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The new normal of online learning in a post Covid-19 world

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many significant changes in the way we live, learn and work. The need to quickly adapt how education is provided has been a priority of education institutions around the world. Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper, Programme Director for the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE), answers questions about recent developments to the LTHE programme in the post Covid-19 learning environment.

Written by Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper |

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The need to quickly adapt how education is provided has been a priority of education institutions around the world.

It has been reported that the pandemic has accelerated and worsened equity gaps in higher education and its connection to work. How do you feel Covid-19 has changed the landscape of learning and teaching in higher education?

The pandemic has had a very significant impact on the learning and assessment experiences of students across the globe. But there has not been an even pattern of change. Location, demographics, access to equipment and broadband and local and national government policies have all played parts. Examples:

  • University students in Nigeria did not get the opportunity to move their studies online, as it was recognised nationally that there were considerable barriers for student who don’t have a computer and Wi-Fi.
  • In China, teaching moved online in a significant way. Much learning still uses social media apps such as WeChat, as the majority of the student population have mobile devices.
  • In the UK most university students already had some online learning experience when we went into lockdown in late March.

However, everywhere, access to equipment, Wi-Fi and a quiet pace to work varied greatly. Students with young children who needed home schooling, or those caring for others, faced real challenges in finding the time and energy to continue with their studies.

For the participants working on the University of London Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, who are themselves all teaching in Higher Education across the world, the pattern of changes was also very diverse. Most were faced with the major task of moving their previous face-to-face teaching into an online mode, in a matter of a few days. One of the tutors on the programme captured some of the changes facing teaching staff in Higher Education as they prepare for the future, in her blog The loss of the lecture? Imagining a post Covid-19 world.

With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, are there are any new resources or developments to the LTHE programme?

Coming to the end of first three years of the programme meant that we were already planning to revise and update the programme this summer. The pandemic has certainly added to the agenda for development. Previously there would be colleagues joining the programme who have little or no experience of online teaching, but that has definitely changed. And of course, one of the important principles of good teaching and learning is to build on what students already know, and in this case everyone teaching in higher education is now doing some online teaching.

Additionally, we had very important student feedback data from the recent University of London Student Experience Survey to help us identify areas for development and enhancement. We scored an overall satisfaction rate with the programme of 90%; with 93% agreeing that the programme is intellectually stimulating. 88% of respondents confirmed that the programme is running smoothly and well organised. Feeling part of a community scored 74%, and this, added to the changes we have all gone through in terms of online teaching, has prompted us to include some new synchronous teaching session from October.

We are also providing further resources to support practical digital skills development for participants on the programme as part of the on-boarding process. We are taking the opportunity to introduce new ways of looking at blended learning to ensure that the participants on the programme are able to understand the ways in which theories and perspectives of effective learning can be translated into their practice in face-to-face, online and mixed mode teaching. Finally, we are exploring ways in which material drawn from a Global South perspective can be more fully deployed in the modules.

Where can further resources be found for those working in higher education?

My colleagues and I who designed the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in higher Education are part of the University of London’s Centre for Distance Education and we have been very involved in supporting the response of teaching staff to the Covid pandemic.   We have created a compilation of resources and links that are being used across the UK and beyond to support development. We have also run a number of webinars events, attended by practitioners from across the Globe. Blog summaries and links to the videos of these events can be found on our CDE blog page.

One of the most exciting parts of my job is working with the participants and staff on the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The participants are based across the globe, and teach in a very wide range of subject disciplines, so we have some lively and interesting discussions and reflections on all aspects of Higher Education and learning in general. And we see impact. Many of our graduates go on to win prizes for learning and teaching in their institutions. All make a difference for their students. It is an honour to be able to support these dedicated and inspiring teachers to develop their practice.

What advice would you give to those currently working in higher education who are struggling with the current situation?

If you are teaching or supporting learning in higher education then you may wish to look at our list of six things you can do: be realistic; be professional; be confident; listen to your learners; re-use material; get help.

This is a remarkably demanding time for all, but it is also a time for creativity, innovation, flexibility and development. Students and teachers are working together in ways that are changing the way we visualise learning and success. The Postgraduate Certificate Learning and Teaching at the University of London is a fantastic training ground for those working in higher education to really develop their skills, understanding and experience. Our fully online programme gives an excellent opportunity for professional development that will enhance careers as the new normal of blended and online becomes permanent.

Find out more about the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Dr Linda Amrane-Cooper is also Director of Strategic Projects and Head of the Centre for Distance Education at the University of London.