As of yet, the guidelines for higher education students are still unclear. There are few instructions to work with as higher education providers have been given agency over how they teach their students.
Where does this leave students? It is likely that students have completed a year or more of their studies virtually.
Firstly, employers have certain legal responsibilities to meet government guidelines. As a student, you can expect social distancing measures on-premises and lateral flow tests, otherwise known as speed tests, to be done at home and results recorded weekly.
Guidelines for institutions also put an emphasis on ventilation and the utilization of outdoor spaces. The government recommends segmentation (small, sub-networks of students and staff) to limit numbers in case of an outbreak.
Higher education providers are responsible for complying with the above measures. This could encourage some institutions to turn to blended learning.
Blended learning is a mix of traditional face-to-face learning and digital technology resources. This type of learning provides a way to engage students through online interaction and visual material.
A well developed blended learning program can enhance the student experience and can improve inclusivity as each student has access to the same platform. This helps to promote equity in a virtual classroom.
Other benefits that can be associated with blended learning include wider participation and increased student satisfaction. Students are able to connect with peers and teachers in a way that might be more practical for them, especially in a higher education setting where it can be expected that students have other commitments outside of education.
On the other hand, a major challenge institution may face when trying to implement a successful blended learning system is how concisely institutions are able to conceal differences between a physical and virtual learning environment. Not being able to deliver a lesson virtually with the same enthusiasm as a face-to-face lesson can lead to disinterest from students.
Similarly, in a higher education setting community and cohesion are vital parts of a student experience. Both of these are essentially lost in a blended learning environment.
In this way, though building a useful and engaging virtual environment can prove to be difficult, it is worthwhile to ensure student success and safety as the government continually changes educational guidelines.