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Study reveals college students interact more in online conferences

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Are online lectures working better for college students? Here’s a study by teachers.

The retention level was higher when students participated actively in online lectures.

The COVID-19 pandemic made schools and colleges explore flexible teaching methods, striking a path between online and in-person. Many instructors used to delivering lessons in class learnt to teach via Zoom, Teams and other platforms. Towards the later part of 2020, students started returning in limited numbers to college campuses of various countries. Interestingly, many of them still prefer a hybrid model comprising of live online classes and online recorded material. A research team made up of professors form the University of Copenhagen decided to study this phenomenon. Their findings were published in the Danish journal Learning and Media in September 2021, and are being widely discussed since then.  

What was the biggest finding of the research?  
The professors were surprised at how active online students were about asking questions during online lectures conducted by a live teacher. It seemed they interacted most in this format, asking plenty of questions in their chats. The interaction level was higher and the quality of interaction also better than even physical lectures. We are noting some of the reasons the professors cited for this behaviour.  

Students are not afraid to ask questions on chat 
Students, especially first year students, said it was easier to ask a lot of basic questions in chats than in a physical space. This was because they were less afraid of being marked as the less bright student in the class. They also pointed out that social media chat habits made it easy for them to pay attention to the human teacher on live mode while writing out their questions in chat.  

Less of a one-way communication  
Many students have been brought up to expect that large lectures are supposed to be one-way communication by the instructor, where they listen passively. But the same student participated more in a hybrid group discussion scenario. It seemed that the retention level was also higher when students participated actively in lectures. 

What were the parameters of the research?  
The professors studied 282 lectures delivered online, in-person and in the hybrid format across pharmaceutical, medical and veterinary faculties, and analysed instant message records of selected lectures that were chat enabled. They also conducted 15 group interviews with students, especially first year students, regarding their experiences.