Students began returning to campus for the start of term today after months of remote learning, as a survey suggested nearly one in four are not positive about the quality of digital teaching.
Eleven per cent of students say they do not feel they have access to online course materials whenever they need them, according to the poll by Jisc, the education technology not-for-profit organisation.
Guidance released by the Department for Education last week recommended that universities offer a mix of face-to-face tuition and online lessons as the “default position” when campuses reopen.
Universities should move to an increased level of online learning as a “fallback” position in the event of local Covid-19 outbreaks, and face-to-face provision should occur “in as limited number of situations as possible” if stricter measures become necessary, the government advice says.
But the survey, of more 20,500 university students, suggests that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) are unable to rate the quality of digital teaching and learning on their course as “good”, “excellent” or the “best imaginable”.
Only half (51 per cent) said they received guidance about digital skills they needed for their course, while more than two in five (44 per cent) said they never worked online with other learners.
Many universities are offering online lectures and virtual freshers’ week events during the autumn term.
Sarah Knight, of Jisc, said: “Universities must do what they can to ensure all students have an equitable experience, whether they’re learning face-to-face, remotely, or through a blended approach.”
A Universities UK spokeswoman said universities had gone to great lengths to support students to study effectively from home during the lockdown.
In the report, Sir Michael Barber, chairman of the Office for Students, said: “The academic year ahead will be unlike any that has gone before. Learning is likely to take place both on-site and remotely.
“As the higher education sector continues to adapt, it is crucial that university leaders understand how students are using technology, and what help they need with their digital skills.”
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students, said: “This survey reinforces the need for real resource to be put into higher education to scale up and improve digital education. If this is not addressed, educational inequality will continue to worsen.”