Thirty eight percent of students who accessed their study programmes online last term following the COVID-19 lockdown claim that the provision of e-learning was not of satisfactory quality, according to a survey report by the National Union of Students (NUS).
When asked whether their digital education was of a “good standard/quality”, 19% neither agreed nor disagreed; 13% disagreed; and 6% strongly disagreed.
Responding to the statement, “I am able to access the online learning sufficiently to complete my studies e.g. I have a access to the necessary equipment”, 27% of students did not agree; 12% neither agreed nor disagreed; 10% disagreed; and 5% strongly disagreed.
Analysing results from just under 4,200 students, the NUS unveiled worrying results on the impact of the pandemic across the education sector. The confederation of students’ unions is now calling on the government to “wake up and step up” as a brand-new term approaches. The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase II was conducted throughout July, building on previous NUS research issued in April this year.
Those who were unable to sufficiently access e-learning cited a lack of access to physical resources, insufficient digital resources, a lack of adequate ICT infrastructure, absent or poor WiFi, and a lack of access to software as the primary causes.
Among respondents who receive learning support, 19% agreed that they had not received the guidance and assistance required for their learning to continue throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.
On a more positive note, students generally approved of the way their university assessments were conducted, with two in three stating they were generally satisfied with their institution’s chosen method. On top of this, two in three students achieved their expected grades, with just under half saying they achieved higher than expected, highlighting the importance of no-detriment policies and alternative exam processes, which many adopted following a series of campaigns and consultations with national students’ unions.
As campuses get set to re-open their doors, students’ biggest concerns are regarding the lack of physical experiences and the lack of quality teaching and/or e-learning. Most students would like the year to go ahead under as ‘normal’ circumstances as possible, but the NUS survey results reveal that institutions which are offering some form of blended learning must ensure they have sufficient resources and measures of access in place.
Larissa Kennedy, NUS national president, commented: “It is unacceptable that these numbers of students have been unable to engage with their learning during this pandemic. These figures must act as a wake-up call to the government and the entire education sector so that all students have the resources they need for their learning before the start of next term.
“Students who have not been able to receive the teaching that they were entitled to last term must be given the option to redo the term, or have their fees written off or reimbursed.
“Coronavirus has entrenched the disadvantages that students of colour, disabled students and working-class students experience, and this should be of concern to all of us. If we are to ensure that education is accessible for all we must eradicate injustice as quickly as we can, such as by providing students with the resources and technology that they need to learn.”