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The results of a survey on the impact of the pandemic on the quality and organisational aspects of classes from the perspective of teachers at higher educational institutions (HEIs) were presented in Zagreb on 15 March 2022. The survey focused on the scientific, research and artistic activity of HEI teachers, the level of their digital competences and the way they coped psychologically with the conditions of the new normal.

The survey was carried out by the Agency for Science and Higher Education (ASHE) in collaboration with the University Computing Centre of the University of Zagreb and the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Rijeka. Over 1200 HEI teachers from all over Croatia took part in the survey.

This followed up on an earlier survey titled Students and the pandemic: How did we survive? published in October 2021, in which ASHE investigated the impact of the pandemic on the student experience in the academic year 2020/2021.

“Teaching has returned to the classroom and ASHE surveys indicate that this is the preferred mode of delivery for the majority of both teachers and students,” said ASHE Deputy Director, Ms Vesna Dodiković-Jurković PhD, in her opening address. She added that HEIs that wished to offer online study programmes in the future and see this as a strategic goal of the institution need to undergo formal accreditation of the online study programme.

A round table discussion was held as part of the event, called Back to the future: Post-pandemic teaching at HEIs. The following panellists took part:  Prof. Nataša Jokić-Begić, PhD (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb), Prof. Dražan Kozak, PhD (University of Slavonski Brod), Asst. prof. Nikola Kadoić PhD (Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb) and Asst. prof. Sandra Kučina Softić, PhD (University Computing Centre of the University of Zagreb). The panellists agreed that the pandemic circumstances had accelerated the digital transformation of HEIs but that there was still room for improvement. The conclusion of the round table discussion was that the future of higher education would definitely include a greater use of ICT than was the case before the pandemic; however, the majority of teachers and students continue to view traditional, in-person teaching as something that cannot be replaced.

The results of the study HEI teachers and the pandemic: Academic and psychological challenges are available in their entirety at the following link (in Croatian).

Survey Conclusions

Quality and organisational aspects of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • The academic year 2020/2021 saw the dominance of blended or hybrid teaching at HEIs in Croatia.
  • The majority of respondents (67%) prefer in-person teaching.
  • The teachers identified the following as the key challenges of the organisational aspects of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic: an increased workload (14%), quality assurance (12%), inequalities between students in terms of computer and internet access (11%) and spatial constraints of HEIs (10%).
  • Teachers are either very satisfied or satisfied (69%) with the quality of lecturing.
  • The academic year 2020/2021 saw the respondents spend more time weekly preparing and delivering online classes than they did in-person classes.
  • Twenty-three percent (23%) of teachers believe that they cannot prepare students well for all forms of assessment if they use online teaching.
  • Over 70% of teachers consider their general working conditions while they were teaching online to have been satisfactory and the technical requirements for the preparation and delivery of online classes fulfilled.
  • The majority of teachers (43%) saw certain modes of instruction such as practical classes, laboratory work, practicums and workshops as a significant problem.
  • In order to improve the quality and organisational aspects of teaching, it is necessary to adapt teaching materials and curricula for online delivery, as well as to work on the prevention of unethical student behaviour and the development of the digital competences of teachers.

Scientific, professional and artistic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Sixty-six percent (66%) of teachers saw engaging in scientific, professional and artistic activity during the pandemic as difficult.
  • Fifty-one percent (51%) of teachers claim that they were provided access to the space and technical resources they needed to engage in scientific, professional or artistic activity.
  • Out of the problems they encountered, 77% of teachers singled out the inability to attend scientific or professional conferences, 74% a lack of time and opportunity to engage in scientific, artistic or professional work and 55% a possible delay in the promotion to a higher academic rank.     
  • In the past academic year, 78% of the respondents had published a scientific or professional paper, 74% published 1 to 3 papers, while 6% published more than 6 papers.
  • The majority of respondents took part in professional or scientific conferences online (61%), while 23% attended no conference at all.

Digital competences for the use of ICT and e-learning technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Seventy-two percent (72%) of teachers believe they have either good or very good digital competences required to teach in higher education.
  • Eighty-seven percent (87%) of teachers believe they have either good or very good knowledge of how to use e-learning technologies.
  • Twenty-one (21%) of teachers are not sure about the advantages of ICT and e-learning, while 18% only use these technologies because of the pandemic and the inability to continue teaching as they had before.
  • ICT and e-learning technologies are used in teaching primarily for the following purposes: adding course content and distributing teaching materials; distributing updates on the course and delivery modes; delivering online lessons; communication.
  • Thirty percent (30%) of teachers attended online courses outside of Croatia, while 23% attended no professional development courses related to ICT or e-learning.
  • Teachers need further professional development in digital pedagogy (59%) and contemporary technologies (54%).
  • Teachers believe that they require support in the following areas of course preparation and delivery: use of e-learning technologies, course design and creation, and pedagogical teaching methods.

How teachers coped psychologically during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Around half (48%) of the respondents feel moderately upset by the entire situation surrounding the pandemic, while 28% find the situation to be very or extremely burdensome.
  • Around a third of teachers estimate that their physical health (35%) and mental health (33%) has deteriorated.
  • Thirty-nine percent (39%) of teachers are generally satisfied with life, while around the same number (40%) are dissatisfied with their lives, to various degrees.
  • Forty-one percent (41%) of teachers are to some degree satisfied with their work-life balance, while 43% are to some degree dissatisfied with it.
  • Seventy-eight (78%) of teachers say they are moderately and highly optimistic about the future, while 21% either feel a low level of optimism or completely lack optimism.
  • When it comes to support and understanding on part of their institution, 28% of teachers say that it was either complete or strong, 39% say that it was moderate, while 33% say that it was mostly or entirely lacking.
  • Thirteen (13%) of teachers have considered availing themselves of professional psychological services during the pandemic, and 6% did so.