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University students have concerns over the impact of the remote education model on their studies and lecturers’ technical skills to teach that way, a new study has found.
As institutions plan to rely mainly on the remote model until mass Covid-19 vaccination is achieved, the vast majority (92%) of students said they have adapted to the model and can easily access the learning materials, apps and data needed when studying remotely.
The study, carried out by One Poll on behalf of Citrix, polled 500 UK students and 500 university vice-chancellors, chief technology officers, chief information officers, IT directors and managers in December 2020.
The research found students that have a number of concerns in relation to the remote learning model, such as the negative impact it may have on their studies in the long term, voiced by 79% of those polled.
Also, only 25% of students said their university course offered value for money. Almost one in three (29%) would have taken a year out of study and almost one in 10 (9%) would have gone straight into work if they had had the choice, according to the study.
On the other hand, 43% of students said online classes can be effective if rolled out appropriately with the right tools and guidance. Some 38% of students would prefer to continue with a blended model of campus and online learning after the pandemic – but 37% would like to see their tutors upskilled on how to use technology more effectively.
From the IT leadership standpoint, the decision-makers surveyed said their university was making investments in technologies that support long-term remote learning. These include virtual desktops and apps (36%), laptops for students (34%), file-sharing platforms (34%) and collaboration tools (32%).
Universities have acknowledged the requirement for continued enhancements, the study noted. Institutions surveyed said they would monitor the quality of the remote learning set-ups they offer through focus groups (43%), social media (43%), internal surveys (39%) and complaints (37%).
Angus Rae, head of service delivery at the University of Salford, said the feedback had been positive as his university was well prepared for remote learning at the start of the pandemic, but current circumstances have introduced a number of changes and opportunities to the education sector.
“I think students will return to campus post-Covid, but there is an opportunity to improve their experience when they do, and to offer more flexibility around core teaching hours,” said Rae. “Technology allows our students to work when and where they want, something that may not have been available three or four years ago.
“As a student, your circumstances may change during your course, and the university needs to be able to support those students on their journeys. This is also key to increasing retention and improving experience across the board. These new opportunities mean it is an exciting time for higher education.”