Most staff ‘feel lack of support for improving online teaching’

Jisc survey reveals staff feel innovation in remote learning is where they need more help 

November 29, 2021
Source: iStock

Less than a fifth of UK academics say they are being given the time to develop their online teaching while just 6 per cent believe their university has given them recognition for the skills they have developed, a new survey has shown.

Although most of the 3,700 teachers questioned between October 2020 and July 2021 by digital services provider Jisc said they felt supported when it came to teaching online, a large majority said that there was a lack of help for innovation.

For instance, only 17 per cent agreed that they had been given “time to explore new digital tools and approaches” – 55 per cent disagreed – and only 15 per cent said their institutions had assessed their skills and training needs (47 per cent disagreed).

“It takes a huge amount of time to develop good online material and many staff are keen to do this because they can see the benefits, but time restricts these activities,” one text response to the survey pointed out.

Also, when asked if they had been given “reward and recognition for the digital skills you develop” more than two-thirds disagreed and just 6 per cent thought this had been the case.

Overall, when asked to evaluate the quality of their online content, 84 per cent rated it as at least “good”, but only a quarter agreed that they had had the chance to be involved in decision-making around remote learning.

There were also significant concerns about well-being, both in terms of the extra workload brought by teaching online, but also the impact of seeing students deal with the negative consequences of learning remotely.

“Watching students struggle with the lack of social engagement, the challenges of digital poverty and mental health and well-being had a negative effect on staff well-being,” the report says.

The Jisc report was published on the same day that Universities UK released the findings of a series of round tables involving 13 institutions on the future of online learning in the sector.

The UUK report says that “returning to a pre-pandemic world, without any reflection or change, isn’t realistic or desirable” when it comes to technology and teaching, adding that institutions were “committed to learning from this period and embracing change where it has the potential to enhance quality and the student experience”.

It says that the move to online teaching had coincided with a narrowing of attainment gaps, was leading to better ways of carrying out assessment and was allowing for innovation in student engagement and feedback.

“Blended or hybrid higher education which integrates digital elements to teaching can deliver better outcomes for students and provide more flexibility,” it adds.

“It can widen participation and break down barriers for non-traditional learners. As we start to emerge from the pandemic and into a post-Covid future, we have the opportunity to take advantage of this to make higher education more effective and more inclusive than ever before.”

However, the report also highlights challenges such as funding constraints and digital poverty among students, and criticises “rhetoric surrounding the value of digital learning” that “has been profoundly negative”.

Referring to record low student satisfaction scores this year, it adds: “Delivering higher education in hybrid or blended ways does not deliver a lesser experience for students – studying through a global pandemic under lockdown conditions, as evidenced in the recent National Student Survey results, does.”

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