Student physiotherapists perceptions of online curriculum delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Background: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic a rapid transformation from face-to-face curriculum delivery to an online teaching and learning environment, was adopted in a number of higher education institutions globally. Allied Health Profession courses such as physiotherapy, traditionally utilising an in person teaching model to prepare students for practice, needed to swiftly adopt new methods of delivery, involving both synchronous and asynchronous approaches. Understanding physiotherapy student perceptions of this transition is important to allow faculty to develop their delivery of online teaching and provide an evidence base for future course curricula.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of UK higher education students studying either an undergraduate or post-graduate pre-registration degree in physiotherapy was conducted between October 2020 and February 2021. The survey investigated the student’s perception of the transition to either an online or hybrid model of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. A mixed method approach was adopted allowing respondents to share their experiences and facilitate the exploration of questions which required in-depth thought.
Results: 236 respondents completed the questionnaire. Online learning was perceived to be a flexible (49%, n=116,CI 95% 43 to 55) and convenient (49, 116, 43 to 55) method of learning. Despite this, 79% of the students surveyed felt that the online learning experience had a negative impact on their understanding of the subject and were disadvantaged compared to traditional face-to-face teaching provision (mean 4.14 ± SD 1.06). Online physiotherapy delivery produced low student satisfaction, leaving respondents feeling disadvantaged. Decreased levels of engagement and the lack of ability to practice ‘hands-on’ skills were detrimental aspects of the online approach, with 55% (n=106) reporting that they did not perceive the academic staff had the necessary skills to deliver effective online content.
Conclusions: The majority of UK physiotherapy students surveyed were dissatisfied and lacked engagement with an online learning approach within the curricula, compared with the traditional face to face delivery. Although several positives of both a synchronous and asynchronous delivery were highlighted, faculty must consider how they best deliver online learning content, making use of pedagogical strategies that will create as many learning and engagement opportunities as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Article number440
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2022


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