Achieving an optimal student-to-tutor ratio during the COVID-19 pandemic

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Marisel Reyes González and Ms. Lisbeth R. Sosa Pinedo, two fifth-year medical students at Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


‘‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever’’ – Mahatma Ghandi.

History has demonstrated that global societies have been able to overcome disease obstacles, and this current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is not an exception. Over time, human learning has been emphasized in the development of civilizations, shaping the role of educational programs. Today, researchers and community practitioners share their findings, which are added to the global scientific knowledge base.

As global citizens are experiencing the primary and secondary effects of this current pandemic, this crisis has triggered the development of innovative learning opportunities and alternative solutions. Virtual platforms have now served to offer continued academic coursework for medical and non-medical students, with coordinated classroom sessions with faculty and at-home exercises.

In relation to the student-to-tutor ratio, class size and student-teacher concepts should be defined. Class size refers to the number of students ordinarily in a classroom, and student-teacher ratio indicates the number of students enrolled relative to the total teacher posts (1).Currently virtual classes decrease the risk of viral transmission through human interactions in a traditional classroom environment. However, with no direct student-teacher interactions, students may lose interest in presented topics. For this reason the tutor must seek innovative approaches to keep the students engaged, focused, and motivated as well as encourage self-learners to maximize their learning experience.

Virtual classes directly affect the student-tutor ratio. For example, teachers cannot dedicate as much time with each student or individualize study plans through virtual interactions, as compared to in-person classroom interactions. As such, some learning opportunities may be lost. Hence, potential alternatives exist that may decrease the student-to-tutor ratio and optimize academic learning.

First, teachers can create a daily routine or checklist where students will be able to accomplish their weekly learning goals. This method encourages self-teaching, where students can become more focused and informed about the next class discussion topic. Second, teachers can create a positive environment that can help students to manage their emotions (e.g. anxiety, depression) during the stay-at-home restrictions. They can encourage students to find the appropriate balance between academic work and personal activities. In turn, this can enhance their performance and consequently decrease the student-to-tutor ratio. Finally, teachers should confirm that the appropriate content has been integrated into the virtual classroom lessons. Overall comprehension can be assessed through self-assessments and observed through active participation in discussion forums on related topics.

In general teaching settings, research has demonstrated that learning occurs in proportion to class size: the smaller the class, the more students learn. Research findings show that smaller classes provide more opportunities for better understanding, and greater student satisfaction (2). We must remember that every challenge is an opportunity to become a better version of ourselves, as we identify our weaknesses and focus on our strength. As we are faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, medical students have the potential to expand their academic learning and networks, which can strengthen their professional development and training.

References

  1. Kelleher C, Weir S. Class size and student-teacher ratio at primary level in Ireland and other OECD countries. The Irish Journal of Education. 2016 41:39-60.
  2. Evarist A. Teacher-student ratio on classroom practices in universal secondary schools in Wakiso District-Uganda. Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Educational and Policy Studies. 2018 9(4):167-177

About the author

Marisel Reyes González is a fifth-year medical student at Universidad Nacional Pedro
Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an active
member of the Standing Committee on Medical Education (SCOME) of ODEM- Dominican Republic. Lisbeth R. Sosa Pinedo is a fifth-year medical student at the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña (UNPHU) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an active member of the Standing Committee on Research Exchange (SCORE) of ODEM- Dominican Republic. She also serves as president of the UNPHU chapter of the American Medical Student Association.

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