Researchers are discovering the ways in which people have been learning about key aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federation University Australia’s Researching Adult and Vocational Education (RAVE) group has been surveying adults about the long-running pandemic and how they learned about four specific pieces of information – health, restrictions and closures, the progress of the pandemic nationally and internationally, and financial provisions.
Professor Erica Smith and Morgan Wise found there were clear trends emerging, with health topping the list as the most important aspect for respondents, followed by information about restrictions and closures.
“People’s understanding of health issues, and to a lesser extent the progress of the pandemic, had increased considerably over the period March to late June, with 83 per cent – health – and 76 per cent – pandemic progress – reporting a high level of understanding by late June,” Professor Smith said.
The researchers said there were several ways in which people could have learned relevant information. Participants were given two lists – one of media sources and a second of non-media sources.
Television government announcements and press conferences were reported as the most important media sources for all aspects, with the Victorian government’s website also important for restrictions and closures information, and health agency websites – including the World Health Organization – for the progress of the pandemic. Social media was only a minor source of information, with most saying they preferred to rely on official and reliable sources.
Family and friends was the most important non-media source, with workplace awareness information also important. Three-quarters of those surveyed said their main source of information remained constant over time.
The survey respondents suggested some simple but effective ideas for providing better information about COVID-related matters.
These included household flyers – either in mailbox drops or sent by post – posters displayed in communities, a daily five-minute update broadcast through all media, and the availability of information in different languages, including indigenous languages for remote communities.
All of these ideas could be implemented immediately and would certainly be useful in future crises.
The survey remains open until the end of July. Anyone wishing to know more about the project, or wishing to participate in the on-line survey, can contact the research team at firstname.lastname@example.org.