News from Journal of Medical Internet Research

Influence of Forced Online Distance Education During the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Perceived Stress of Postsecondary Students: Cross-sectional Study

Background: One of the most significant changes in the majority of postsecondary educational institutions was the closure of those institutions and the shift of educational activities to online distance learning formats as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Closure combined with forced online distance education (FODE) was a cure with many side effects, 1 of them being the effect on students’ mental health and, more specifically, levels of stress. Due to the novelty of the situation, there have been no studies so far designed to link satisfaction with online study, feelings toward the study obligations, and stress among students.
Objective: The aim of the study is to assess the perceived stress of Slovenian postsecondary students in order to identify the online study–related factors affecting or acting as a covariate during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Methods: Data collection was conducted through a self-reported survey as part of a large cross-sectional study based on data collected from postsecondary students from a number of higher educational institutions. The random sample consisted of 4455 individuals. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-4), Satisfaction with Online Study Scale (SAT-5), and Feelings Towards Study Obligations Scale (FETSOS) were used to assess the constructs and the relations observed within the study.
Results: The results indicate that more than half of all respondents reported high levels of stress. The difference in the reported levels of perceived stress between genders were statistically significant (N=4454, F2=56.719, P<.001, Cohen d=0.35). Overall, the results suggest that a decline in the motivation to study, the quality of internet and mobile connections, and the presence of distracting factors in the study space were the 3 main factors related to the students’ negative emotions as associated with the timeliness, performance, and quality of the study obligations. Furthermore, the results show that the level of satisfaction with online study affected stress such that the higher the satisfaction, the lower the stress. Moreover, the more positive feelings connected with the timeliness, performance, and quality of the study obligations that the students felt, the more satisfaction they reported with online study and, thus indirectly, lower stress and less negative feelings.
Conclusions: The findings of this study call for implementing structures and measures targeted at stress reduction, working conditions, and pedagogy with regard to FODE.