Universities plan a permanent move away from traditional exams after the pandemic in favour of more online assessments, a report reveals.
Some vice-chancellors want to continue and even expand digital tests, lectures and tutorials despite the lifting of Covid rules.
Students could receive ‘alternating’ online and in-person lectures and ‘wholly online modules’ alongside face-to-face elements in future.
Universities plan a permanent move away from traditional exams after the pandemic in favour of more online assessments, a report reveals
The move is likely to anger undergraduates who are paying £9,250-a-year this term for online and in-person teaching.
Universities UK, the umbrella group for vice-chancellors, held discussions with 13 member institutions about ‘plans to permanently change teaching’ and assessments which do ‘not have to happen in an exam hall’.
These unnamed universities are already considering how to incorporate the measures from this academic year.
The report said students had experienced new learning methods and ‘less assessment anxiety’ in lockdown as exams were axed.
But Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It’s betraying students who are at the receiving end. Face-to-face teaching will always beat online.’
In-person exams were not possible during lockdown, leading to open book exams, quizzes and digital portfolios, according to the UUK report.
Some vice-chancellors want to continue and even expand digital tests, lectures and tutorials despite the lifting of Covid rules
Staff reported focusing more on supporting students’ learning, such as designing tasks with real-world and workplace scenarios ‘instead of exercises in memory’ as is the case with traditional exams.
The ‘forced move away from traditional exams’ also had mental health benefits.
The report, Lessons from the pandemic: making the most of technologies in teaching, says: ‘Students have reported less assessment anxiety and there has been a greater recognition of different strengths and approaches to learning.
‘All the institutions we talked to reported planning a permanent move away from traditional exams and using online assessments more.’
Blended learning - using both online and in-person teaching - is ‘where much of the sector is now looking’.
The document adds: ‘Work is being done to consider how blended learning can be used in different subject areas, where in-person elements are most needed, and what is more suited to digital formats.
‘For some institutions, the move of traditional in-person lectures - where the focus is more instruction than interaction - to online lectures is being considered to free up timetables for more in-person tutorials.
The report said students had experienced new learning methods and ‘less assessment anxiety’ in lockdown as exams were axed
‘For others, they are considering a mix of online and in-person lectures, alternating, to suit different learner preferences, or alternatively considering some wholly online modules and some wholly onsite modules for students to choose between.
‘Different approaches will be appropriate for different subjects.’
Some universities are also considering ‘hybrid learning’, whereby lectures can be attended ‘in person or viewed via a live stream’.
‘A student can decide on the day which option will work best for them without missing out on attending at the same time as their peers,’ the report says.
Online careers fairs will continue, along with virtual open days to ‘cut the expense faced by prospective students to visit campuses and make them more accessible’.
And spaces freed up by online learning may be redesigned to create more open study and meeting areas.
Dr Peter Bonfield, vice-chancellor and president of the University of Westminster, who chaired the UUK roundtables, said digital learning has benefits for student groups ‘that need to be considered and included alongside those offered by in-person education’.
He said: ‘Whilst we almost all love and enjoy working and studying as physical communities together on campus, it is important that the advantages of digital delivery alongside face-to-face delivery are not lost and are implemented to further improve the student experience and the quality of education offered to them.
‘The sector needs to, and will continue to, develop blended learning options because it is clearly in the interests of students to do so.’