Guardian UK Online Learning

Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice
The Guardian
  1. State school pupils twice as likely to feel they have fallen behind than peers in private schools, landmark study finds

    Four out of five teenagers say their academic progress has suffered as a result of the pandemic, with state school pupils twice as likely to feel they have fallen behind than their peers in private schools, according to initial findings from a landmark study.

    Half of the 16- and 17-year-olds questioned said the Covid disruption had left them less motivated to study, while 45% felt they have not been able to catch up with lost learning.

    There was a lot of chaos in my life at the time and then we went into lockdown quite unprepared. There was a lot of confusion about schooling. I didn’t really have access to technology. I didn’t have online lessons, things like that. There was work that went on every week, but I couldn’t access it because I didn’t have the internet. I remember talking to one of my friends and they were like, ‘Oh have you seen the work that’s been put for English’, and I was like, ‘We have work?’

    It was only in the September when we came back I finally got more support. I got a laptop and I got better access. A lot of people in my school had issues like me. A lot of people didn’t have technology or they didn’t have structured lessons, so we’ve had a lot to try to catch up on. A lot of the lessons have been quite content-heavy because it felt like we were trying to do two years in one, so that was quite stressful. And I felt like I had to work harder to do my GCSEs. I felt I had to do more to recover to my peers’ level.

    Continue reading...
  2. From yoga and art to web development, use your interests to create income by teaching online

    From designing a website to perfecting a sun salutation or baking sourdough bread, taking an online masterclass became mainstream during the coronavirus pandemic and they continue to be big business.

    Many are “side hustles” by the class teacher, who uses the cash from ticket sales to supplement their normal income. So, with living costs rising, do you have skills or specialist knowledge that could be turned into a lucrative masterclass or webinar?

    Continue reading...
  3. University is where young people transition into adulthood, but the poet and lecturer says the past two years have left many in her creative writing classes in limbo

    Before the pandemic hit, I had read that the future of higher education would involve a shift from the university as a physical location of learning to a digital offering that came to you, wherever you were. I remember thinking: well, that will never happen! Even with the popularity of distance learning and digital education platforms to support in-person learning, I couldn’t imagine a world in which the campus didn’t feature as the hub of resources, networking and socialising. Yet that was exactly the world the pandemic brought us.

    In September 2020, my colleagues at Brunel University London and I lamented (over a video call) how hard the coming term was going to be, how our students were losing out, how our teaching wouldn’t translate online. The main pedagogy of my subject, creative writing, is the writing workshop, by which students read and offer feedback on each other’s work. For students new to this discipline, being in a room together, engaging in what can be a nerve-racking activity, felt very important. No online version could replace real human connection, surely?

    Student attendance improved – in some cases, significantly. With no commute to face, more students logged in to classes – often, I suspect, from bed. Why don’t I know whether or not they were in bed? Because, in the first weeks, many kept their cameras off – until my team decided that talking into an abyss of black screens was awful and introduced a “cameras on” policy.

    The chat function in Zoom is an interesting place – students who might be shy to talk in class might not be shy in chat. Sometimes, I struggled to keep up with the speed of their responses.

    My day became full of new language: “Let’s Zoom”, “I’ll just screen-share”, “See you on Teams!” On good days, I had 40 students attending fruitful online discussions, giving many responses to my questions and sensitive feedback about each other’s work. But other words and phrases entered my language, too, such as “digital poverty”, which applied to students who didn’t have laptops or an internet connection. One young woman told me that she was sharing her mum’s phone with her three younger siblings, all of them meant to be learning online.

    My eyesight got rapidly worse. In December 2020, I appeared on video wearing glasses for the first time.

    My colleagues and I curated our video backgrounds to look learned – many sat in front of bookshelves. I seemed always to be moving my washing rack out of sight.

    It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful. My students seemed to cope with online learning better than my six-year-old son, who languished at home with 155 “outstanding activities” on Seesaw, his primary school’s digital platform. (That is no criticism of primary teachers, who were legendary in their response to delivering online and in-person teaching throughout.)

    Continue reading...
  4. Michelle Donelan says students are ‘consumers’, amid plans to punish universities for poor value for money

    The universities minister, Michelle Donelan, has encouraged students to apply for refunds on courses if they are unsatisfied.

    Donelan said students should “absolutely” apply for refunds, adding: “They are consumers, at the end of the day. They’re paying a substantial amount of money that’s an investment in their own lives. They deserve that appeal right.”

    Continue reading...
  5. The pandemic has driven a great leap forward in digital learning. Is there any point in looking back?

    My 21-year-old goddaughter, a second-year undergraduate, mentioned in passing that she watches video lectures offline at twice the normal speed. Struck by this, I asked some other students I know. Many now routinely accelerate their lectures when learning offline – often by 1.5 times, sometimes by more. Speed learning is not for everyone, but there are whole Reddit threads where students discuss how odd it will be to return to the lecture theatre. One contributor wrote: “Normal speed now sounds like drunk speed.”

    Education was adapting to the digital world long before Covid but, as with so many other human activities, the pandemic has given learning a huge shove towards the virtual. Overnight, schools and universities closed and teachers and students had to find ways to do what they do exclusively via the internet. Naturally there were problems, but as Professor Diana Laurillard of University College London’s Knowledge Lab explains, they essentially pulled off an extraordinary – and global – experiment. “It can’t return to the way it was,” she says. “The cat is out of the bag.”

    Continue reading...