Nearly seven in 10 students surveyed rate the quality of online and digital learning as either ‘best imaginable’, ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ (68% of both further and higher education students).
But the snapshot findings of the Jisc survey of 27,069 higher and further education students in the United Kingdom also found that areas such as well-being, mental health and staff digital skills need more attention.
Sarah Knight, Jisc’s head of data and digital capability, said: “We hope this data pulse helps universities and colleges see clearly where students are benefiting, and where they could be better supported.”
Between October and December 2020, 21,697 higher education students and 5,372 further education students from 11 universities and four further education colleges took part in Jisc’s digital experience insights student survey.
The surveys seek to support the sector in adapting and responding to the changing situation as a result of COVID-19 policies.
The surveys will continue to run until 30 April 2021, but this first snapshot of results shows the swift work of colleges and universities in moving learning online has been predominantly well received by students.
Among those surveyed, 81% were studying online, 72% of them from home.
Both higher education and further education students surveyed noted the huge benefits of flexible learning, with lecture recordings proving helpful for note-taking and scheduling learning around other aspects of life. Some students enjoy the comfort and convenience of studying at home, as well as feeling more in control.
Learning online (ironically) has made it easier to get support from staff. They’re more likely to encourage us to talk to them and it is a little easier than having to find them physically on campus.
Students enjoyed a range of different online activities and were positive about being able to access lecture recordings and participate live online.
Analysis of free text responses in the survey was particularly revealing and highlighted how being able to watch sessions again helped students to study in ways that better met their learning needs, improved their understanding and encouraged further independent study.
For instance, recordings enabled them to catch up if they missed the live session, manage the pace and take notes. They also made it easier for students for whom English is not a first language to hear and understand the lecture.
Some of the more engaging activities were less well used and there are opportunities to embed activities like the use of small group discussions for peer support and collaboration, quizzes or polls, and online research tasks into curriculum design, the survey found.