E-learning is defined as the dissemination of information through various electronic media, including the internet, audio, video, etc. Dental education has implemented e-learning many years before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.1 Several factors should be taken into consideration to achieve and maintain the full benefits from e-learning, such as teacher expertise, student readiness, technology infrastructure, and reusable learning design.2Prior research showed that it is cost-effective, time-efficient, overcomes staff shortage, and students are able to improve at their own pace.3,4A major advantage of e-learning is the easy and unlimited accessibility to the educational material.1 Prior studies have found that e-learning was effective for dental students.5–8 The main potential barriers of e-learning are technical barriers, inapplicability of some subjects, and limited interaction.9,10
Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess dental students’ perceptions and overall experiences regarding e-learning at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was carried out from November 2020 through March 2021. A pre-structured, self-administered questionnaire was emailed to undergraduate dental students (second year through sixth year and dental interns). The final sample included 296 undergraduate dental students and interns. Univariate analysis was done to report the sample characteristics. Chi-square and Fisher exact with Monte Carlo were conducted to evaluate the preference of students regarding e-learning across characteristics of the study sample.
Results: The majority of students preferred to integrate e-learning into traditional classroom lectures, although 51.7% did not favor it for clinical subjects. More than half of the sample believed that e-learning allowed excellent interactivity with the instructors. A higher percentage of second-year students preferred traditional learning (71%) than students in other years who preferred a combination of both traditional and online learning (P-value < 0.001). The mode of learning is not associated with marital status, though 36.4% of married students prefer e-learning (P-value = 0.4). Most dental students considered e-learning a positive experience.
Conclusion: There were significant differences in the mode of learning preference between the preclinical and clinical years. Continuous monitoring of learners’ needs, challenges, and outcomes is crucial to effectively evaluate e-learning in dental education.
Keywords: dental education, traditional learning, blended learning, dentistry, COVID-1
Received 25 May 2022
Accepted for publication 4 August 2022
Published 9 August 2022 Volume 2022:13 Pages 839—847
Checked for plagiarism Yes
Review by Single anonymous peer review
Peer reviewer comments 3
Editor who approved publication: Professor Balakrishnan R Nair