The University of St Andrews has recently released results from its surveys on online learning this past semester and online exams last month.
In an email to students, Vice-Principal of Education Clare Peddie revealed via an infographic the feedback they received on the two surveys sent to students throughout the semester, noting that this feedback will shape how teaching and exams are delivered next academic year.
The University received 682 responses to its online teaching and learning survey.
From this, 38% of students believed that “motivation and engagement with studies were supported by new arrangements after Spring Break.”
71% of students believed that learning was supported by the provision of online resources, and 78% thought learning was supported by the technology available to them.
Seeing much lower percentages, 41% of students said that their learning was supported by an appropriate study environment, such as a quiet place to work, and only 34% felt that their learning experience in lockdown had been good for their wellbeing.
According to Professor Peddie’s email, students were “very positive and appreciative” of the effort made by the University to deliver teaching and examinations online, and students enjoyed having lecture recordings and small group teaching.
However, students struggled with the lack of a suitable learning environment, including the availability of reliable WiFi and technology, and with other responsibilities such as caring or home schooling.
In terms of online exams, 83% of students thought the time slots assigned for online exams were suitable, 93% said that the time allocated to downloading the exam at the start was sufficient, and 86% believed that the time allocated for submitting their exam was sufficient.
The top five things that worked well for students during online exams, according to the survey results, were the opportunity to practice procedures prior to the exams (84% agree), the technology available working well (75% agree), information by the University preparing students well (72% agree), the content of papers being suitable for online exams (71% agree), and being allocated enough time to write exam answers (67% agree).
For those things which students found more difficult, 50% of students felt their study environment was suitable for taking exams, 43% felt motivated to prepare, 38% thought online exams were a fair way to be assessed, 63% believed that online examinations were more stressful than normal exams, and only 32% felt that they could deliver their best performance in online exams.
In the survey, students also raised concerns on the security of their online exams given the lack of a proctor and open-book nature.
In terms of support during the process, only 22% asked for support with the process, but 77% knew who to contact if support was required and 76% found the support they received to be helpful.
With these results, members of the Principal’s Office, academic Schools, professional service units and student sabbatical officers will consider how to proceed next semester.
The University has already identified a need for more training in using the technology and software for online learning, and a need for software to support different disciplines.
Students also asked via the survey for a greater access to digital resources, especially with the lack of a physical Main Library, and more interactive “live discursive teaching.”
Professor Peddie stated, “The University will therefore be on focusing its efforts on interacting academically with students in the way that we always have done, where feasible, and providing students with the interactive experience they have asked for.”
Within the next week, the principal and vice-principal of Education should be in contact with students regarding how teaching and the University experience will proceed during the next academic year.