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Evaluation of digital teaching in times of pandemic: Students crave social contact

Hof University of Applied Sciences used the time of the pandemic to ask its students about their experiences with online teaching during the corona crisis. The results are clear: While the respondents find the flexibility of digital teaching enriching for their lives, face-to-face teaching is often considered indispensable for the quality of knowledge transfer. Accordingly, there is a strong desire for face-to-face courses, which will once again be offered in Hof starting in the winter semester of 2021/22.

Experiences with online teaching have been surveyed several times in the last three semesters; Image: pixabay;

Around 2700 students were surveyed by Hof University in three survey periods, each lasting two weeks, between the summer semesters of 2020 and 2021

We wanted to find out how the shift towards purely online teaching affects our students and what their experiences with digital options have been. After all, it’s also about finding the right mix of offerings once the pandemic is over.”

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Wolff, Vice President Teaching

The survey asked about learning success on the one hand, but also about the social and technical aspects of the situation.

Biggest advantages and disadvantages of online teaching

When asked about the greatest advantages and disadvantages of online teaching, a clear picture emerged: A clear majority appreciates the fact that online courses allow students to decide freely where and when they want to study and take part in events. The fact that you can determine your own learning pace thanks to the technical options for repetition is also seen as a major plus of lectures that can be accessed online at any time. On the other hand, the lack of contact and exchange with other students is seen as a clear negative. In addition, many students stated that they tire more quickly online. In addition, students need more self-discipline at home in front of the computer to achieve the necessary results.

Lack of exchange

Accordingly, the question about social contacts also provides one of the most salient results of the survey: more than half of all respondents said they were not able to network sufficiently with fellow students during the pandemic – despite all the technical possibilities for establishing contact

“We see quite clearly that direct exchange and that conversations with others are precisely perceived as an integral part of successful study. Here, a deficiency became obvious.”

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Wolff

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Wolff, vice president of teaching at Hof University of Applied Sciences, led the survey;
Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Long-term online teaching hurts motivation

When asked about the success of online teaching, a similar picture emerges: although a very clear majority state that they completed at least as many assignments and consumed at least as much learning material during the period of the pandemic as during times of face-to-face lectures. However, around 60 percent of respondents assume that they learned more or better in face-to-face lectures than online. Another result could also be related to this: Around 40 percent admitted that they were not always able to motivate themselves sufficiently to actively participate in digital content. “It can be assumed that this demotivation effect of extended online teaching also has its negative impact on learning success and on students’ self-assessment,” the university vice president said. More than two-thirds also said they did not feel better informed by online teaching, and only one-third said they had experienced better support from instructors. Still, one in five said their self-study had increased during their time online.

High satisfaction with digital tools

However, the students’ thoroughly divided view of the digital offerings seems to be independent of the technical options offered: “In the query about satisfaction with programs such as Zoom, Moodle or Panopto, an appreciation for the functionality of these tools is evident. They are undoubtedly suitable for online teaching and now offer many possibilities, and only a minority felt inadequately prepared for their use,” explains Sina Ferfers, research assistant to the Vice President Teaching, who was responsible for conducting and evaluating the survey.

Online teaching is a supplement, not a replacement

Hof University of Applied Sciences has announced its intention to return to online teaching in the winter semester of 2021/2022 – a decision that is in line with the results of the evaluation: According to the results, only one in four can imagine doing without face-to-face courses at the university altogether. However, 60 percent of students are in favor of supplementing classroom teaching with digital formats. University President Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jürgen Lehmann:

“We are very grateful for the results of this survey. They show that there is more to a course of study than just learning material and good technical equipment. There is no substitute for classroom teaching. However, online teaching can help students organize themselves through its flexibility. That is why it will continue to be part of our regular courses. How extensive this can be, we will discuss and decide in the circle of our university teachers.”

Rainer Krauß

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