Keeping elements of online teaching will benefit student learning, university leaders in Wales have said.
Swansea University’s Vice Chancellor stated that a continued implementation of “blended learning” would benefit students.
Professor Colin Riordan of Cardiff University said that “some things work better online, especially some large lectures”.
The issue was discussed in a session of the House of Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee on the impact of UK government policies on higher education in Wales, held on 30 June.
Committee chair and Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb, raised the concern of students’ value for money in permanently incorporating elements of online learning.
Prof Boyle responded: “I actually think the provision we will have going into the future will be better for students, rather than worse.”
He continued, saying that the “assumption that this blended approach will somehow not be quite as good as we used to have when it was all face-to-face” was wrong.
“We will have a better provision, where we will choose carefully what can be done more effectively online, but really make use of the time that we have available for the other types of learning, where students really get the most benefit from smaller class sizes, and from interacting more closely to their tutors and other academics,” he said.
Will welcome students back to a campus-based, blended learning experience for the autumn term of 2021.
– The University of Warwick
“I’m convinced that what we need to do as we go forward is project to the community of students what a valuable education they’re going to get as a result of the changes that we’ve learned we can now accommodate.”
The university leaders mentioned other opportunities arising from blended learning.
Prof Boyle cited collaboration across institutions as one such positive, being able to “use online measures to bring academics from Aberystwyth into Swansea, from Bangor into Cardiff and so on”.
Prof Riordan stated that the pandemic has demonstrated that parts of teaching – like lectures – can be delivered remotely, while still fulfilling student learning outcomes. He also added that a blended learning approach would allow for flexibility in creating programmes for students that they “wouldn’t have been able to access before,” with the possibility of courses such as data science being delivered entirely online, while allowing programmes like medicine and dentistry to proceed in-person.
The University of Warwick will similarly welcome students back to a “campus-based, blended learning experience” for the Autumn term of 2021.