Engaging online and distance learning students

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there had long been a growth in delivering learning and teaching online, due to increasing internationalisation of higher education, the emergence of transnational education through global campuses, and a growing market for more flexible delivery. This created a need to support engagement and learning that may not necessarily reflect what happens face to face in Scottish campuses.

sparqs has been led by sector demand and interest in the development of these trends, and has in turn contributed to sector activity, for instance in presenting about both areas of work in QAA Scotland's 2015-16 Focus On Collaborative Activity project, and presenting a paper and presentation to the 3rd International Enhancement in Higher Education Conference in June 2017.  This culminated in the publication in June 2018 of a toolkit on engaging students in online and distance learning.

The major shift to digital learning in 2020 and 2021 of course brought a new dimension to this dynamic of engagement, for instance through the wholesale move to online systems for training and supporting course reps, and processes to help staff and students work together on developing online communities and learning experiences. Much of sparqs’ pandemic-era work to share and develop practice in this area can be found in our COVID-19 hub and our celebratory report accompanying our 2021 Student Engagement Awards. We have also worked at a sector level to develop student engagement in approaches to online learning and teaching, for instance through our support to student-led activity in the Resilient Learning Communities Enhancement Theme and the development of the national standard for online and blended learning proposed by the 2021 SFC Review.

If you would like to find out more about any of the above projects, please contact Simon Varwell.

Student Engagement Framework

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