Medical and Nursing Students’ Perception and Experience of Virtual Classrooms during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nepal

Background: On March 9, 2020, the government of Nepal declared suspension of all academic activities in line with a nationwide lockdown following the COVID-19 outbreak. To keep pace with the academic calendar, medical universities resumed their teaching and learning activities through virtual means on account of nonfeasibility of holding physical classes. The present study sought to identify the perception and experiences of undergraduate medical and nursing students regarding the virtual classrooms.
Methods: We adopted a sequential explanatory mixed method design whereby data were collected in two phases. Quantitative data were gathered from a survey (n=737) and qualitative data from focused group discussion (n=14). The participants were recruited using a non-probability Peer Esteem Snowballing technique. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, whereas qualitative data was examined using a narrative thematic analytic approach.
Results: Mean age of participants was 22±2.01 with (81%) female participation. The quantitative findings revealed that the “synchrony” domain had the highest mean score (4.10±0.47) and “course interaction” had the lowest mean score (2.93±0.81) amongst the four domains. The domains were significantly correlated to each other (P=0.01) and (P=0.05). Results from focus group discussion indicated that interactions were lower in the virtual classes and there was a great variation between the learners’ perception and their experiences of virtual classrooms. Students preferred blended classes to be implemented in future sessions.
Conclusion: In spite of various challenges, the students perceived the transition from traditional to virtual classrooms in a positive and enthusiastic way. An effective virtual learning experience requires a modified instructional approach on the part of educators and a consistent attitude from learners.