Distance education during COVID 19: an Italian survey on the university teachers' perspectives and their emotional conditions.BMC Med Educ. 2021 Jun 09; 21(1):335.BM
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, distance education (DE) replaced traditional "face-to-face" teaching and has become the main method of teaching. The aim of this study was to 1) evaluate the impact of DE by teachers in our department during the second semester of the 2019-20 academic year following the March-May 2020 Italian national lockdown and 2) evaluate the relationship between DE and the emotional well-being of teachers during the period of home confinement.
Ninety-seven university teachers (51.5% women; most represented age group 60-69 years range, 40.2%) responded to an anonymous online cross-sectional survey between July 15 - September 30, 2020, on the advantages and disadvantages of DE, developed by one online teacher focus group. The emotional conditions were assessed by a short version of the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). The internal consistency reliability survey and the 10-item BDI-II were measured by Cronbach's alpha. A correlation analysis (r-Pearson) was conducted between the overall evaluation of the experience of DE and the variables included in the study.
Teachers reported difficulties in technical aspects, and in psychological factors, as the discomfort of "speaking in the void" (64.7%). The absence of "face-to-face" eye contact with the students was complained by 81% of teachers. Significant impairments in sleep patterns and loss of energy were reported, with female teachers having greater difficulty concentrating than their male colleagues. A quarter of teachers showed depressive symptoms of varying severity. The most satisfied teachers were those most stimulated by DE (r = 0.752, p < 0.000), who showed a lower impact of depressive symptoms (r = - 0.289, p = 0.005). The teaching load in hours influenced the perception of disadvantages (r = 0.214, p = 0.035) and contributed to a lower appreciation of the challenges of DE. The more significant the manifestation of depressive symptoms during the lockdown was, the greater the subjective recovery of a good emotional condition once the domestic confinement was over (r = 0.344, p = 0.001), despite maintaining DE.
Our study highlights the impact of technical, didactic, and psychological difficulties of DE, reported by our teachers. The appreciation of their new learning promoted by DE seemed related to better emotional well-being of university teachers accepting this "challenge" in their important role in the high-education system, influencing good learning and promoting students' professional success.