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Academic Performance under COVID-19 Pandemic Shadow

April 29, 2021
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By Ehsan Y. Moghadam

Credit: www.stock.adobe.com (alphaspirit) Credit: www.stock.adobe.com (alphaspirit)

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019. To control the risk of further COVID-19 transmission, the authorities in Wuhan took steps to lock down the city on January 23, 2020. But the virus spread rapidly throughout the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced coronavirus epidemic is a pandemic as a global threat. More than 722,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,400 associated deaths in more than 177 countries were reported as of March 29, 2020.

Many countries have taken several measurements to break the fast spread of coronavirus, including social distancing, curfew, lockdown, travel restrictions, self-isolation, asking people to work at home. Also, authorities in many countries have declared the closure of places with large gatherings such as gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, clubs, and concerts. These measurements against coronavirus have affected around 1.7 billion students in about 190 countries by the temporary closure of colleges and universities. It caused the cancellation and postponing of all campus activities. Universities and colleges switched from classroom teaching to online education. Here, we will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on academic performance during the pandemic and the improvements that should be performed.

Problems:

Due to the fast spread of the virus in the world and the closure of universities and colleges, some universities did not have enough time to improve their infrastructure to present online education to students. At the beginning of the closure of universities and colleges, it was challenging for some lecturers to change their teaching method from face-to-face teaching to online teaching, especially for practical courses. Also, it was out of control for faculty to monitor students not to cheat during online exams.

Many students have not accessed the internet or computers and IT equipment due to the financial crisis and digital divide. Therefore, participating in online classes is difficult, which affects the quality of their learning and grades. Teaching practical lessons on an online basis is not efficient, compared to before the pandemic. In addition, to decrease the transmission of COVID-19 among students of the labs, their access to the lab has been restricted. It causes their studies to be stopped or slowed down.

Pandemic stress on students. Credit: Molly Ferguson Pandemic stress on students. Credit: Molly Ferguson

During the pandemic, student newcomers, after arriving to their universities, should be quarantined and live-in self-isolation for two weeks while they are far from their family and friends. Also, some international students have not traveled to their homes. It has resulted in the homesickness of international students. The COVID-19 outbreak has reduced the speed of the registration and admission procedure, which has made high stress among new international students.

Improvements:

During the pandemic, online learning has been one of the essential tools in the education system. This virtual method in teaching is more convenient and flexible than ordinary classes, and student can save their time for self-study and other activities. However, this method has some problems that must be addressed. For example, university authorities should provide online learning platforms such as laptops and tablets to access the internet for students under financial burden. Also, universities should help students to offer cheaper or even free internet package in the pandemic. Lecturers should be trained on e-learning tools and computer skills. Faculty and authorities should encourage students to stay on study online. Virtual resources are made for students to mimic the laboratory work or live streaming directly from the laboratory. Practical learning throughout videos and 3D animation, especially for practical lessons, should be considered in online education instead of pdf, PowerPoint, and voice recordings. The load of classwork can be decreased to reduce students’ stress during the pandemic.

Some students, such as biologists, medicines, and biomedical engineers, need to perform their experiments in the labs. While the number of students should be controlled in the lab, universities can facilitate students’ access to the lab by considering COVID-19 health protocols such as social distancing and wearing the mask in the lab.   

Due to stressful conditions in the pandemic, students' mental health should be a priority by providing counseling services more than before the pandemic. Universities should provide health guidance and guideline to teach students how to manage and reduce stress until the situation becomes normal. Universities, banks, governments, and student loan companies can suspend students’ loan payments to support students financially.

Universities should make online entertainment programs, especially for student newcomers who are self-isolated while far from their families. University administrators should be responsible for ensuring safety services, accommodation, and food for non-national students. The admission and acceptance of international students can be speeded up by offering a flexible admission process and increasing admission office staff.

Although the pandemic has negatively affected academic performance, the education system has received positive achievements such as integrating remote learning into the education system and improving the IT infrastructures of many universities. In my opinion, there is no worry about the future because time heals everything!

Reference:

[1] Sahu, P., 2020. Closure of universities due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): impact on education and mental health of students and academic staff. Cureus12(4).

[2] Mahdy, M.A., 2020. The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the academic performance of veterinary medical students. Frontiers in veterinary science7.

[3] Alsoufi, A., Alsuyihili, A., Msherghi, A., Elhadi, A., Atiyah, H., Ashini, A., Ashwieb, A., Ghula, M., Ben Hasan, H., Abudabuos, S. and Alameen, H., 2020. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical education: Medical students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding electronic learning. PloS one, 15(11), p.e0242905.


About the author

Ehsan-Moghadam-thumbnail

Ehsan Y. Moghadam is a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering. Ehsan received his MSc degree in Aerospace Engineering from Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran; his research was focused on numerical analysis of heat transfer and fluid flow in microfluidics. He is currently developing micro-devices to recreate the microenvironment of neurodegenerative disease conditions. These micro-devices are utilized as alternative platforms to study the cells’ activities in a more precise, controllable, and inexpensive method. His interest is microfluidics, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.


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