U-Report survey regarding online school

One third of Romanian pre-university students are not satisfied with online school and do not attend classes through virtual platforms

UNICEF
Children's Board members at a workshop in January 2020
UNICEF/ Norbert Fodor
08 May 2020

The schools have been closed since 11 March 2020, and this has changed the way schooling is conducted. We wanted to understand how have children been coping with this challenge and so, together with the Romanian Children's Board, in April we launched a survey on the U-Report platform, supported by UNICEF, about distance education. Below is a summary of the answers given by the over 2,400 U-Reporters:

  • Almost a third of the respondents (28%) have not managed to maintain an active communication with their class masters; in some cases, this communication is non-existent.
  • Online courses are held several times a week or daily for 54% of respondents and never for 13% of students.
  • 36% of the children and youth interviewed would have liked to take part in a meeting held by someone (their class master etc.), in order for them to be explained how to use the platforms.
  • Asked if they have colleagues who cannot get online, a third of respondents say that they do have such classmates.

This difficult period has been testing our ability to adapt to the current situation. The transition from traditional to online education has been a considerable change. Although, for the time being, there are uncertainties about recovering classes, distance education is beneficial as it can help keep us motivated to learn and to keep in touch with school subjects. However, if done in a chaotic way, it can bring more harm than benefits and it can put additional pressure on students, which would have irreparable consequences for their mental health.

Dominique (17, Râmnicu Vâlcea)

The schools have been closed since 11 March 2020, and this has changed the education process. Some teachers opted for assigning homework before the lockdown, while others have continued to keep in touch with their classes through various online platforms, or have recorded themselves teaching.

 

We wanted to understand how have children been coping with this challenge; together with the Romanian Children's Board, in April we launched a survey about distance education on the U-Report platform, supported by UNICEF. Below there is a detailed analysis of the answers, drafted together with four members of the Children’s Board: Diana (17, Barlad, Vaslui), Eva (12, Remus, Giurgiu), Dominique (17 ani, Ramnicu Valcea, Valcea), Diana (17, Brezoi, Valcea). The results, displayed in real time, are available below: https://romania.ureport.in/opinion/1667/ 

 

We were happy to learn from the over 2400 children and youth respondents, that, in terms of online communication between students and class master, 72% believe that information is easily conveyed, tasks are understood, and the problems encountered are insignificant. Almost a third of the respondents (28%) have not managed to maintain an active communication with their class masters; in some cases, this communication is non-existent.

The percentages are similar in terms of communication between students and teachers, which is considered to be "good" and "very good" by 71% of respondents, who stated that they have been assigned homework and tasks. Almost a quarter of them have maintained constant contact with teachers and take online courses. However, almost a third of the children who responded (28%) are not satisfied with the online communication with teachers or do not attend classes held through online platforms. 

The Internet is very accessible for three quarters of respondents; over a fifth of them (21%) believe that Internet is sufficiently easy to access, while 4 percent have encountered problems in this regard.

95% of the respondents have access to devices with Internet connection (phone, laptop, tablet), but 4% can only access them in a specific time frame, while 1% do not have easy access.

For U-Reporters, the most popular platforms used for online communication are Zoom (25%) and Google Class (23%), but also Whatsapp (20%). The other platforms used include Messenger (13%), Skype (3%) and Discord (2%). Another 218 children and young people mentioned other platforms: 33.98% have access to online classes through the Adservio platform, 24.76% through Microsoft Teams, 7.77% - Google Services, such as Google Drive and Google Classroom, 5.34% - the platform of the school where they are enrolled, 3.40% - Webex, and less than 2% through other platforms such as Meet, 24edu, Sociology and WhatsApp. 18.45% of these respondents keep in touch with teachers through other platforms, namely Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

As for the subjects taught online, the answers have varied. The most frequently mentioned were Romanian language, mathematics and computer science, followed by biology, chemistry, physics, modern languages, history, geography, psychology and pedagogy. Subjects such as religion, physical education, music, drawing and economics were mentioned less frequently. The students also mentioned that they use various platforms depending on the subject taught, which causes discomfort and confusion. One piece of advice from the children is to decide on a single application that can be used for all classes.

Online courses are held several times a week or daily for 54% of respondents and never for 13% of students. However, for more than a third (32%), online courses take place once a week or more seldom (such as once or several times a month); this aspect varies, depending on the subject and on the teacher.

41% of the respondents cover more than 50% of the course materials through online platforms, while 44%and the remaining 14% cover the most important subjects, and certain subjects are not covered at all.

In terms of homework time, 41% spend more time than before the lockdown, while 35% spend less time or no time at all doing homework.

36% of the children and young people interviewed would have liked a meeting to be held by someone (the teacher, etc.) to explain how to use the platforms and 42% did not consider it necessary.

When asked if they have colleagues who cannot get online, a third of respondents said that they did have such classmates. The other two thirds answered that all their colleagues had access to internet or that they were not familiar to their classmates’ situation. With regards to those without access to online education, 37% said they are not sure if the information reaches their classmates or that it does not reach them at all, while 47% said they pass the information on through other means of communication, so that they can stay connected. Only 5% know and said that teachers communicate directly with those who do not have access to the online teaching environment. 75% of respondents have below 5 classmates who are not connected to online education, while 2% have more than 25 classmates who do not have access.

73% of respondents believe that online communication platforms are useful for educational purposes, while 16% of them do not find them useful.

Regarding the way students have adapted to using these platforms, 82% have adapted easily or with some difficulties, while 8% believe that it has been difficult for them to adapt.

"This difficult period has been testing our ability to adapt to the current situation. The transition from traditional to online education has been a considerable change. Although, for the time being, there are uncertainties about recovering classes, distance education is beneficial as it can help keep us motivated to learn and to keep in touch with school subjects. However, if done in a chaotic way, it can bring more harm than benefits and it can put additional pressure on students, which would have irreparable consequences for their mental health. It is also important for the education system to remain inclusive, giving children everywhere the opportunity to benefit from online courses. Let us get involved by donating electronic devices that we no longer use or by supporting agencies or associations that deal with this issue, such as UNICEF in Romania", recommends Dominique (17 years old, Ramnicu Valcea).

For those who need guidance in the process of transitioning to online education, the Council of Students of the "Matei Basarab" National College of Informatics has developed guidelines that explain how to use the most popular online platforms. It is aimed at teachers, parents and students who wish to learn more about how to start a digital class. Reflecting the recommendations of the Council of Students members, the document is applicable not only in times of pandemic, but whenever one wishes to use online teaching. The guidelines can be accessed here: https://bit.ly/Ghidînvățământdistanță