56% of UK university students thought about quitting when faced with the prospect of studying in self-isolation

Many universities are getting set to deliver programmes online throughout the next academic year

More than half of students questioned whether to drop their university course when confronted with the prospect of learning remotely in self-isolation, according to research conducted pre-pandemic.

In a survey if more than 2,000 students in higher education, Studiosity uncovered that the prospect of digital learning, when completed independently from home, has the potential to negatively impact UK university attrition rates.

With the coronavirus lockdown forcing education providers across the UK and the world to shutdown campus teaching indefinitely, and with many universities gearing up to deliver teaching solely online for the next 12 months, the findings could signal a worrying trend for a sector that so heavily relies on digital teaching methods amid the current situation.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the development and containment of the pandemic, it’s highly likely that the majority of universities will be unable to provide their programmes as originally planned. As such, the study emphasises the importance of investing in the digital experience and additional student support to help learners succeed through periods of self-isolation.

While government guidelines are under constant review, lockdown restrictions remain in place, meaning students are having to spend a lot more time online to complete their course material. The survey reveals that, even before the outbreak, more than a third (38%) of students held negative perceptions about the thought of studying alone at home, with almost a quarter (24%) saying the prospect elevated feelings of self-doubt, and a further 23% claiming to feel isolated from the world whenever they studied alone. Perceptions of independent remote learning are more negative among female students than male, with 15% of women considering quitting their programme compared to 11% of men.

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“Like a lot of other organisations, universities have been responding responsibly and best as they can, in these extraordinary times,” said Professor Cliff Allan, former vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University.

“[They are] certainly putting the safety and the health of their staff and students first. Universities have moved well and moved quickly to ensure that teaching and learning can still go ahead online.

“The extent to which the current crisis is impacting on the student learning experience depends really on how different institutions learn from this,” he added. “And the extent to which they can evaluate the experiences of their students on how they are learning online: what is their experience, what is the quality of material that is actually being delivered?”

Conversely, more than half (54%) of EU and international students view independent study, such as that which would be undertaken remotely, as an integral part of the university experience compared to 42% in the UK. On top of this, 28% of British students say they would leave their course due to the struggles of learning in isolation, compared to 19% from overseas.

Michael Larsen, CEO of Studiosity, said: “It is clear from these findings that everyone from undergraduates to postgraduates, and UK to international students, benefit from additional study help. Now more than ever, students want to enjoy their years at university. Services that can facilitate improved academic literacy, enhance wellbeing and help navigate a heavy workload are highly worthy of objective evaluation.”

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