Third of academics ‘want live lectures to stay online’ post-Covid

Survey for regulator finds teaching staff more likely to lack access to right technology and support compared with students, and are less confident in their skills

February 25, 2021
Online learning
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One in three teachers in English universities think live lectures should continue to be online once the pandemic is over, and half think student one-to-ones should stay digital, according to a survey.

The figures come from the sector regulator’s review of digital teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, led by its chair, Sir Michael Barber. The Office for Students surveyed 1,285 students and 567 teaching staff from higher education providers in England.

Asked what aspects of their course should stay online after the pandemic, 41 per cent of staff would like to continue to deliver recorded online lectures, 34 per cent favoured retaining online live lectures, 51 per cent said that student one-to-ones should be digital and only 16 per cent said nothing should be online.

Among students, 45 per cent said recorded lectures, 25 per cent said live lectures, 26 per cent chose one-to-ones with supervisors and 29 per cent said nothing should be online.

In the research, carried out by YouGov for the OfS, 36 per cent of teachers in universities said that while delivering online teaching they lacked technical support if something went wrong.

A fifth – 20 per cent – said that they had been without access to the right software, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This was compared with 12 per cent of students who said the same.

Twenty-three per cent of teaching staff said that they didn’t have the right technology hardware, compared with 15 per cent of students.

Concerns about lack of access to adequate study space and a good internet connection were roughly the same for both: 31 per cent of staff and 30 per cent of students experienced this.

The survey revealed that 53 per cent of staff said they were concerned about the risks associated with the expansion of digital teaching, compared with 37 per cent who were not.

However, 70 per cent of staff agreed that digital education “provides opportunities to teach students in new and exciting ways” and 67 per cent of teaching staff said that they felt supported by their institution to deliver online teaching, against 27 per cent who did not.

It also found that only 21 per cent of lecturers were “very confident” that they could design and deliver digital teaching during the pandemic, 59 per cent were fairly confident, and 18 per cent said they were not confident. The survey revealed that 56 per cent would like to return to face-to-face teaching as soon as possible.

In comparison, 49 per cent of students said they were very confident that they had the digital skills to benefit from online learning and 56 per cent of students said the digital teaching they received was better than or in line with what their university or college said they would receive.

The report set out a series of recommendations for institutions, which include streamlining technology for digital teaching and learning, reviewing and evaluating whether provision is inclusive and accessible, and planning strategically for a future of blended learning.

Sir Michael said that it was “clear that online learning, often combined with traditional teaching, is not just an emergency stop-gap”.

“It has the potential to spark vast improvements in education worldwide – both in the short and long-term – and there is real appetite for it to do so,” he said.

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