During the emergency situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020, 95% of the students in Bulgarian higher education institutions studied in specialties that switched to an online form of education, with over two thirds of them expressing satisfaction with the created prerequisites for successful completion of the school year. Dissatisfaction with various aspects of online learning is expressed by between 14 and 21 percent of students participating in this form of learning. This is shown by the results of a survey among nearly 25,000 students, conducted for the purposes of the Bulgarian University Ranking System in the period April-June 2020.
Only 1.2% of the surveyed students state that in the spring of this year they studied in specialties in which the traditional classroom training was not interrupted and only 3.8% claim that there was no online form of education in their specialty, although attendance classes were interrupted.
The survey data show that 98.8% of students who studied in online majors had the necessary technical means to participate in the training. Only 1.2% of respondents say they did not participate in online training due to the lack of a computer or other device with regular internet access.
The vast majority (between 75 and 83 percent) of the surveyed students in majors that switched to online training during the pandemic, express full or partial satisfaction with the availability, regularity and quality of online classes. At the same time, a significant proportion of respondents express complete or partial disagreement with the statements that all teachers regularly conducted lectures and exercises online (18.7%), that the majority of students regularly participated in online classes (17%), that the good quality of teaching was ensured, and that students had access to all necessary materials and resources for online learning (14%).
The most significant problem in online training is the creation of appropriate conditions for teamwork. One in 5 of the surveyed students (21%) expresses complete or partial disagreement with the statement that within the online training appropriate conditions for teamwork with other students were created, while 70.5% of respondents partially or completely agree with this statement.
Respondents were asked if they agreed with the following statement: “Online training in my specialty at my university managed to provide suitable conditions for teamwork with other students.”
The majority of the surveyed students (76.8%) partially or completely share the opinion that within the online education during the pandemic in their university all prerequisites for successful completion of the school year have been created, while 18.4% express complete or partial disagreement with this statement.
Respondents were asked if they agreed with the following statement: “Online training in my specialty at my university managed to provide all the prerequisites to successfully complete the academic year.”
In 45 out of a total of 52 higher education institutions in Bulgaria, more than two thirds of the surveyed students believe that all prerequisites for successful completion of the school year have been created within the framework of the online training. In 7 universities, the share of surveyed students sharing such an opinion is less than two thirds. Among the HEIs in which the smallest share of students express satisfaction with the created conditions for successful completion of the academic year in the conditions of online learning are those that traditionally have the highest prestige among the students and demonstrate the best performance in the main indicators of the Bulgarian University Ranking System (BURS) in most of the professional fields in which they offer training. Nearly 63% of the surveyed students at the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, the Medical University – Sofia and the National Academy of Theater and Film Arts “Krastyo Sarafov” are of the opinion that the online training has created all the prerequisites for successful completion of the academic year. Nearly 59% of the surveyed students at the National Academy of Art and the University of Forestry, as well as 44% of the surveyed students at the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy share the same opinion. In all other HEIs the share of the surveyed students, who believe that all the prerequisites for successful completion of the academic year have been created within the context of the conducted online training, exceeds two thirds.
Only in 7 out of a total of 52 professional fields in Bulgarian higher education the share of students who studied online during the period under review is below 90%. Among them is the field of “Medicine”, in which 85.4% of students say that they studied online, 13.5% say that in their specialty there was no online form of education, although classes were interrupted and only 1.1% say that for them the traditional classroom forms of training were not interrupted. The professional fields in which the smallest share of students studied in specialties that introduced online training during the pandemic are “Religion and Theology” (69%) and “Animal breeding and reproduction” (64.4%). In the field “Animal breeding and reproduction” the largest share of students (17.8%) stated that the traditional classroom form of training was not interrupted during the pandemic. Other professional fields in which less than 90% of students have studied in specialties with introduced online training are “Theory and Management of Education” (82.2%), “Biological Sciences” (84.4%), “Chemical Technology” (86.5%) and “Materials and Materials Science” (89.4%). In the remaining 45 professional fields, over 90% of the students state that they have studied in specialties with an online form of education introduced during the pandemic.
In Bulgarian higher education there are hundreds of different majors distributed into 52 professional fields. Online learning in different professional fields may be influenced by the nature of the disciplines studied in the respective specialties within the field. Also, online learning in different higher education institutions may be influenced by the nature of the professional fields in which each of them offers training.
The data quoted in the publication are from a survey among nearly 25,000 students, conducted in the period April-June 2020 for the purposes of the Bulgarian University Ranking System. The sample covers students from all educational and qualification degrees and from all professional fields in HEIs accredited in Bulgaria at the time of the survey. The method of the research is self-completion of a questionnaire in an electronic system for conducting surveys.
The study was conducted by a team of the OSI-S consortium, composed of the Open Society Institute – Sofia and Sirma Solutions in the framework of updating the data for the 2020 edition of the Bulgarian University Ranking System.
The updating of the data in the Bulgarian University Ranking System for 2020 is carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Science under the project “Maintenance and improvement of the developed university ranking system – phase 1″, funded by the Operational Program “Science and Education for Smart Growth”, co-financed by the European Union through the European Structural and Investment Funds. The contents of this publication can under no circumstances be taken as an official position of the European Union.