Hepi poll: UK students’ satisfaction with online learning slips

Survey suggests most undergraduates expect limitations on their interaction with classmates next year

June 30, 2020
An evaluation screen with happy, neutral and sad faces
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Students in the UK are becoming less satisfied with the quality of the online learning that has replaced face-to-face teaching because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey has shown.

The survey of more than 1,000 undergraduates, carried out by YouthSight for the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that 42 per cent of students are either “very satisfied” or “quite satisfied” with the online learning provided in the wake of campus shutdowns.

This is in comparison with 49 per cent who said the same when surveyed in March this year.

The July polling showed that students were also more likely to expressed dissatisfaction: in July, 33 per cent said they were either “quite unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied”, compared with 23 per cent in March.

The latest survey showed that they are also slightly less assured with their institution’s messaging around the impact of coronavirus on this academic year than they were at the beginning of the lockdown. It found that 66 per cent of students were very or quite satisfied, compared with 70 per cent in March.

It also showed that less than half – 43 per cent – said the messaging about what would happen next year had been “very or quite clear”.

Almost two-thirds of students said they were pleased with the way that their institution had handled their assessment: 63 per cent said that they were “very satisfied” or “quite satisfied”, compared with 20 per cent who indicated they were either very or quite dissatisfied.

In March, the survey showed that a greater proportion of students would prefer their exams to happen online than be cancelled.

The research showed that about a third of students have received refunds for their accommodation, with 57 per cent of undergraduates living away from their normal term-time residence as a result of the pandemic.  

Students also seem prepared for their next academic year being different from their previous experience: 71 per cent say that they expect social distancing measures across campus, 71 per cent expect some learning to be done online, 58 per cent expect their interaction with other students will be limited and 54 per cent expect there will be limited access to campus facilities, such as libraries.

For the most part, undergraduates are not expecting all learning to be online (only 18 per cent indicated they are) or for there to be limitations on courses, such as reduced module options.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy at Hepi, said that in “some ways it is unsurprising that students are not completely satisfied with a model that has been created in such extraordinary times”.  

“Some aspects, such as the handling of assessments, have clearly met with students’ approval. In order to improve students’ perceptions, it is important that universities use this time to learn from students what works in terms of online learning, to develop the model available for the next academic year,” she said.

Ms Hewitt added: “The results show that students are realistic that the next academic year is likely to be radically different to the norm. However, it is concerning that less than half feel they have had clear messaging from their university about the next academic year. While it is difficult to predict exactly where we will be by September, it is important universities are as clear as possible in their communications to students.”


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Reader's comments (1)

It is time that IUK univetsitrsities hire suitably qualified people who can teach or else students will be perennially dissatisfied.