UCISA Panel Discussions on the impact of Covid-19: Technology Enhanced Learning developments across the UK HE sector

The digital teaching landscape has changed quite significantly over the past year; the impact of Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of new systems and services across the higher education sector. As the 2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2021 has observed: ‘Institutions and instructors previously resistant or indifferent to tools such as videoconferencing, team-based platforms, and virtual classrooms have come to rely on those tools as essential ingredients in their work. Learning technology stands to become even more widely adopted on the road ahead’ (EDUCAUSE, 2021:8).

These developments have only served to intensify the sector-wide focus on digital provision, drawing greater attention to the way that online delivery can support different modalities of learning, teaching and assessment, with consequences for pedagogic design and engagement patterns between staff and students. It has challenged us to think about how we offer alternative and equitable learning, teaching and assessment opportunities for flexible learners and those remotely located from the university campus through online delivery.

With these issues in mind, UCISA’s Digital Education Group conducted a series of panel interviews with institutional heads of e-learning over the summer 2021 to discuss how learning technology usage has changed over the emergency remote teaching (ERT) phase. The panel sessions were designed as a follow-up to the 2020 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey (full report here), which captured the learning technology landscape immediately preceding the so-called ‘pivot to online learning’ (WONKHE, 2020).

Panel members from campus-based universities such as Aberystwyth, Bath, Falmouth, City London, York and Ulster, as well as distance learning specialist institutions such as the Open University were invited to think about what will be the ‘Covid keeps’ – the different ways of working that we may wish to retain as we move out of this crisis period.  The sessions touched on investment in digital tools and issues such as access and inclusivity and the importance of universal design in the development of teaching content for all categories of students. The panel conversations also addressed sustainability strategies supported through technology and how the lockdown period has given impetus to change management strategies, as well as driving innovations in teaching and working practices.

Here are links to the Youtube recordings of the sessions, with a breakdown of the topics that were covered:

Panel Session 1 on The TEL toolkit: discussed the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the usage of TEL tools, for example a growth in the use of virtual classroom tools, what the appetite is for reviewing these platforms and which tools might remain in the medium/long term.

Panel Session 2 on Team and Organisational Structures: considered the impact that the pandemic had on the number and type of roles providing TEL support across an institution, and how the wider organisational structures supporting TEL and working relationships with other teams have changed. It concludes by considering how panellists envisage TEL support within their institutions changing in the future.

Panel Session 3 on Culture and institutional drivers: discussed institutional drivers for TEL, institutional cultures and whether there were any changes in adoption and innovation patterns across the institution in terms of instructional design and assessment modes. It concludes by asking how the pandemic has impacted on the wider digital agenda in terms of topics such as digital skills development and digital accessibility.

Panel Session 4 on Teaching models: considered the changes that institutions made to their teaching model during 2020/21 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and how their plans adapted with the changes in Covid-19 related restrictions. It concludes by asking how teaching models may change in the future and what differences might be seen within particular subject areas.

UCISA resources

To find out more about the impact of Covid on the HE sector, please see the ucisa resources where there are additional recordings on the ERT phase and the challenges of remote working

About the UCISA TEL surveys

The Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA) is a member-led professional body for digital practitioners within educationUCISA’s Digital Education Group has been tracking the implementation of learning technologies within the higher education sector through regular surveys, which have been conducted on a biennial cycle since 2001. Previous reports may be accessed here.

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