Students give mixed response to online learning

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Higher education students have mixed opinions on the balance between online and on-site learning, according to the results of a Jisc survey.

The membership organization for technology services in the sector has highlighted the results of its latest digital experience survey, which was conducted between October 2021 and April 2022.

He said that out of 33,726 respondents to his questions, 42% preferred mostly on-site learning, 45% a mix of on-site and online learning, and only 13% mostly online.

It comes after a heavy reliance over the past two academic years on online learning in response to Covid-19 lockdowns.

Overall they were positive about their digital learning experiences, with 74% rating the quality of the environment as above average – up from 67% the year before – and just 6% saying that it was below average, half the previous figure.

But most said they had no say in the digital tools used by their courses and there was no adequate support for online learning. Only 37% said they had input into decisions about the learning platforms used by their university, while 35% rated online learning support as average or worse and only 33% had an assessment of their skills and their training needs.

Improve access and support

A positive note from the survey was that digital access and support has improved in several areas. For example, the number of people experiencing problems with Wi-Fi and/or broadband fell from 63% the previous year to 51%, while the number of people struggling to find a safe space and private to work fell from 21% to 16%, and those struggling with the cost of mobile data fell from 33% to 24%.

But digital and data poverty remained an issue for many, with 51% having trouble with Wi-Fi signals or broadband, and 15% struggling with the cost of mobile data.

In the foreword to the report, Professor Steve West CBE, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and President of Universities UK, says the key to the success of blended courses was student involvement and student support low-income with devices, training, etc.

“There is no single answer to the question of what students want, so we must involve students in designing the educational experience and the technology to support it, embracing continuous co-creation at all levels with students as partners,” he says.

“The sector also has to deal with the ongoing challenges that online study creates for some students. Digital and data poverty has been around for as long as the internet, but it took a pandemic to highlight the plight of a significant minority of disadvantaged students who lack access to vital basics – responsive devices , a reliable internet connection, a safe and a private workplace – and who cannot afford the costs of mobile data or broadband.

“We still have a long way to go as an industry, but as Jisc CEO Heidi Fraser-Krauss has advised, universities cannot risk underinvesting in technology if they are to deliver a learning experience. high-quality, digitally enhanced blended learning.”

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