Forget on-campus vs online: the future is ‘blended’, say universities

November 4, 2020

COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted the higher education landscape. A new report on blended learning, co-created with more than 1,000 university representatives, calls for a student-centred approach that embeds digital for the long term

Forget on-campus vs online: the future is 'blended', say universities

New research, published on Wednesday 4 November, forecasts significant change for UK universities. The days of exclusively on-campus, lecture-based experiences may be numbered, as blended learning is now the preferred learning and teaching model of many UK students, lecturers, and leaders.

Co-created through collaboration with more than 1,000 representatives from UK universities, A new dawn for higher education? is the inaugural report from the sector-wide Learning and Teaching Reimagined initiative, led by JiscEmerge EducationUniversities UK, and Advance HE.

Recognising that COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted the higher education landscape, this report shows the sector’s determination to build back better, embracing and extending the move from lecturer-led learning to personalised, student-driven engagement. It sets seven challenges for universities to address to make this happen and cement the UK’s position as a world leader:

1.    Embed digital at the heart of university culture

2.    Invest in the short term, but with a long-term strategic view

3.    Explore new economic models for sustainable, affordable, high-quality blended learning

4.    Embrace blended learning in curriculum redesign

5.    Expand the digital skills and confidence of students and staff

6.    Communicate the benefits of blended learning both within and beyond the sector.

7.    Strengthen the response to digital poverty

As Paul Feldman, Jisc CEO, acknowledges: “The world has changed – and we’re seeing sector-wide agreement that we need to not just make the best of the situation but build on it. Students, lecturers, and leaders are all saying that they wouldn’t want to return to purely in-person teaching, they see what’s happening now as the path to something bigger and better. I hope this report can act as a launchpad for creating richer, more effective, and more modern educational experiences.” 

Nic Newman, partner at Emerge Education, notes the impressive transformation already seen at many institutions, adding: “To continue that momentum with long-term strategies, we must now focus on the student experience. Staff training and digital confidence will have a key role to play.” 

Alison Johns, chief executive at Advance HE, agrees: “Learning and Teaching Reimagined highlights that while digital is important, it is a means to an end. The real challenge will come in scaling up, and this needs to be driven by pedagogy, curricula, and learning design. Embedding this at the heart of university culture will be key to transformation. Now is the time to help people become fully aware of how digital can support this change.”

“ Many university leaders are facing similar challenges, so it has been hugely beneficial to come together to think about them collectively. Those conversations are invaluable in determining how we, as a sector, chart our way forward.” Chris Hale, director of policy at Universities UK

Find out more  

·  Read the report, Learning and Teaching Reimagined: a new dawn for higher education? and the Synthesis of Audience surveys  

·  Join leaders from across HE on 4 November at 11:00 to explore the Learning and Teaching Reimagined flagship report in greater depth, and to access the full set of tools and resources co-created throughout the initiative. 

·  Jisc experts are available for comment. Please contact or call 07443 983571