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Students becoming less content with online classes

Survey shows dissatisfaction with virtual learning and communication about the next academic year

There has been a decline in the proportion of students who are satisfied with the quality of online learning they are receiving from their universities in lieu of face-to-face lectures and seminars during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a survey of more than 1,000 full-time undergraduates by the Higher Education Policy Institute, just 42 per cent said they were satisfied with online teaching, compared with 49 per cent when a similar survey was conducted in March.

The survey, carried out with polling firm YouthSight, also shows that just 19 per cent of students say they have had “very clear” communications on Covid-19 from their higher education institutions—which is down from 31 per cent in March. However, 66 per cent of students feel broadly positive about the communications, describing them as “very clear” or “quite clear”, while 21 per cent say they are “quite unclear” or “very unclear”.

Meanwhile, only 43 per cent of students feel they have received clear communications about the next academic year from their university, although the majority are satisfied with the way their institution has handled their remaining assessments for this academic year—20 per cent say they are “very satisfied” and 43 per cent say they are “quite satisfied”.

On accommodation, 57 per cent of respondents said they were living away from their usual term-time residence, and 30 per cent of all students said they had received a refund on accommodation costs or early release from their contract.

Only about a quarter of students said they expected limitations to their courses or a delayed start to term. Just 18 per cent expected all learning to be online in the next academic year.

“Universities have been grappling with the challenges of a pandemic no-one predicted, leading to a swift move to online learning,” said Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at Hepi.

“The results show that students are realistic that the next academic year is likely to be radically different to the norm. They understand that some level of social distancing is likely to remain in place and blended teaching will combine online and face-to-face teaching.

“However, it is concerning that less than half feel they have had clear messaging from their university about the next academic year. While it is difficult to predict exactly where we will be by September, it is important universities are as clear as possible in their communications to students.”