In March 2020, UK higher education embarked on a sudden shift to digital learning. In the vast majority of cases, it wasn’t a designed and fully realised transformation of teaching and learning.
It was an emergency response to an unprecedented situation that relied on upskilling staff rapidly enough to enable them to deliver the remainder of their courses, and assess them, in as effective and equitable way as possible.
The extent of this digital shift, and the tools, techniques and platforms used, varied not only between universities but also within them, depending on the demands of different departments and the confidence and capabilities of the staff.
Learning from trailblazers
This report highlights a range of responses from UK universities, ranging from trailblazing efforts at University of Northampton with its embedded 'active blended learning’ approach, to innovation at Coventry University which is transforming each module in partnership with learning experience platform Aula.
University of Leeds, with its use of student buddies, and University of Lincoln’s long-standing co-creation work are notable for their supportive student-staff approaches. University of York, however, focused on simplicity in the short term and redesign longer-term. The University of the West of Scotland is also focusing on developing a community-based hybrid learning approach for the new year.
Each case study shows how the sector has shown resilience and responded in ways appropriate to their context.
In dealing with the crisis, universities had to address a number of challenges, including assessment, staff digital capability and confidence, student digital divides, staff and student wellbeing and demonstrating value for money.
As the sector moves forward, the lessons learned in 2020 will help deliver a better digital learning experience regardless of the blend of remote or face-to-face learning.
A vision for digital learning 2030
Building on this starting point, the report proposes a vision based on three characteristics:
- Intentional - delivering a learning experience that is built strategically from the ground up to improve on current practice
- Seamless - with a reliable, coherent and integrated foundation
- Supportive - designed to help every student make the most of it no matter their location or background
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About this series of reports
These reports draw on the expertise of leaders from HE, employers and startups, through Jisc – Emerge Education advisory groups on specific topics, including the future of assessment, the employability journey of students from non-traditional backgrounds, student recruitment in challenging times, employer-university collaboration and the student mental health and wellbeing challenge.