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In November 2020, we conducted focus groups with 38 incoming undergraduates. Here, we present the findings from this research – which may be helpful for lecturers seeking to support university students in remote learning.
Camera on or off?
Students missed seeing and being seen by peers and educators. Yet they found keeping a camera on during lectures intrusive. And seeing into the rooms of students who weren’t paying attention was demotivating.
Positive social media use during lectures
Social isolation led to social media use during lectures. Scrolling through feeds provided the stimulation needed to keep students at least partly engaged in the lectures they didn’t enjoy.
Online procrastination got out of hand
Pre-recorded lectures allowed a far more disruptive use of social media: bored students would pause the lecture and stream video content instead.
Technology doesn’t guarantee interaction
Students appreciated chat facilities and online breakout rooms. But when lecturers didn’t respond to questions in chat, or if starting a conversation in a breakout room felt awkward, students would lose motivation to engage in this mode of learning.
What can university lecturers do?
Use online quizzes and live polls! For the students we interviewed, interactivity was useful for helping to avoid distractions, and even more so for maintaining focus on lecture content. They wished that polls and quizzes were more often incorporated into online learning.
was supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MR/T046864/1). It was conducted by Year 3 UCL Psychology students Selina He, Eloise May, Simran Suden, and Ella Verrells, supervised by Professor Anna Cox, Dr Anna Rudnicka, Elahi Hossain, and Professor Yvonne Rogers from UCL Interaction Centre.