The quality of online teaching and blended learning at universities needs to be re-examined amid fears that poor online learning experiences during the pandemic have undermined the potential of combining face-to-face and online studies. The Office for Students (OfS) has launched a review to examine how universities are offering blended learning, which aims to provide students and applicants with feedback on whether elements of their courses are of sufficient quality to be offered online.
While most students have returned to face-to-face classes, many universities continue to teach some of their courses online. With the end of the coronavirus restrictions, students are back on campus and able to enjoy in-person classes, Student Office Executive Director Nicola Dandridge said. He also said that there are clear advantages to face-to-face learning and that where students have been promised face-to-face tuition, it should be offered.
Ms Dandridge said a return to relative normalcy is important and that it remains very important for universities and colleges to be clear to their students and applicants about how the courses will be offered. She said universities must be “explicit” about which elements of the courses remain online and that whether modules are offered online or in person, the quality should be good and student feedback taken into account.
Ms Dandridge said there are many ways to successfully deliver blended courses and it will be important to build on the lessons learned from the shift to online learning during the pandemic. However, we want to make sure the quality is maintained and through this review we want to better understand if universities and colleges are offering to keep certain articles online and why.
A summer 2022 report will provide examples of high-quality blended learning, approaches that do not meet OfS regulatory requirements and provide students and candidates with more information about the courses than they chose. A spokesman for the Department of Education said the government has lifted all restrictions on face-to-face teaching, meaning providers can offer the full face-to-face teaching experience they offered before the pandemic.
The Department of Education has made it clear that we want universities to be open and transparent with students by publishing the proportion of face-to-face teaching that students can expect. Virtual learning is a fantastic innovation that can be used to complement and enhance a student’s learning experience, but it should not be used as a cost-cutting measure. The OfS has a duty to ensure that students receive the educational experience promised by their provider, so we look forward to the results of this review.
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