Response to online teaching revealed in latest university survey

Online lectures have been backed and online tutorials scorned by students in the University of Edinburgh’s most recent Pulse Survey.

In an additional question in the October survey, 79 per cent of undergraduates and 74 per cent of postgraduates revealed they wanted lecture recordings to stay.

61 per cent of undergraduates wanted online seminars and tutorials to be scrapped, but among postgraduates this was only 40 per cent.

After online learning for part of the last academic year some classes are now held in person and the university expects students to be in Edinburgh for the semester, but some classes under the 50 person maximum capacity are still partially digital.

Students were also in favour of online office hours and personal tutor meetings, but only 31 per cent of undergraduates felt supervision meetings should stay digital.

54 per cent of undergraduates were in favour of keeping exams online.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The University is committed to offering students as much in-person, face-to-face teaching as we can safely deliver during the 2021/22 academic year.

“We continue to have a series of Government requirements to abide by. We place great importance upon these and have a responsibility to keep our students, staff, and the wider City community safe.

“We are trying to ensure that teaching for classes containing no more than 50 students will take place physically on-campus. This will include lectures, tutorials and workshops. 

“For larger classes, primarily lectures, we have concluded that the safest and most effective method will be online delivery, ideally in the form of a ‘live’ timetabled slot.

“This approach will ensure a significant volume of teaching is delivered in-person and on campus, and where it is digital we hope for that to be as structured as possible.

“All of our staff are working hard to make the learning experience for this semester as good as it possibly can be.”

The Pulse Survey also indicated the return of some in-person teaching has seen quality of teaching and student wellbeing surge.

The share of respondents who said they enjoyed learning was 75 per cent, an increase from 38 per cent last March, while those who believed they had good access to resources increased from 40 per cent to 82 per cent in the same period.

Moreover, from a low of 41 per cent in January, now 70 per cent of respondents participate in social activities.

Students completing their degrees online had been the most engaged in social activities until March last semester, when 48 per cent responded as such. But despite this now rising to 60 per cent, online students are far below the 70 per cent combined average.

The university spokesperson said: “This academic year, we asked all students to return to campus to give them access to all that university life provides, including face-to-face teaching where feasible.

“It is welcome to see this increase in the number of survey respondents who are enjoying their learning experiences and believe they have good access to resources.

“Our libraries and other study facilities are open, and we have created new spaces for students to meet and interact during the year. 

“We have also introduced new courses to help our students adjust to this new way of learning, as well as providing extra technical support. And we encourage all students to access the range of support services we offer if they need to.”

While satisfaction with student support services has gone up from 52 per cent in April, it has only improved to 64 per cent.

The spokesperson said: “Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students continues to be our absolute priority. The university provides specialist services that support mental health and wellbeing.”

Other results of the survey include that 70 per cent of exchange students feel part of the university community, while Scottish students now feel the least included, with only 63 per cent responding positively on the survey.

Students in their fourth year are still the least likely to feel part of student life, the survey suggests, with only 59 per cent, compared to 68 per cent of first year students, agreeing they felt part of the student community.

Third and fourth year students are also enjoying learning much less than first year students and feel much less motivated and engaged, a continuation of last year’s trend.

Image by Billy Wilson via Flickr