Purpose: Dental education institutions worldwide experienced disruptive changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with a rapid switch to the online learning format. Thus, this study aimed to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dental education and evaluates the perceptions and attitudes of students towards the introduction of online learning in the School of Dental Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Methods: A survey was conducted on a population of undergraduate students. It was comprised of perceptions and attitudes of students on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their psychoemotional status, changes introduced in the educational system, and online learning in particular.
Results: Of the 352 students that completed the survey, 66.2% of students reported being psychoemotionally affected by the lockdown. The most significant impact of the switch from in-person to online learning was observed in terms of missing contact with lecturers (60.3%) and peers (90.3%) and loss of practical courses, regarding which 65% of students agreed that they could not be compensated. While only 36.1% reported that online teaching fully met their expectations, the majority of the students (61.9%) agreed that online lectures were as valuable as in-person lectures and that the theoretical courses could be carried out online in the future as well (69.9%).
Conclusions: Students reported relative satisfaction with changes in the learning format and a positive attitude towards online learning; however, several challenges and obstacles were identified.
Keywords: COVID-19; dental education; dental students; online learning; surveys and questionnaires.