Are we nearly there yet?

In a critique of a recent WonKHE article on the impact of Covid-induced changes on higher education students, CDE Fellow Stephen Brown argues that while there are a lot of positive indicators, we are not quite there yet in terms of getting the basics in place for effective online learning.

Are we nearly there yet?

In a critique of a recent WonKHE article on the impact of Covid-induced changes on higher education students, CDE Fellow Stephen Brown argues that while there are a lot of positive indicators, we are not quite there yet in terms of getting the basics in place for effective online learning.

A recent Wonkhe article reporting on a survey of higher education undergraduate and postgraduate students in England and Wales revealed that only around two thirds of respondents found their teaching intellectually stimulating; slightly more than half felt that they had had sufficient teaching and learning to adequately prepare for course assessments; and only one third said they have regular indicators about how they are performing on the course. The survey, which was run during 2020, investigated the impact of the Covid-induced pivot to online and blended learning. Depressingly, only 41 per cent of the survey respondents agreed or somewhat agreed that their online learning activities were varied and engaging, which suggests that considerably more effort needs to be made to utilise what we already know about the basics of learning and teaching to improve pedagogy to a level students can reasonably expect.

Three important aspects highlighted by this study that need more work are:

  1. Accepting lower standards for online learning will not produce desirable results for students, institutions, employers or the wider national economy.
  2. Perpetrating poor pedagogy will not help to raise standards to the basic level that students reasonably expect.
  3. Failing to address constructively and explicitly the learning skills of students will not help them to become sufficiently independent learners.

The good news is that we already know, with some confidence, how to address these issues and as this study shows, we have learned a lot over the last year about the practicalities of online education.