Student digital experience insights survey 2020/21: UK higher education findings

This year, 38,917 students from 41 UK universities took part in our student digital experience insights survey.

Student digital experience insights report cover

This year, 38,917 students from 41 UK universities took part in our student digital experience insights survey. The survey was conducted between October 2020 and April 2021.

Digital transformation gathers pace

Jisc has been running digital experience insights surveys since 2016, and this is perhaps the most pivotal of them all. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the need for digital transformation and reinvigorated the drive for universities to make effective use of digital.

Students have acknowledged the efforts by universities and staff to rise to the challenges and also the support they have received during difficult, and sometimes fast changing, circumstances.

The data gathered from our 2020/21 student digital experience insights survey for higher education highlights areas for concern as well as examples of good practice to build on for the future. Note that this year, we focused on online learning. We asked students to respond to the questions based on their experiences in the two weeks immediately prior to taking the survey.

Key findings

  • More than half (67%) of students surveyed in this report rated the overall quality of online and digital learning highly, rating it as ‘good’ through to ‘best imaginable’ although not all learners felt they experienced the best that digital learning could offer
  • Although there were many positive aspects to learning online, some students faced significant barriers to participation. 63% of students reported problems with wifi connectivity and others cited mobile data costs, access to suitable computers/devices and a lack of a suitable, safe place to study as problems that interfered with their learning
  • While welcoming the range of resources now available to students online, fewer than half felt that their learning environments were reliable (47%), easy to navigate (46%) or well-designed (41%)
  • Universities provided a lot of support for students but our findings suggest that some of this was less visible or less accessible when studying online. Very few turned to IT/e-learning staff (17%) or library staff (7%) – two natural sources of on campus support
  • More students than previously recorded agreed that they were given the chance to be involved in decisions about online learning (35%). Analysis of qualitative data shows that students are keen to be involved and can offer valuable insight as to what works well for them, what doesn’t and have useful suggestions for how this could be improved

The full report gives a detailed analysis of our findings and guidance on how universities can address the issues raised.

Download the full report (pdf)

About the authors

Clare Killen
Clare Killen
Senior consultant

I work in the business intelligence unit at Jisc, primarily on the digital experience insights surveys for students, academic staff and professional services staff. The focus is on supporting members across further and higher education to enrich their student experiences by providing powerful data to inform strategic planning and investment.

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Mark Langer-Crame
Senior data intelligence analyst (team lead), Jisc