The move to e-learning triggered by COVID-19 lockdowns has had both positive and negative implications for tertiary education teachers in the United Kingdom. Survey data from national research and education network Jisc show that online teaching has enriched the educational landscape. However, a majority among the respondents note that the rapid transition has had a downside by adding significant new stress to their workload.
“These insights allow both Jisc and the tertiary education sector the opportunity to reflect and learn lessons from the past 18 months about what worked, and what needs rethinking to deliver a world-class, technology-enhanced educational experience,” says Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Jisc CEO.
“With the enforced move to online learning, staff had to rapidly rethink how they delivered teaching. Though staff rose to the challenge, many found it difficult, especially in an environment demanding more and new digital skills,” she continues.
The data stem from two surveys for FE (Further Education) and HE (Higher Education) teachers respectively. Over 6,500 teachers took part in the UK-wide poll.
While more than two-thirds (67 % FE and 66 % HE) were offered support with online teaching during the pandemic, a significant majority (65 % FE and 73 % HE) said this added significant new stress to their workload, leading to anxiety and exhaustion.
The reports also show that teaching online created technical challenges for most staff (83% FE and 82 % HE). Not all respondents were able to access the online systems and services they needed, with over half of them having Wi-Fi issues.
The surveys further reveal only half (50% FE, 44 % HE) of teaching staff received guidance about the digital skills needed in their role, with just 30 % and 15 % (FE and HE respectively) saying they had an assessment of their digital skills and training needs. Many also said they were not given enough time to explore new digital tools (36% FE and 55 % HE).
“Staff found themselves trying to manage an increased workload, support learners with technical issues at the same time as delivering high-class teaching. Unsurprisingly, for many this led to exhaustion, stress, and anxiety. As we move towards established models of hybrid learning, we have an opportunity to transform education through technology. For this to work, a digitally confident, digitally skilled, well-supported and involved teaching community is critical,” comments Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Jisc.
Despite the challenges reported in the survey, more than three-quarters of teaching staff rated the quality of online and digital learning to students as above average, with many reporting positive experiences of teaching online from increased productivity to improved work-life balance to engagement with less confident learners.
The reports recommend collaboration between the FE and HE sectors with both Jisc and the government, to develop the digital infrastructure that enables teachers to access the right technology and equipment to deliver learning.
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