Online teaching in physiotherapy education during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: a retrospective case-control study on students' satisfaction and performance.BMC Med Educ. 2021 Aug 30; 21(1):456.BM
During COVID-19 pandemic, physiotherapy lecturers faced the challenge of rapidly shifting from face-to-face to online education. This retrospective case-control study aims to compare students' satisfaction and performances shown in an online course to a control group of students who underwent the same course delivered face-to-face in the previous five years.
Between March and April 2020, a class (n = 46) of entry-level physiotherapy students (University of Verona - Italy), trained by an experienced physiotherapist, had 24-hours online lessons. Students exposed to the same course in the previous five academic years (n = 112), delivered with face-to-face conventional lessons, served as a historical control. The course was organized in 3 sequential phases: (1) PowerPoint presentations were uploaded to the University online platform, (2) asynchronous video recorded lectures were provided on the same platform, and (3) between online lectures, the lecturer and students could communicate through an email chat to promote understanding, dispel any doubts and collect requests for supplementary material (e.g., scientific articles, videos, webinars, podcasts). Outcomes were: (1) satisfaction as routinely measured by University with a national instrument and populated in a database; (2) performance as measured with an oral examination.
We compared satisfaction with the course, expressed on a 5-point Likert scale, resulting in no differences between online and face-to-face teaching (Kruskal-Wallis 2 = 0.24, df = 1, p = 0.62). We weighted up students' results by comparing their mean performances with the mean performances of the same course delivered face-to-face in the previous five years, founding a statistical significance in favour of online teaching (Wilcoxon rank sum test W = 1665, p < 0.001).
Online teaching in entry-level Physiotherapy seems to be a feasible option to face COVID-19 pandemic, as satisfies students as well as face-to-face courses and leading to a similar performance. Entry-level Bachelors in Physiotherapy may consider moving to eLearning to facilitate access to higher education. Universities will have to train lecturers to help them develop appropriate pedagogical skills, and supply suitable support in terms of economic, organizational, and technological issues, aimed at guaranteeing a high level of education to their students.