Article Text

Original research
Perceptions of medical students towards online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national cross-sectional survey of 2721 UK medical students
  1. Samiullah Dost1,
  2. Aleena Hossain2,
  3. Mai Shehab3,
  4. Aida Abdelwahed2,
  5. Lana Al-Nusair2
  1. 1Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Guy’s Campus, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Aleena Hossain; aleena.hossain16{at}


Objectives To investigate perceptions of medical students on the role of online teaching in facilitating medical education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design Cross-sectional, online national survey.

Setting Responses collected online from 4th May 2020 to 11th May 2020 across 40 UK medical schools.

Participants Medical students across all years from UK-registered medical schools.

Main outcome measures The uses, experiences, perceived benefits and barriers of online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results 2721 medical students across 39 medical schools responded. Medical schools adapted to the pandemic in different ways. The changes included the development of new distance-learning platforms on which content was released, remote delivery of lectures using platforms and the use of question banks and other online active recall resources. A significant difference was found between time spent on online platforms before and during COVID-19, with 7.35% students before versus 23.56% students during the pandemic spending >15 hours per week (p<0.05). The greatest perceived benefits of online teaching platforms included their flexibility. Whereas the commonly perceived barriers to using online teaching platforms included family distraction (26.76%) and poor internet connection (21.53%).

Conclusions Online teaching has enabled the continuation of medical education during these unprecedented times. Moving forward from this pandemic, in order to maximise the benefits of both face-to-face and online teaching and to improve the efficacy of medical education in the future, we suggest medical schools resort to teaching formats such as team-based/problem-based learning. This uses online teaching platforms allowing students to digest information in their own time but also allows students to then constructively discuss this material with peers. It has also been shown to be effective in terms of achieving learning outcomes. Beyond COVID-19, we anticipate further incorporation of online teaching methods within traditional medical education. This may accompany the observed shift in medical practice towards virtual consultations.

  • medical education & training
  • world wide web technology
  • telemedicine
  • information technology
  • education & training (see medical education & training)
  • public health

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  • SD and AH are joint first authors.

  • SD and AH contributed equally.

  • Contributors SD contributed to the study concept and design, and developed the questionnaire. SD recruited collaborators for survey distribution and data collection. SD supervised the project, had full access to the data, controlled the decision to publish and accepts full responsibility for the conduct of this study, as the guarantor. AH and SD contributed equally to this study as joint first authors. AH developed and designed the questionnaire, contributed to data acquisition and interpretation, writing and critical revision of the manuscript. AH is the corresponding author and managed project administration. MS developed the questionnaire, contributed to data acquisition and interpretation, and writing and critical revision of the manuscript. AA developed the questionnaire, and contributed to data visualisation and presentation, and writing and critical revision of the manuscript. LA-N performed data analysis, interpretation, visualisation and presentation and contributed to writing and critical revision of the manuscript. All authors approved the final version to be published and are accountable for all aspects of the work. Sixteen students were involved with survey distribution and data collection.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was requested from Imperial College London and was deemed not to be required as all data was anonymised, with informed consent taken from all participants. The work was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, including, but not limited to the anonymity of participants being guaranteed and the informed consent of participants being obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author ( Due to the anonymous nature of the survey, it was not possible to disseminate the results of this study to the participants.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.