Record response yields positive results

Eighty-percent of OUM students voiced their opinions of the University in the tenth annual OUM student survey, and the results were generally positive.

“These surveys are so important because they tell us what’s working and what’s not from the students’ perspective, giving them the platform on which to make suggestions for how the University can improve its services,” says Professor Randell Brown, OUM’s Vice Chancellor. “Some of OUM’s best programs have been born from suggestions made in the surveys over the past decade.”

Annual student conferences, enhanced student support and academic advising, clinical student advisors, increased teaching hours, and improved clinical case discussions are just a few of the initiatives that have come from student feedback and suggestions made through surveys since 2011.

Contacted in December 2020 through mid-January 2021, the survey’s 193 participants reflected the University’s diversity in terms of students’ country of residence, where they are in the program, and when they expect to graduate.

Overall satisfaction matched previous years’ levels, with nearly three-quarters of respondents citing good or excellent satisfaction with the OUM experience. The ratings in the table below show the average rating for each category (poor-fair-adequate-good-excellent on a 10-point scale) and have been consistent year to year.

Not surprisingly, the highest ratings were enjoyed by the course instructors and academic advisors. In both cases, more than three-quarters of the students reported high satisfaction levels with those faculty members.

Likes and Dislikes

“Flexibility” was the word for what students like most about OUM. The word cloud below shows the most frequently used words students used to describe their “likes” about OUM.

While the dislikes were as diverse as the OUM student body itself, a few themes emerged among the 193 student respondents:

  • Problems finding clinical placements/rotations were cited by 36 students. (19%)
  • Structural issues with the program, varying from the Academic Calendar to length of breaks, exam windows, etc, were cited by 28 students. (15%)
  • Nothing, N/A, “all good” cited by 27 students. (14%)
  • The Clinical Skills Course and clinical skills teaching in general were cited by 13 students. (7%)
  • Communication concerns, including Student Handbook, were cited by 12 students.
  • Technical issues, including exam proctoring, were cited by 11 students.
  • Cost, financial issues, and need for financial aid were mentioned by 11 students.
  • Isolation and lack of physical contact were mentioned by 10 students.

Some good suggestions were made, which University leaders will take into account.

Study Plan

Students were asked for the first time to provide information about who helps them develop their study plan and scrutinize progress toward meeting objectives. Four main themes emerged:

  • Students most frequently said they develop/scrutinize their own study plans. (59)
  • The second most frequent group cited their advisor or mentor solely. (45)
  • Students also said they work alongside their advisor/mentor on their study plans. (24)
  • A small number of students said no one develops/scrutinizes their study plan, or they said NA. (15)

Clinical Skills Course

The 82 clinical students responding to the survey shared insights into how OUM’s clinical skills courses have helped prepare them for their clinical clerkships. Forty-three percent said they took the eight-week Clinical Skills Course; 15 percent reported taking an on-site clinical skills course that was not a formal part of the OUM curriculum. Only one clinical student reported having taken the Day-One Clinical Skills Course, since very few matriculating in Term 1801 and beyond, when Day-One was introduced, have advanced to clinical clerkships. Thirty-nine percent said they had not taken a clinical skills course. Some takeaways:

  • Most students taking the eight-week Clinical Skills Course reported that it did help them prepare for their rotations, especially with history-taking & physical examination and building rapport with patients. Those who did not feel the course had prepared them wanted more face-to-face interaction and practice on such procedures as cannulation and venipuncture.
  • Those taking outside clinical skills courses thought they were generally helpful.
  • Students taking the 12-week Internal Medicine rotation in Samoa, which satisfied the clinical skills requirement prior to the introduction of the Day-One Clinical Skills Course, generally felt it was a valuable experience.
  • Most of the students taking no clinical skills course, mainly because it was not required for them, indicated that taking a clinical skills course would have been helpful.

Good Marks for Technology, Library, and Research

Nearly two-thirds of students using tech support were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received, 16 percent saying they did not use it in the past year. Despite being challenged with using three different exam platforms during 2020—after Proctortrack had a security breach and RPNow was not able to keep up with the demand—OUM students were becoming more familiar with Respondus by the end of the year.

For the OUM library, two-thirds of students said they were satisfied or very satisfied. While many had no suggestions for improvement, some students offered suggestions of resources that would be helpful to them. Students provided valuable input on new and planned library services. (See more information from the library here.)

OUM students are starting their research projects earlier, according to the survey. In 2020, only 20 percent had not started their projects. In 2019, 25 percent had not started their projects, and 41 percent had not started them in 2018.

“I’m very happy to see this,” says Dr. Daria Camera, Director of Research. “We have enhanced teaching on research methods and techniques, and students are now required to have their prospectuses approved before they begin their rotations.”

OUMSA, Student Handbook, and the Student Affairs Committee

The OUM Student Association continues to have a strong identity at OUM. Ninety-seven percent of students are aware of OUMSA, and 45 percent are members. Whether they are members or not, students report high awareness of OUMSA’s functions. Eighteen percent reported needing more information about OUMSA to help them with their decision to join.

Most students reported using the OUM Student Handbook on a regular basis, as needed, and most of them find it helpful. Some found it was comprehensive and detailed, while others thought it needed to be more detailed. A few students reminded OUM administration that the handbook should not replace interactions with OUM staff or academic advisors.

Students petitioning the Student Affairs Committee in 2020 seemed to be generally satisfied with their experiences, though the decision did not always go their way. Though less than 20 percent of students surveyed reported interacting with the Student Affairs Committee, more than two-thirds felt that the committee handled their request in a timely manner and the decision was fair.

The OUM Student Survey has been administered at the end of each of the past 10 years to the entire student body. While participation is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. Participation rates in early years was 45-50 percent, but they have been above 70 percent for the past three years. The University’s Steering Committee, as well as several faculty and administrative committees, have copies of the 70-page report and are incorporating student input and ideas into their plans for the development of future policies and procedures and for University-wide strategic planning. The detailed results of each survey also are shared with PAASCU, OUM’s international accrediting agency, and the Samoa Qualifications Authority.

(April 2021)