“Balancing face-to-face, online and blended delivery is not key [determinant] of teaching quality,” according to a review of blended learning that prompted the Office for Students to say it has identified potentially “concerning regulatory approaches.”
The blended learning review, commissioned by the Office of Students following the shift to online teaching in the pandemic and led by Susan Orr, pro vice-chancellor for education at De Montfort University, released its report on October 19, saying it had found examples of “high-quality” blended learning approaches as well as “pockets” of low-quality online offerings.
The OfS said of the review’s recommendations: “In response, the OfS has identified blended learning approaches which could cause regulatory issues in relation to the quality and consumer protection requirements of the ‘OfS.’
Ministers have urged the OfS to act on concerns about the inappropriate use of online teaching.
The review focused on blended learning approaches at six English-language higher education institutions. A review committee conducted literature searches, collected survey data, and conducted interviews with staff and students from each provider.
“All providers were able to define their approach to blended learning, situating it within their educational strategy, but the rationale for the blended approaches taken at the course level was unclear to students,” the study says.
He adds: “The panel’s desk research indicated that prospective students were not given enough clear information about the balance between face-to-face, online and blended study that a student could expect and the digital skills and knowledge they would need to engage successfully. in their studies. Interviews with students confirmed this finding.
And while students “appreciated the flexibility of asynchronous online conferencing, which gave them the ability to revisit and review material at their own pace, the panel heard that many of the students surveyed appreciated the on-campus conferencing that supported the peer learning, gave students separation between their home and study environment, supported their motivation to learn and helped them engage in challenging course content.
Students “also reported that, in many cases, they received less timely and lower quality feedback about learning in online learning settings,” the study says.
“The panel identified examples of high-quality blended approaches and innovations that supported student learning, but students pointed to pockets of poor online teaching practices and poor learning resources. online learning,” he continues. “The review panel felt that balancing face-to-face, online and blended delivery is not key. [determinant] of the quality of education.
The review’s recommendations include that providers “should ensure that growth in student numbers does not drive the blended learning approach and that, instead, the blended approach should be informed by sound pedagogical principles,” and that they “should ensure applicants have clear website information based on the blended learning approach taken for the courses they are applying for.”
Providers must also “ensure that unedited courses from previous years are carefully reviewed before being reused, to identify and remove incorrect course information and to ensure that course content is up to date. “.
Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the OfS, said: “We recognize the speed with which universities and colleges transformed their course delivery at the start of the pandemic. Significant changes and innovations have been made by university staff under the most difficult circumstances. It is now important for universities and colleges to reflect on what worked well for students and what did not. Today’s report should inform this thinking and contain lessons for universities and colleges that want to continue to embrace blended approaches.
“We have also provided guidance to help providers understand where the OfS may have concerns about meeting our registration requirements. They now have the ability to make changes to their approach to ensure courses meet our quality requirements, and we expect them to do so.
Andrea Jenkyns, the Skills Minister, said: “Students should receive pre-pandemic face-to-face levels of teaching as this gives them the best value for money and the most rewarding experience possible.
“While virtual learning is a fantastic innovation, it should never detract from a student’s high-quality learning experience and, as this report reveals, should never lead to a lack of in-person feedback. or to shoddy pockets of online education.
“Students deserve much better and that’s why we’ve asked the Student Council to put their feet on the ground and investigate universities where there are concerns about face-to-face teaching.”