DigiTel Pro IO1: Building for digital education responding to the needs of universities during the Corona crisis and beyond

F.M.R. Brouns, I.G.J.H. Wopereis, R. Klemke, Sandrine Albert, Naomi Wahls, Marieke Pieters, Isabella Riccò

Research output: Book/ReportDeliverable

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This deliverable reports on challenges encountered by higher education as reported in literature on early phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our focus lies with teachers’ needs, but includes perspective and experiences of students, academic and support staff. We provide some suggestions and directions for the coming phase that would allow higher education to provide more digital education.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused major upheaval of education across all levels. Schools, colleges, higher education institutions closed and had to move to online delivery of content and teaching almost overnight. Of course, this imposed some challenges and problems. Immediate response was to make learning material available online and look for solutions to provide online lectures. This was dubbed as ‘remote emergency teaching’ as an indication that the quality of this education is not as it should be. Moving to online education entails more than quickly providing content online and making use of commercial conferencing software. Although students appreciated the effort in the attempt to continue education, after time some objections arose both by teaching staff and by students as quality was not always as used to be. Even higher education institutions that already have some forms of online delivery encountered challenges.
Many teachers felt overpowered by the abrupt change and experienced an increase in workload and change in their role as teacher having to provide mental and psychological support to students due to the crisis situation. Teachers did not have the proper technical resources, tools and internet access. More importantly, teachers reported not being equipped for online teaching and felt that they lack the skills and competences to develop new learning material suitable for online delivery. While there was not sufficient time to adjust instructional design and pedagogy, teachers tried to find alternatives for the interaction with students. Similarly, students wellbeing was affected. Students also report lack of facilities at home, such as a proper place to study, access to a computer for schoolwork and sufficient internet access. While solutions were found for online delivery of learning material and lectures, several other processes were discontinued. Many institutions had difficulty in taking exams and providing assessment; some institutions even completely stopped the exams, other institutions resorted to some form of online assessment. The Covid-19 pandemic also highlighted the existing digital divide and showed increased negative impacts for disadvantaged groups.
Not all was perceived as negative though, because the pandemic illustrated the need and provided opportunities to move forward. We already know a lot about various forms of online delivery of education, be that in hybrid, blended or fully online and distance education. The various EU and national policies on digital society and digital education support the further need of digitalisation of higher education. Most pregnant issues reported seems to be with social aspects, with the home situation and with didactical perspectives. Some of the directions needed are continued teacher professionalization for digital education, educational models for online education, and more support for diversity, inclusion and accessibility. We provide some suggestions what these directions entail.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
PublisherEuropean Association of Distance Teaching Universities
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022


  • Covid-19
  • digital education
  • teachers' needs
  • literature review
  • hybrid synchronous education
  • blended learning
  • online education


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