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Higher Education: Internet

Department for Education written question – answered on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Tatton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of online education compared to face to face learning in universities.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

For many years, UK higher education (HE) providers have delivered education online successfully and effectively, and a leading proponent of this has been the Open University, which in 2018/19 was the largest UK university - with over 63,000 UK full-time equivalent students.

The growth in the use of educational technology has enabled HE providers to develop and grow their online offers, something which has been significantly accelerated by the recent COVID-19 outbreak, where online provision has been key to ensuring that effective teaching, learning and assessment have been able to continue. A recent report [1] from the Higher Education Policy Institute, attached, suggested the possibility that remote learning post-lockdown had brought some closer engagement between teaching staff and students and that this had even led to improved directed independent learning.

To support the effectiveness of continued online provision, the Office for Students (OfS) has published information and guidance for providers and students, and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has also published a series of guides to support providers to secure academic standards and to support student achievement during the outbreak.

The OfS has made it clear that all higher education providers must continue to meet conditions related to the quality of their courses and the standard of qualifications they award. This means ensuring that courses are high quality, students are supported and achieve good outcomes and standards are protected. The OfS will monitor outcomes to assess quality, using measures such as continuation rates, completion rates, student surveys and what students move onto after completing their studies. They will also be polling students in the next academic year to identify any providers or courses that are a cause for concern. This will allow for a targeted and focused approach to tackle any areas of concern.

[1] https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/The-Student-Academic-Experience-Survey-2020.pdf

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