Medical students prefer face-to-face education, survey finds

Egyptian medical students experienced various limitations and challenges as they participated in online education during the COVID-19 pandemic, which requires measures to improve training infrastructure, accessibility and the digital capabilities of teaching staff.

This emerged from a study titled, ‘Online medical education in Egypt during the COVID-19 pandemic: A nationwide assessment of medical students’ usage and perceptions’, published in BMC Medical Education in March.

In addition to 23 members of the Egyptian Medical Education Collaborative Group (EGY MedEd), the study was carried out by 10 researchers from public and private medical schools in Egypt together with researchers based in the United States and Afghanistan.

“To our knowledge, this is the first nationwide assessment of medical students’ use and perceptions of online medical education in Egypt during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study stated.

A 29-item online survey was distributed via social media to medical students across 26 Egyptian medical schools. Egypt has 31 faculties of medicine, according to the World Directory of Medical Schools.

A total of 4,935 medical students, the majority enrolled at public medical schools, were asked about their online education experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study outcomes

The result of the survey showed that the majority of students (64.6%) perceived online education to be generally more enjoyable than face-to-face or contact education.

However, 54.6% of students indicated that online education is not as effective as face-to-face education. Many of the students (51%) preferred contact as their modality of choice.

Many of the students (44.1%) reported that their teachers were not well prepared for online education. A great proportion of students (45.2%) reported having internet problems such as internet connection issues and-or internet speed.

The majority of students (57%) denied having technology use problems such as personal difficulties to use online learning management systems or to attend online teaching sessions.

More than half of the respondents wanted online sessions to be more interactive and 44% felt that they are not prepared for their profession, and this was a consistent response across all academic years.

The study indicated no trend in any direction regarding the perceived impact of online teaching on medical students’ academic performance.

Some students (35%) reported that online medical education was not stimulating as 37.3% of students had difficulty engaging in online sessions and 40.7% of students did not feel that they were able to ask questions freely in online sessions.

More than half of students (63%) agreed that online recorded video tutorials (on YouTube) were the most effective form of online medical education.

The study revealed that the prevalence of burnout, depression, anxiety and somatic symptoms decreased after transitioning from traditional learning to online learning during the pandemic.

Students perceived many benefits associated with online learning. Most students appreciated the convenience of learning from home as it was more comfortable and did not involve travel, or travel expenses, according to the study.

“For asynchronous events, students had the flexibility of learning at their own pace and choosing when they learned. However, most students did not like online learning as an alternative to face-to-face teaching,” the study indicated.

“This paradox may reflect the barriers inherent in online learning,” the study stated.

“Because medicine is an intensely interpersonal field, requiring advanced skill and the ability to work in teams as well as with patients, a pure online approach may not be suitable,” the study said.

“Institutions must learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 lockdown how to make education more efficient and effective while maintaining the quality of physician training so as not to put society at risk,” the study emphasised.


“The results of this nationwide study provide a framework for potential areas to implement change to improve the accessibility and structure of online medical education in Egypt,” the study pointed out.

“Online medical education is promising due to its benefits, but it has many barriers that we must face and overcome first,” it said.

For making online medical education more effective and efficient, the study put forward several recommendations.

These include training faculty on delivering online live and recorded sessions in an interesting and efficient way, upgrading and installing new modern technological infrastructure at medical schools for online learning, and taking into account student perception and suggestions.

This is necessary to improve the students’ satisfaction which, in turn, is needed for their motivation and career preparedness.

Statistics showed that, out of an Egyptian population of about 106 million (105,845,445), about 53% (54,741,493) have access to the internet, which is lower than the world average (64.2%).

In addition, Egypt is ranked 88th out of 192 countries when it comes to internet speed. Egypt also has the cheapest internet in Africa after Tunisia.