided to the students as video-recorded lectures from the previous year's Mediasite archive (https://mediasite.com). All the examinations were done remotely during the suspension period through the Blackboard platform. The intra-semester examination focused on the content of the first nine classroom lectures with 24 questions. The final examination included the content of the six remaining remote lectures with 16 questions on the online virtual class content and 14 questions on the material provided in a recorded lecture format [Table 1]. Both examinations were in multiple-choice questions format, and in an attempt to reduce cheating, the time limit for each question was 2 min, the questions were displayed in a different order for each student and the back-track navigation was prohibited. The student performance in the didactic component of the course was assessed by the number of correct responses in the written intra-semester and final examinations.
Table 1: Summary of the lectures and related questions in the preclinical fixed prosthodontics course

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Data collection

Students' performance

Using the Blackboard Platform, the students' responses to the exam questions were collected and evaluated in a binary scale (correct = 1, incorrect = 0).

Students' perceptions

A questionnaire [Appendix 1], developed by the research team, focusing on the students' perceptions regarding the online virtual classes and viewing the recorded lectures as substitutes for attending classroom lectures, was distributed electronically (www.surveymonkey.com) to the second-year dental students enrolled in the Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics course. The students' participation was optional, and responses were anonymous.



Statistical analyses

The students' perceptions of the different teaching methods and the distribution of a number of correct responses (during the intra-semester and final examinations) in terms of the different teaching methods were summarized as frequency and percentage. The proportion of correct responses in the male and female groups was compared using a Fisher's exact test, a P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Statistical analyses were done with SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA).


  Results Top


The performance of the 104 s year students was assessed in the current study. There were slightly more male students (n = 56, 54%) than female students (n = 48, 46%).

The distribution of the number of correct reponses based on the different teaching methods

The distribution of the number of correct responses, based on the different teaching methods, is summarized in [Table 2]. In the real-life classroom lecture format, 46 students (44%) responded correctly to all 24 questions, followed by 31 students (30%) with 23 correct responses and 17 students (16.3%) with 22 correct responses.
Table 2: The distribution of the number of correct responses based on the different teaching methods by gender

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In the interactive virtual class format (questions n = 16), 78 students (75%) responded correctly to all the questions, followed by 24 students (23%) with 15 correct responses and two students (1.92%) with 14 correct responses.

In the recorded lecture format (questions n = 14), 81 students (78%) responded correctly to all questions, followed by 19 students (18%) with 13 questions, and 3 students (2.9%) with 12 questions.

The distribution of the number of correct responses based on the different teaching methods by gender

The distribution of the correct responses by gender, based on the different teaching methods, is summarized in [Table 2]. The number of correct responses was significantly different by gender for the interactive virtual classes (P = 0.027).

The students' perceptions of the different teaching methods

Of the 104 dental students, 91 (40 females and 51 males) completed the electronic questionnaire, yielding a response rate of 87.5%. The majority of the students (78%) indicated that the interactive virtual classes were an effective learning method. The perception regarding viewing the recorded material was also positive; 83% agreed that it is an adequate learning method when classroom lectures were canceled. However, only 43% agreed that the recorded material could be used as a substitute for classroom attendance [Table 3].
Table 3: Responses of the sample about the perceived value of the different teaching methods

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  Discussion Top


The current study was done to assess the students' academic performance in the didactic component of the Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics course, delivered remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two remote teaching methods such as online interactive virtual classes and recorded lectures were compared to a traditional classroom teaching method.

The student performance in the didactic component of the course was assessed by the number of correct responses in the written intra-semester and final examinations. The proportions of the students who responded correctly in the virtual classes and the recorded lecture teaching methods was significantly higher than the traditional classroom method. This could be attributed in part to the effectiveness of the remote teaching methods. However, it should be noted that the lecture content and the level of difficulty of the questions could be different in the lectures delivered traditionally and remotely. In addition, the students had an unusually long time to study and prepare for the examinations due to the suspension of school attendance and the cancelation of the practical component of the course during the quarantine.

A limited number of studies are available in literature comparing the performance of students in terms of virtual and traditional methods in teaching a theoretical dental curriculum. A study by Qutieshat et al. compared the performance of two groups of fourth-year students in a conservative dentistry course; one group received conventional lectures and the other a blended learning methodology. The blended learning group had significantly higher scores on all the course assessments compared to the conventional group.[27] Another study with Iranian dental students compared a virtual method to a traditional (lecture based) method of learning in terms of knowledge acquisition and retention. The course focused on “rotary instrumentation of root canals.” The study concluded that virtual learning was more effective than traditional learning.[22] Although no direct comparison can be made to the current study, the findings suggest that online and blended learning methods could be more effective than traditional lectures for educating dental students, growing up in a technological era.

The majority (84%) of the sample agreed that viewing recorded lectures is adequate if classroom lectures were cancelled for any reason, and 78% indicated that attending online virtual interactive classes is an effective learning method. The tendency of dental students to prefer viewing recorded lectures could be attributed to the technical difficulties they experienced when logging into the online virtual classes (Blackboard platform), in addition to the unfamiliarity of some faculty with moderating the online virtual classes. A study conducted by Pilcher in 2001,[8] reported that only 28% of the students preferred replacing traditional lectures with an online format in the fixed prosthodontics course. More than half the students recommended online material to supplement rather than replace traditional lectures,[8] supporting the statement that the current students are more comfortable with technology and prefer it to the traditional teaching method. Reynolds et al. reported that undergraduate dental students were increasingly more appreciative of online learning over the 4-year period.[13] A recent study by Van Doren,[16] reported that most dental students at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine felt that their didactic learning had not changed during the pandemic.[16] This reflects the development in online learning in dental education over the past decade and the increasing acceptance and access to technology in their education. Nevertheless, hands-on and clinical training is a vital part of dental education and cannot be substituted remotely by any current technology.[2],[4],[16],[18],[28],[29]

This study had some limitations. It is a cross-sectional study, retrospectively assessing the performance of dental students in one course at a single dental school. The results may not be generalizable to other courses and to students in other programs. In addition, the sudden shift to distance education in the middle of a course that was initially designed for face-to-face learning may have had an effect on the performance and perceptions of the students. Faculty members and students had different levels of technological expertise, and they did not receive adequate training to use the online platform prior to the transition.[30],[31] The findings of the current study suggest the effectiveness of online distant learning and the general acceptance of dental students of such teaching methods. However, A future prospective study that uses a standardized assessment tool to assessing students' performance following receiving different online teaching methods, in a normal circumstance rather than quarantine period, is needed to know the real effect of distant online learning tools.


  Conclusions Top


The dental students' performance in the remote lectures, interactive virtual classes, or recorded lectures was both effective and comparable to traditional classroom lectures. The dental students were generally satisfied with the remote online education including the online virtual classes or viewing recorded material.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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