This is how distance education lives a group of university students


Probably the phrase “Stay at home” is one of the ones that we will have heard, repeated and read the most in recent days, referring to the quarantine period imposed by the Spanish authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This measure has beneficial preventive effects on health. However, due to precedents in other countries , adverse psychological outcomes have also been reported, such as symptoms of post-traumatic stress, loneliness, confusion and anger. These results have recently been published in The Lancet by a team of scientists from the Department of Psychological Medicine at King’s College London and is one of the few reports that exist to date on the psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it .

The main identified stressors have been related to the duration of the quarantine, fear of infection, frustration, boredom, perception of insufficient resources, and insufficient or inadequate information. In the long term, other processes that can affect the mental health of individuals are the economic problems derived from quarantine and the stigmatization of people who have suffered from the disease or have been directly exposed to it.

Protection from psychological impact

Como mecanismos protectores del impacto psicológico de esta crisis, se anima a las autoridades correspondientes a ofrecer información adecuada, no alargar la cuarentena más de lo estrictamente necesario, garantizar los suministros y apelar al altruismo para concienciar a la población de los beneficios comunitarios del confinamiento.

From a psychological point of view, Maddi’s Stress Resistance Model could be perfectly applicable in this context, since it refers to the personal ability to convert adverse situations into growth abilities. It includes both vulnerability and circumstantial factors that lead to loss of comfort (physical, mental and behavioral), as well as resistant factors that influence well-being (attitudes, coping, healthy practices and social support).

For this it is important to organize routines, not isolate, plan leisure, work, practice relaxation, set goals, control negative feelings and ask for help if needed.

Routines and more routines

As noted above, the matter of routines is especially important in these extraordinary situations and, in this sense, as professors at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, our routines have also been affected by the suspension of classroom activity. This has led us to adapt and develop our classes through virtual platforms.

On the other hand, a tool that is proving very useful, with great monitoring and participation by students, are forums through the Virtual Campus. One of them, in times of quarantine , was opened with the aim of reflecting and debating about the exceptional situation that we are experiencing.

An experience with the students

So far, 43% of the students enrolled in the Health Psychology subject (2nd year of the Nursing Faculty of Albacete, 115 students) have participated in the different topics of discussion raised. It began by reflecting on the expectations of how this quarantine could affect undergraduate studies, as well as the commitment to involvement in the training process (autonomous work).

In the first entry, the teacher communicated his intention to incorporate new virtual strategies ( online classes ) to continue developing the subject, according to the programming in the undergraduate studies and that he would be attentive to the feedback of tasks and the needs raised by the student body.

First participations

In the first participations, a student identified a series of stressors linked to the formative changes (from face-to-face to online teaching , accessibility difficulties and skills in managing virtual platforms), which generated concern, fear and anxiety. But more relevant was his positive attitude to face this situation:

Reorganize my routine, detach myself from the tangle of my thoughts, recognize and accept my feelings.

The perceptions of the students (49%) in these first days of confinement identify the main risk and protection factors , as well as their consequences. As stressors, in the first place, seclusion or confinement (40%), followed by uncertainty (25%) and social isolation (20%), and many other factors with little impact.

Loss, burden, worry …

As experienced consequences, the feeling of loss (25%), the burden (25%), the decentration (15%), worry (10%) and other feelings such as anxiety (10%), anger and sadness. And as general adaptation strategies, protective factors, learning from the situation (35%), optimism (20%), organizing and establishing a routine (20%) predominate. And to a lesser extent, cooperation and social commitment.

Sensations at 10 days

Specifying these expectations in actions throughout the days of confinement, after 10 days (42% of the student body), we found a plan or daily routine that involves physical exercise (77%), tasks related to university studies (63% ), family activities (54%), watching movies and series (45%), protecting oneself from informational overexposure about the coronavirus (45%) and virtually contacting friends (36%).

With less representation, reading, increasing rest, listening to music, writing, applauding at 8:00 p.m., cooking, meditating, dressing on the street or various collaborations (sewing masks, making videos for children, buying food for the elderly, etc.) .

After 13 days

Focusing the discussion (forum started after 13 days) in online teaching (47% participation), the most named strategies are virtual classes and the forum, both highly valued:

It is one of the subjects that I can take the most to the day, knowing that the rest of the classmates are doing it pushes me to stay active with the classes, forums or proposed tasks.

Usefulness of the online class

Regarding the first, online classes , highlight its usefulness, justifying it so as not to lose track of the subject, understand more easily, clarify and solve problems at the moment:

Online classes were necessary, because to understand it (the subject) globally, we cannot do it in a self-taught way … It is difficult for me to reach the vision that the teacher tries to convey if not with his explanation.

And they perceive it as a facilitator of the organization as a student, routine, schedule, completion and feedback of tasks, etc. The words associated with utility are help, ease, motivation, flexibility. And, expressly, they request that this online class modality be expanded and used in other subjects and as a teaching strategy in the future:

Resources like Teams have been with us for years, the pity is that students do not demand that they be used more frequently, or that teachers are not trained in these alternative ways of offering another resource to students.

Regarding the forum, also perceived as a facilitating element, verifying in the high percentage of participation, the words associated in the short stories, on the one hand, point out its facilitating role of interactions (sharing, debating) and highlight it as a learning strategy that Facilitates monitoring and feedback:

Thanks to the forum, we are also implementing and working part of the skills of the subject, such as making correct use of ICT, learning through feedback with other classmates or learning to communicate in written form in an appropriate way, among other skills.

Are we facing a new path?

In our opinion, the activity of teachers and students through this interactive method is being satisfactory, despite the prior ignorance from which we started. For this reason, these new tools, together with the existing ones (Virtual Campus), are making their way as complementary resources to face-to-face classes and, who knows, perhaps in the not too distant future, as teaching-learning methods of choice.

Author Bios: Rigoberto López Honrubia is a contracted Professor Doctor. Department of Psychology of the UCLM Health Psychology Area and Marta Nieto López is an Interim PhD Professor at the Albacete Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychology both at the University of Castilla-La Mancha