113 Distance Education Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best distance education topic ideas & essay examples, 👍 good essay topics on distance education, ⭐ interesting topics to write about distance education, ✅ simple & easy distance education essay titles.

  • Online Classes Vs. Traditional Classes Essay The essay shall endeavor to examine the differences between online classes and the traditional classes, with a preference for the later.
  • Benefits of Online Learning This knowledge and skill one gains from online help the person to intermingle with others in a better way, progress their profession, or develop their business successfully.
  • Traditional vs. Distance Learning Systems On the other hand, in online learning, the students partake learning individually, and in some cases, students doing the same course in the same college do not even get to know each other.
  • The Importance of Online Learning For this purpose, it is possible to conduct classes in real-time, when they can ask and receive the opinion of others.
  • Comparison of Stress Level Among Traditional Learning and Online Learning College Students The distance learners have been perceived to be enjoying a suitable environment of learning as opposed to the traditional classroom learners who experience high levels of stress.
  • How to Succeed in Online Classes The time you attend the class has to coincide with the time of day when your brain is also most receptive to the information it receives.
  • Online Learning and Classroom Learning Combining the two concepts then, we can define e-learning “as a learning environment that exists solely in the form of digital content that is stored, accessed and exchanged through networked computer and information systems” The […]
  • Zoom for Online Learning Updates During the pandemic, the zoom was and is still the most downloaded App in the USA and globally compared to others.
  • Personal Reflections for the MBA Distance Learning I was able to concentrate on various subjects, complete assignments, and liaise with different instructors throughout the learning process. The approach made the learning process desirable and capable of supporting my aims.
  • Virtual Learning: Yes and No Argumentation The argument stems from the quality of the education that can be received via the internet and what the drawbacks are once there is no physical contact between students and the professors.
  • Administrative Progressivism in Relation to Online Learning The main idea of the discussion is to consider online learning from the perspective of administrative progressivism with identifying the advantages and disadvantages of using the mentioned approach along with the chosen method of study.
  • The Impact of Distance Learning on the Mental State The argument of the supporters of the first perspective is based on the fact that online education reduces the ability of students to concentrate and deteriorates overall motivation.
  • Distance Learning: Advantages and Limitations All three articles cover the topic of distance learning in the context of the coronavirus and everyday practice. Speaking of the advantages of distance learning, the author suggests that remote learning may not be ideal […]
  • Online Learning in Vocational Education and Training There are different variations in the process of learning on the basis of the types of combination and integration with the other technologies used for the teaching and learning process.
  • Learning Objectives Implementation With the advent of the internet, online courses have sprouted resulting in the debate on the two options, traditional class setting, and the online class.
  • Distance Learning and Its Evolution Definitions of distance education are varied and diverse, but the main concept of distance learning can be summarized from the situation wherein the student and the educator are separated by distance and time and the […]
  • Changes in Learning and Motivation With the Advent of Online Learning Institutions of learning have introduced online learning through improvement of infrastructure, incorporation of new technologies in learning, recruitment of professionals who are conversant with new technologies, and revision of curriculums in order to accommodate new […]
  • The Roles of Families in Virtual Learning By analyzing the various roles that families play in virtual learning, the authors demonstrate that family involvement and support are critical to the success of their children The authors begin by discussing the impact of […]
  • Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic The radical transition from the traditional system of obtaining knowledge to virtual education actualizes research related to the analysis of the specifics and dysfunctions of distance learning.
  • The Need for Online Learning at St. Francis Elementary School This has led to the need to design an online learning platform suitable for interactive and critical learning experiences by the tutors and their learners.
  • Online Learning Perception and Effectiveness While the solution allowed students to access information and continue their studies, there was apprehension in regard to the efficacy of online learning and the outcomes such shifts have on students’ academic performances.
  • Distance Learning of Forest Management Considering that the goal of the research was to analyze the results and implications of a practical approach to the forest management course engagement and e-learning development, most information was derived from the expert team […]
  • A Distance Learning Program: Strategies for Successful Starting or Expanding An institution has to identify the most appropriate communication tools and media to be used by students and teachers in a distance learning program.
  • Starting and Expanding Distance Learning Program Therefore, decision-makers must grapple with the problem of distant learning planning, as institutions are caught between the desire to serve students online and the requirement to maintain traditional student services.
  • Factors for Teachers’ Motivation in Distance Learning Efficient communication with the administration of an institution is a crucial factor that affects the motivation of teachers in distance learning.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning Amidst that confusion, it would be important to take a deep look into the subject and see the disadvantages and the advantages of online learning.
  • Pros and Cons of Distance Education On the one hand, modernization of education allows it to expand the usual boundaries of transmitting and receiving information in the educational process while retaining all the integral components.
  • Rhetorical Analysis of the Distance Education The essay can be addressed both to the children and parents for whom the issues of health and psychology are important.
  • Distance Learning Experiences of In-Service Music Teachers From Puerto Rico The study explores the experiences of in-service music teachers in distance learning. This paper examines the motivations of in-service teachers in distance learning.
  • Design Thinking for Online Learning Project In this paper, attention will be paid to the problem of a lack of engagement with online learning and a reflection on design thinking as its solution.
  • Maximizing the Effectiveness of Online Learning Flipped learning allows the teacher to provide the greatest amount of time for direct interaction with students, which is especially important in the framework of online learning.
  • New Online Learning Platform: Market Analysis The goal of online education is to enhance the knowledge of people who want to pursue a particular career for a fee that is lesser when compared to offline studies in Universities.
  • Software Engineering Online Learning Center However, it is not easy to tell what the website is promoting just by the look of the homepage and thus, visitors with less time might not be interested to click to the sub-sections and […]
  • Distance Education Problem Overview Generally, distance education can be evaluated as a binary prospect: on one hand, it presents a row of advantages for the people who are busy with their work and family duties, and on the other […]
  • Negotiation: Distance Learning and Social Change The conflict that arises, in this case, is that the Pirates are demanding ransom money from the owners of the tanker in order to release it and its crew. The essay has given a detailed […]
  • Online Learning in Jordan Universities: Effectiveness and Obstruction For the quality learning process, e-learning has been developed to use different approaches to ease the process of learning. E-learning is a novel idea in most of the Arab world and it has come with […]
  • Online Learning Institutions and Courses This account allows you to access the online learning institutions library. Which are the most reliable online learning institutions?
  • Professional Development Methods: Distance Education Technologies Professional development at universities has included methods to assist faculty in improving course design and educational methods, as well as in becoming familiar with and applying educational technologies, such as distance education tools. These centers […]
  • Why Distance Education Can Fulfill the Purpose of a True Education? The only reason I can see for professors to frown upon distance education is that it has removed their infallibility in the eyes of the students.
  • Earning a Degree Through Distance Education Though both foreign and traditional education institutions provide knowledge and skills to students in order to enable them become competent in their profession, the institutions vary in the quality of degree courses they provide to […]
  • Distance Learning Fulfilling Education Purpose Distance learning mode of education, which is a kind of education that takes place when the teachers and the students are separated by space and time, does not entirely serve the purpose of education. The […]
  • Distributed and Distance Learning Systems It is a system that can be of great impact to the researchers this is because one is able to get information that will help him or her get a cue for that group that […]
  • Social Constructivism in Cooperative and Distance Learning As opposed to the behaviorist view of learning which gives more importance to the imitation aspects of the learner in the learning process, this constructivist theory gives greater room for the active interaction of the […]
  • Online Learning and Learning Behaviours In such a way, the main reason for the creation of this project is the increased popularity of online learning and the need for the in-depth investigation of this phenomenon because of its increased demand.
  • Nurses and Virtual Learning Environments: Understanding Limits in Nursing Education Despite the expected benefits and improvements in nursing education due to the use of virtual learning environments, this practice may create a number of challenges for students and teachers.
  • Online Learning Design Specifications The rapid rise of technologies and the evolution of communication means resulted in the appearance of new approaches to the learning process.
  • Innovative Social Networking in Online High School The preparedness of the school is also critical towards the success of this innovative technology. The school should also examine the benefits and bottlenecks of the new technology.
  • Online Classes for High School Students I wish to submit to you that the need for extra input in terms of study has caused many parents to enroll their children in online study classes to supplement the knowledge they get from […]
  • Online Learning Environments The questions will be posted to the group by the instructor. The learners are likely to face a number of challenges in the course of the module.
  • Evaluating Online Learning Tools The learners can be referred to reliable wikis and blogs to integrate the ideas learnt from the class. In this manner, the desires of people to learn are not limited by distance and time.
  • Online Learning Principles and Objectives In this way, the students will not only argue the purposes and significance of the course to their life, but also create an interactive session among the students and their instructor. As the instructor, I […]
  • Online Learning Space Creating Process On the other hand, a community of practice has been known to mean a crowd of people who are in the same career or share the same interest.
  • Distance Learning and Virtual High School This implies that district schools in lines with virtual High school are of much importance to both the educators and students.
  • Distance Education: Best Practices and Approaches The study with the use of a case-based learning system undertaken by Cifuentes, Mercer, Alverez, and Bettati in 2010 demonstrated that students could remotely participate in the learning process without the need to be physically […]
  • The Importance of Virtual Learning Communities The learning communities enable the instructors and the students to volunteer their questions. The virtual learning communities enable online degree programs to give students autonomy over the learning process.
  • Online Learning and Innovations in Pedagogy On the other hand, computer-based learning can be understood as a learning environment in which computers are used to mediate between learners and content without necessarily being online.
  • Efficient Interaction in Distance Learning Classroom The problem is that the number of enrolments in the online form of education is augmenting, even as the knowledge regarding the factors that influence the effectiveness of distance education continues to be scarce.
  • Virtual Learning Environments: Effective Use Tutors often face the challenge of effective delivery of lessons in the classroom given the diverse categories of students. Learning objects basically refer to blocks of content that can be interlinked to produce a course.
  • Using Wikis to Encourage Online Classes Collaborative Work The problem is that the entire process seems to ignore the relevance of enabling students to interact and share their ideas in the learning environment.
  • Technology Acceptance Model of Online Learning The findings of the study demonstrate the effectiveness of external variables related to online learning environments in predicting the ability of users to adopt online learning community.
  • Formulating an Online Learning Course Reviewing is done from the student side where a person analyzes the content and readability of the information contained in the online learning program.
  • Tone Impact in Distance Education Thus, in this paper, the tone will refer to the tone the instructor implies in the text material and the tone of conversations between the instructors and the students.
  • Ethical Issues in Online Learning The online assessment methods should consider the ethical issues arising from the learning process. The assessment methods should be able to prevent all forms of dishonesty during the learning process.
  • Virtual Learning Environment: Concord Consortium The problem is that this capitalization can be perceived as sign of rudeness, and it can make reluctant to take part in the discussion. Provided that a teacher can promote the involvement of students, they […]
  • High School of Virtual Learning Environment The aim will be to see incorporation of the system, the opportunities, and the challenges faced while using Virtual Learning Environment.
  • Transition From Traditional Education to Online Learning The speed of information transfer at any time and anywhere through the internet makes online learning relatively cheap compared to the traditional education system.
  • Distance Learning OL and Interactive Video in Higher Education The two-way communication systems as well as the need to interact ‘physically’ between and among the participants are what propelled the adoption of this mode of learning.
  • Distance Learning Foundational Concepts Another problem that arises as a result of distance learning is the lack of face to face or one on one contact between teachers or instructors and their students.
  • Convenience and Flexibility of the Online Classes The advantage of online courses for full or part-time employed individuals is that you can plan how you take your courses. Online classes also introduce students to a variety of web-based tools and techniques that […]
  • Concept of Distance Learning in Modern Education System The accessibility of the distance learning courses mainly depend on the awareness of the instructor to the accessibility issues and how the instructor can best handle the course with consideration of accessibility.
  • Creating Student Engagement in Online Learning Environment To contribute to creating and stimulating student engagement in online learning environments, it is important to focus on such factors as the increase of students’ motivation, focus on independent and inquiry-based learning, the active role […]
  • Online Learning Is a Superior Form of Education This paper will argue that online learning is a superior form of education since it helps students and learning institutes to overcome limitations imposed by the traditional learning environment.
  • Computer and Internet Facilities Use in Distance Education
  • Asynchronous Distance Education Issues
  • Distance Education, Leadership, and Management
  • Teaching and Learning Online: Contextualizing the Distance Education Classroom as a “Safe Space” for Learning
  • Nursing and Distance Education: Regulation and Legislation
  • Tertiary Distance Education and Student Adjustment
  • Accreditation Need and Distance Education
  • Adult Students’ Problems in the Distance Education and Online Learning
  • Distance Education Student’s Experiences of Participation and Inclusion in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
  • Impact of Distance Education on Higher Education Across the World
  • Factors That Influence Learning Outcomes of Adult Students Enrolled in Distance Education
  • Computer and Long Distance Education
  • Distance Education and Low Education
  • Tips for Managers Setting up a Distance Education Program
  • Distance Education Theory: Dialog, Structure, and Learner Autonomy
  • The Benefits and Future of Distance Education
  • Distance Education Investment Reasons
  • How Distance Education Has Changed the World of Education
  • Distance Education Practice: Methods and Benefits
  • Rural Versus Urban Students – Differences in Accessing and Financing
  • Academic Success Factors: Distance Education Versus Traditional
  • Online Education Versus Distance Education Versus Face-To-Face Learning
  • The Advantages and Disadvantages of Distance Education
  • Theoretical Framework for Distance Education
  • Measuring Perseverance and Passion in Distance Education Students: Psychometric Properties of the Grit Questionnaire and Associations With Academic Performance
  • Distance Education and Its Impact on the World
  • Face-To-Face and Distance Education Modalities in the Training of Healthcare Professional
  • Distance Education Has Changed the World: Evolution of Online Learning
  • Old Apprehensions, New Anxieties: A Study of Student ‘Psychological Cost’ in Traditional and Distance Education
  • Distance Education Issue and Its Significance
  • The Missing Borders: Pedagogical Reflections From Distance Education
  • Distance Education and Telecommunications Technologies
  • Time Management for Distance Education
  • How Distance Education Can Help Poorer and Developing Countries
  • College Distance Education Courses: Evaluating Benefits
  • The Necessity for Distance Education and E-Learning
  • Distance Education for Students With Disabilities
  • Pros and Cons of Online Distance Education vs. Traditional Education
  • Distance Education and the Isolation of Rural Schools
  • Finding Determinants Affecting Distance Education Effectiveness in Terms of Learner Satisfaction and Application Achievement
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Home-based self-directed learning: relationship of self-regulated learning strategies, attitude and family demographics on students' academic performance.

Harold Floren

Date of Award

Document type, degree name.

Master of Science in Science Education

First Advisor

Catherine Genevieve B. Lagunzad, PhD; Cornelia C. Sotto, PhD

With the shift in the mode of academic instruction due to the global pandemic, educators used different approaches for continuing teaching and learning. Aside from the usual online distance education, adaptive offline modalities such as modular learning have been done to respond to these changes in academic delivery. This study aims to know how self-regulated learning (SRL) affects students' academic performance and attitude towards biology using the adaptive mode of learning instruction such as printed learning modules used in most public high schools in the Philippines. The participants of the study are composed of forty-three (43) secondary ninth-grade students who used adaptive offline self-directed learning materials. These materials are specifically in the form of printed learning modules provided by the public school system. A mixed-method approach was adopted in this study to examine the self-regulated learning strategies and the attitudinal component measure of the students towards biology. Students' self-regulated learning strategies and attitudes towards biology have been assessed through modified survey questionnaires and structured interviews. Students' self-regulated learning measures were assessed quantitatively through the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). The qualitative component focused on the structured phone interviews using the Self-Regulated Learning Interview Schedule (SRLIS) to evaluate specific self-regulated learning strategies used by high and low-achieving students. The results showed a high positive correlation between the relationship of the student's self-regulated learning and their academic performance in biology; meanwhile, a low positive correlation has been observed between self-regulated v learning and attitude towards biology. Metacognitive SRL strategies such as self- evaluation have the highest frequency among advanced and proficient students. Other forms of self-regulated learning strategies that seek assistance and help from others are more observed among those students in the developing level. Contributory factors that may affect their academic performance with the shift of educational instructional delivery were assessed. Generated principal components influencing students' academic performance were primarily attributed to students' intrinsic motivation, metacognitive and cognitive processes, along with parents' involvement and social class dimension. These different factors interplay on how to develop better learning opportunities using adaptive distance learning modality. Improvement of learners’ cognitive and metacognitive skills with self-regulation isimperative for better academic performance.

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Floren, Harold, (2021). Home-Based Self-Directed Learning: Relationship of Self-Regulated Learning Strategies, Attitude and Family Demographics on Students' Academic Performance. Archīum.ATENEO . https://archium.ateneo.edu/theses-dissertations/485

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Distance Learners' Experiences on Learning Delivery Modality through Modular and Online Distance Learning in a Science High School: A Phenomenological Study

Profile image of Dulce Regulto

Research Proposal Pandemic has brought a huge shift in the face of education especially with the implementation of remote learning through learning delivery modality. These distance learning modalities are selected based on the circumstances of students and teachers to continue schooling. Over the last few years, distance education has turn out to be a major trend in education. In a recent year, more than 100 professional conferences dealt with some aspect of distance education, and almost every professional organization’s publications and conferences have shown a huge increase in the number of presentations and articles related to distance education. Many educators are making grand claims about how distance education is likely to change education and training (Simonson et al, 2015). The development of modern technology and the Internet has enabled the explosive growth of distance learning. Distance learning is a process that is increasingly present in the world. This is the field of education focused on educating students who are not physically present in the traditional classrooms or student’s campus. Described as a process where the source of information is separated from the students in space and time (Pandza, 2010). One of the modalities that are being implemented is the modular distance learning wherein it involves individualized instruction where learners use self-learning modules (SLMs) in print or digital format. Another is online distance learning is delivering learning through the use of the technology connected to the internet while students and teachers are geographically remote to each other. The purpose of the study is to understand the experience of modular distance learning and online distance learning as a phenomenon lived by distance learners. This emerged from the researcher’s experience on teaching students in both types of modalities.

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The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the sudden shift from on-campus class to remote learning using different ways, but mainly through the use of the internet to deliver instruction and submit the requirements. While the news is full of statistics about the COVID-19 cases, recoveries, and deaths, not much has been written about the plight of students during the pandemic. This study looked into the lived experiences of the five education students enrolled in Batangas State University learning on their own at home during the time of the Luzonwide lockdown in the Philippines. This phenomenological research utilized voice calls (Messenger) in getting data from the participants. In analyzing the data, the researchers identified the frequent words or phrases, categorized the responses, then identified the themes. Four themes emerged from the interviews: students partook in asynchronous learning for grades; remote education during a pandemic affords students’ stress and anxiety; students prefer in-face classes over distance learning; and they have insufficient technology. The study concluded with the understanding that the sudden implementation of distance learning, the student-participants view this mode of learning as a means to comply and to cope with the set standards given the available measures and resources. The student-participants are able to experience the truly independent and individual manner of learning. Participants need to adjust to the new mode of learning, for they are still in the traditional face to face mode of delivery of learning and education and resources and means to connect are the major concerns of students especially those in the remote areas both the region and nearby provinces.

write a thesis statement distance learning modality

International Encyclopedia of Education 4Ed

Norm Friesen

Phenomenology is the study of experience as it is concretely lived, a study that works to draw general structures or interpretations from this concrete particularity. Pedagogy is delineated first through the “pedagogical difference” between educator and (those being) educated. It has traditionally been understood in terms of the influence of the older generation on the younger and has also been recast (for example) as the educator’s holistic focus on the one being educated. Phenomenology and pedagogy converge not just in their interest in particular experiences of this influence and focus; both imply a position or an “attitude” from which everyday involvements with others, especially with the young, can be understood.

The current discourse surrounding Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is powerful. Despite their rapid and widespread deployment, research has yet to confirm or refute some of the bold claims rationalizing the popularity and effi- cacy of these large-scale virtual learning environments. Also, MOOCs’ reputed disruptive, game-changing potential for education remains unsubstantiated. A sober counterbalance is needed, in particular, via attending to students’ everyday accounts of the complex realities of learning in these massive online courses. This article reports on an exploratory, phenomenological study of the xMOOC learning experience. Our interest was not the xMOOC experience of students in general, but in its singular, lived particularities. What we discovered was a unique and intimate tutorial sphere that seemed to develop for some xMOOC students in the context of the video lectures, an experience sometimes marked by a sense of fandom surround.

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This research asks “What is it like for a K-12 school-age child to learn in a massive open online course (MOOC)?” Evidence suggested that a significant number of children are participating in MOOCs either independently or along- side their parents, both inside and outside the K-12 school system. Researchers have expressed concerns regarding how these self-directed, massive learning environments may alter children’s study patterns and habits. However, little scholarly attention has been devoted to this unique phenomenon. In particular, rigorous qualitative inquiry is needed to undercover the complex realities of chil- dren’s actual experiences in MOOCs. Following the methodological approach “phenomenology of practice,” our study analyzed lived experience descriptions (LEDs) gathered during interviews with 12 children–parent couplets; each child had completed at least one MOOC including Coursera’s Dino 101. This article highlights several themes that arose in our existential analyses of the collected LEDs.

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Research in the field of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has frequently taken a top-down approach when investigating learners' attitudes and behavior, both in the course as well as for their personal use. Suggestions are given for use of technology, and future research (Beatty, 2010; Levy & Stockwell, 2006). One perspective that has not been examined in CALL is Reflexive Photography, a method that lends itself to rigorous and focused analysis and can illuminate the participants' experiences and perceptions in a way that the above methods cannot. In reflexive photography, participants are asked to photograph their experience of the phenomenon in question. These photographs serve as the basis for the discussion with the researcher that follows, and help to define the scope of the particular phenomenon. Together, the participants and the researcher co-produce the information regarding the phenomenon (Jenkings, Woodward & Winter, 2008). Reflexive photography has been used to explore issues of identity and experience in other fields, although in CALL, it has been underutilized. The present study identified current uses of technology among International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) taking a course to improve their spoken English intelligibility. Midway through the term, learners photographed what they deemed to be helpful and what they felt obstructed the improvement of their oral English production. They then shared seven to ten photographs in a focus group of peers. At the end of the term, the researcher interviewed the learners regarding these experiences. The photos and the interviews were coded and the researcher examined the emergent findings, using observations and electronic communication from


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A comparative study regarding distance learning and the conventional face-to-face approach conducted problem-based learning tutorial during the COVID-19 pandemic

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BMC Medical Education volume  21 , Article number:  141 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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Educational pedagogies were modified during the COVID-19 pandemic to minimise interruption to teaching. One approach has been the distance learning problem-based learning (PBL) tutorial utilising the online peer-to-peer platform. The aim of this study was to compare the performance of students using distance learning PBL tutorials using with that of students utilising the conventional face-to-face approach.

This retrospective study was conducted in a single academic institution. We compared two groups of fourth-year medical students from the same class: one group used distance learning (DL); the other, the face-to-face (FF) method. We used students’ baseline performance at the preceding block for one-to-one propensity score matching. Students utilising the PBL tutorial were given grades by their tutors according to a standardised scoring system encompassing five key areas (score range: 0–10). The main outcome was a student’s total score (i.e., the sum of the scores from the five key areas, ranging from 0 to 50).

We matched 62 students in each group. With four tutorials, there were 490 observations, with 245 in each group. The mean total score for the DL group was 37.5 ± 4.6, which was significantly lower than that of the FF group (39.0 ± 4.4, p  < 0.001). We noted that students in the DL group had a significantly lower scores for all five areas of proficiency: participation, communication, preparation, critical thinking and group skills.

Findings of this study revealed that the performance of students utilising the DL PBL tutorials was lower than that of students participating in the conventional FF approach. Further studies are needed to ascertain the underlying cause.

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During the first half of 2020, the world was challenged by the coronavirus pandemic on an unprecedented scale. In response, many people adopted the practice of social distancing, and schools suspended classes and activities. Medical students were devoid of opportunities to enter hospital premises because of tightened infection control measures. Educators adopted innovative measures to maintain learning opportunities for students who stayed at home [ 1 , 2 , 3 ]. Some of these measures, including online lectures or webinars, were in place before the COVID-19 outbreak [ 4 ]. Others were hastily put into place during the pandemic. Given its user-friendly design, online peer-to-peer platforms became extremely popular. Lectures, tutorials, skills demonstrations, and even bedside teaching for medical students can be conducted via this type of platform [ 5 , 6 ]. For example, at the University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine offered a FF PBL tutorial using online peer-to-peer platform software. To many, such adaptations served as a lifeline to continue medical education during the coronavirus outbreak. It was also envisaged that some of these educational adaptations would persist after the pandemic. How effective these adaptations have been and how they compare with the conventional teaching method should be evaluated. A study on surgical skills teaching reported that using Web-based DL was well-received by undergraduate students [ 6 ]. The aim of this study was to evaluate the proficiencies in five key areas of students who took PBL tutorials by DL, an adaptation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to compare them with the proficiency levels of students who learned via the conventional FF method.

This was a retrospective study conducted in May 2020 at the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong; it was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Hong Kong/Hospital Authority Hong Kong West Cluster (IRB reference number: UW 20–381). The subjects were medical students who were in their fourth year of their six-year medical curriculum. These students had been exposed to the PBL teaching approach since their first and second years and were familiar with the format. In their fourth year, students in this class were split into three groups, with each rotating through three Junior Clerkship (JC) rotation blocks-- Medicine, Surgery, and Multidisciplinary clerkship-- between November 2019 and April 2020. From February to May 2020, classes were suspended because of the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The conventional FF PBL in the Surgery block was replaced by DL, using the online peer-to-peer platform software ZOOM (Zoom Video Communications, San Jose, CA, USA). The tutors, content, group size, duration, and assessment criteria remained the same. All students from rotation one had participated in conventional PBL tutorials before the class suspension, whereas students from rotation three had engaged in DL (online) PBL exclusively after the outbreak.

Eight cases were presented for discussion in a total of four tutorials. We gave the paper-based case materials to students prior to the tutorials and encouraged pre-class preparation. The PBL scenarios included breast mass, neck swelling, rectal bleeding, abdominal distension, haematuria, acute retention of urine, abdominal pain in an adult patient and abdominal pain in a paediatric patient. Each tutorial lasted for two hours and was considered sufficient for students to go through two scenarios, discuss the relevant history and physical examination findings, decide on the suitable investigations, come up with working diagnosis and suggest the appropriate management. The group size was 11–12 students. Students were randomly allocated into groups; they remained in the same groups throughout the clerkship. Tutors were randomly assigned, and students had different tutors for the four tutorials. The scenarios were described over several pages and some leading questions were given. Students discussed approaches to the clinical problems and explored related issues. They addressed one or more learning objectives that were considered relevant. Tutors acted as facilitators and played minimal roles unless students strayed from a case. At the end of the session, tutors used a standardised form for evaluating the proficiency levels of students in five key areas: participation, communication, preparation, critical thinking and group skills. Tutors expected students to demonstrate adequate preparation on the applicable topic prior to each tutorial, active engagement in group discussions, adequate communication skills for expressing their viewpoints and raising relevant questions, the ability to manage controversies rationally, and attentiveness to other members without dominating the discussion. A score from 1 to 10 was given for each of these areas, with 10 being the highest. The total score represented the sum of the scores from all five key areas.

We compared the PBL performance of students in rotation three-- the DL group using the online platform – to that of students in rotation one, the conventional FF group; the latter functioned as the control group. We retrieved their PBL outcomes and overall assessments for the preceding Clinical Foundation Block (CFB), taken during the period August to October 2019, for baseline comparison. The CFB tutorials were all conducted using the conventional FF method; for these five PBL tutorials, students were assessed with the same evaluation form (scores ranging from 0 to 10). The overall assessment comprised the PBL assessment (20%), small group/bedside skills learning (60%), and a logbook (20%). Students in the FF group and DL groups were matched by propensity scores according to their performance (i.e., using PBL scores from the CFB). Matching was one to one, using the nearest neighbour method and tolerance of 0.5. Categorical variables were compared using the χ 2 test. Continuous variables were compared with the independent sample t -test. A p -value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The statistical analysis was performed using IBM SPSS version 25 (IBM, USA).

There were 77 and 75 students in the FF and DL groups, respectively. After propensity score matching, 62 students remained in each group. Matching for the remaining 15 and 13 students in the FF and DL groups, respectively, were not possible; therefore, they were excluded. Twenty-nine tutors were involved. With four tutorials, there were a total of 496 observations (248 per group). However, there were three absentees in the FF and DL groups, respectively, resulting in 245 observations per group. Gender composition, age, ethnicity and overall assessments for the CFB of the two groups are shown in Table  1 , indicating comparability between the two groups. Their PBL performance in the preceding CFB was also comparable after propensity score matching (79.5 versus 79.9, p  = 0.737).

The PBL performance of the two groups during JC is shown in Table  2 . Students in the FF group scored significantly higher. The mean total score for the DL group was 37.5, which was significantly lower than the score for the FF group (39.0, p  < 0.001). Moreover, assessments regarding participation, communication, preparation, critical thinking and group skills were uniformly lower for the DL group compared to those for the control group.

A subgroup analysis was performed to evaluate the effect of different tutorials and tutors. Table  3 shows a comparison of students’ performance for the four different tutorials. The mean total score was higher for the four tutorials; the difference was only significant for the first and third tutorials. A comparison of the two groups was also performed for individual tutors. Of the 29 tutors involved, six were excluded because they taught students in either the FF or DL group exclusively. Among the remaining 23, eight (34.8%) rated the proficiencies of students in the FF group higher and two (8.7%) rated those of students in the DL group higher (Fig.  1 ). The difference was not significant for remaining 13 tutors (56.5%).

figure 1

Mean PBL scores according to tutors

E-learning has been in place for some time [ 4 ]. Many have viewed it as the preferred mode of teaching for the future, as students are given more flexibility [ 7 , 8 ]. This type of learning has become indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic when social contact is minimal. However, e-learning has certain limitations [ 9 ]. It is reasonable to believe that many educational adaptations adopted during the pandemic will persist. Indeed some of the novel ones may result in a better overall learning experience for students. Therefore, it is worthwhile to evaluate them.

PBL was first popularised at the McMaster University in Canada [ 10 , 11 ]. Contrary to traditional lecture-based teaching, PBL encourages active and student-directed learning. Students are trained in independent learning, teamwork, and communication skills [ 12 ]. Some have suggested that students who utilised PBL curricula have emerged as better problem solvers [ 13 ]. For a PBL tutorial group to be efficient, members’ initiation is crucial, with all striving to function as a productive members.

Findings of this study revealed that students using DL method performed at a significantly lower level than students learning via the conventional FF approach. One possible explanation was that students and tutors had to adapt a new way of conducting the PBL tutorial. Wilcha cited technical challenges like establishing a reliable internet connection, problems with hardware and software learning platforms, etc. as some of the weakness of online teaching in a systematic review [ 9 ]. However, the software was relatively user-friendly, and the format of the tutorials remained the same. The time needed for students and tutors to become familiar with the new ‘environment’ should have been minimal. Technical issues such as Internet connectivity and lag time did not seem to be major problems in this locality. The fact that lower performance was also observed at the third tutorial suggested there was more than a transitional issue.

Modern digital communication technology has allowed us to trump geographical barriers [ 14 , 15 ]. Online platforms provide opportunities to meet and discuss without being physically close to each other. However, this type of technology may not reproduce the same interpersonal distance as physical presence [ 16 ]. Students may feel distant and detached from the rest of the group despite being connected via the computer screen and audio. The perception of being an outsider may reduce one’s eagerness to participate and contribute. In this study, students were required to keep the audio and video on throughout the tutorials, but there were occasions in which students only revealed or unmuted themselves when they were prompted to do so. Most students participated in the PBL tutorials from their residences via video conferencing. The casual ambiance might have appeared ‘unreal’ for learning, requiring psychological adaptation. Students were also more prone to distractions from surrounding persons or events. Prior studies have shown that DL using online platforms is associated with reduced student engagement, reduced communication and poor motivation [ 17 , 18 , 19 ].

Tutors can be affected too. Although tutors played minimal roles in this study, apart from evaluating students, they might have been inclined to intervene when needed and prone to be distracted. Nevertheless, these are only postulations; further research is warranted. A survey should be conducted to ascertain the perceptions of students and tutors regarding online tutorials and ways to improve the overall learning and teaching experience.

There were several limitations to this study. There was no randomisation, and the comparison was subjected to bias. The chance of bias was minimised by matching student performance at baseline. The tutor effect was another confounding factor. Although we used a structured evaluation form with clear guidance regarding scoring, there was a possibility of variations among tutors, with some being more stringent than others. Tutors in this study were regularly involved in PBL teaching, but there was no prior training or standardisation in terms of scoring. For some tutors, there was little variation in scores between the five areas of proficiency, which indicated that the tutors were more inclined to give an overall impression of students’ performance. This situation limited the ability to single out specific areas. There were tutors (tutors 10, 11 and 24 in Fig. 1 ) that gave every students the same score. Again this reduced the sensitivity to detect a difference, if any, between the two groups. It was postulated that this was why a lower score was observed in the DL group in tutorial two and four but the difference was insignificant. Additionally, tutorials for the two groups were conducted at different times, and students in the DL group were learning during a pandemic, which was clearly a torment to some. Thus, the negative psychological impact on them might have affected their performance. Furthermore, some classes or bedside teachings were suspended at the time. It has had been a suggested that people working from home during the pandemic may be more prone to loneliness, and hence, decreased efficiency [ 20 ].

Innovative educational adaptations have been essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, further evaluation before permanent adoption is warranted. A direct transition from the conventional way of teaching into an online-based format may not have the same impact. This study showed that students who used DL PBL tutorials exhivited lower levels of proficiency in key area than students who utilised the conventional FF approach. Further studies are needed to ascertain the underlying cause.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated and / or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on request.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Chi-chung Foo: Conception of work, acquisition of data, data analysis, drafting of manuscript, final approval. Billy Cheung: Conception of work, acquisition of data, data analysis, final approval. Kent-man Chu:Conception of work, data analysis, final approval.

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This study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. It was reviewed by the Institutional review board of the University of Hong Kong/Hospital Authority Hong Kong West Cluster (reference no: UW 20–381) and was approved WITHOUT the need of informed consent.

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The standardised form for tutors to evaluate students’ proficiency levels was attached as supplementary material.

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Foo, Cc., Cheung, B. & Chu, Km. A comparative study regarding distance learning and the conventional face-to-face approach conducted problem-based learning tutorial during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Med Educ 21 , 141 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-021-02575-1

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-021-02575-1

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