The Stress on Students Increases with the Coronavirus Pandemic

Three semesters of "Studying in the Pandemic" have massively changed life and learning. That was the result of a survey at the University of Trier.

Students who enrolled a year and a half ago only know their university from photos and their fellow students only from video seminars. They suffer psychologically from the situation and worry about the continuation of their studies. Such images and snapshots are spread over and over again. But do they apply to the majority? How are students actually doing in the pandemic? The University of Trier and the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID) wanted to find out together and asked students about their situation.

"Of course, this survey is only a snapshot. But the results show what the long test of patience has achieved. As an important place, the library has been reopened for some time. But that's not enough to improve the general well-being of the student body. The salt in the soup is the change. The monotony of the situation is nerve-wracking. This can be felt everywhere," describes Prof. Michael Jäckel, University President and initiator of the study, the situation.

From May 7th to 24th, 1.806 students from the University of Trier took part in the survey. Around a quarter of the participants started their studies in the 2020 summer semester and have so far only studied digitally. It is noticeable that all of the students surveyed show a high degree of agreement in assessing the overall situation. This also applies to the assessment of the burdens. Only 10 percent perceive studying in the pandemic as easier, while for 90 percent it is more difficult or significantly more difficult. This means that around 60 percent are more concerned about the success of their studies and their own prospects.

"The corona pandemic is not only a challenge, but often also a burden for students and teachers. With our 50 million euros program for digitization at universities, regulations on online exams and the extension of the standard study time, we have reacted quickly to the new circumstances," said the Minister of Science, Clemens Hoch. "We were happy to make the survey possible with a grant in order to find out more precisely what the stress factors are. On this basis, we want to see what we can do better together with the universities. This is not just about studying in the pandemic, but about studying in general that will be more digitally oriented in the future. I am hopeful for the winter semester: If we continue to make good progress with the vaccination, we can look forward to a semester, which will again have a lot of on-site seminars."

Three digital semesters have left their mark. Around three quarters of the students surveyed rate their mental and emotional state (77 percent) and their general well-being (73 percent) worse than in the pre-coronavirus period. 68 percent say they cannot concentrate and 65 percent have difficulty structuring their day. On the other hand, the students do not struggle too much with the burdens and limitations. Around 80 percent say that they personally felt reasonably well or very well in the pandemic. In addition, the students seem to have developed a certain resilience to the circumstances: a total of around 73 percent said that they are able to cope with the situation emotionally and psychologically reasonably to very well at the moment.

However, the pandemic has had a massive impact on the study situation. After the first lockdown, the face-to-face courses for the 2020 summer semester had to be converted to digital formats within a few weeks. Students are still finding deficits in online teaching. With studying under pandemic conditions, 30 percent are a little, 41 percent reasonably and at least 14 percent are very satisfied. The students cite difficult communication with fellow students (90 percent) as problem cases, around three quarters rate working in digital learning groups as difficult. Most students expect the pandemic to have a massive impact on their studies. 83 percent assume that their studies will be extended by the pandemic and 28 percent of those surveyed are even considering dropping out of their studies.

The students give their university a good report card in dealing with the pandemic. Around 73 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with the corona management at the University of Trier. 66 percent of students say the university took just the right steps to contain the pandemic. A majority of 58 percent feel well supported in the pandemic by the various specific offers at the university.

"In this cooperation project, we were able to contribute our specific expertise in the field of online data collection and the measurement of psychological characteristics. We are delighted with the conclusive findings that are relevant to decision-making and action at the University of Trier. The students certify the university for excellent pandemic management ", says ZPID Director Prof. Michael Bosnjak.

What the students have missed most in recent months are the mensa and cafeterias, meetings with friends and family, face-to-face events on campus and - even more so than their favorite bar - the study groups on campus instead of in the virtual chat room .

In view of the positive developments in the fight against the pandemic, some of these wishes could come true again in the winter semester. This means that the "rather hopeful" expectations expressed by 60 percent of those surveyed for the second half of 2021 are likely to increase further.

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