St Andrews University has warned it is unlikely to be able to repeat the same level of online learning if lockdown restrictions continue beyond this academic year.
Students have given their lecturers a huge vote of confidence for their efforts so far during the pandemic.
However, the university says it would be “unrealistic and unfair” to expect arrangements to continue unchanged.
Staff have been getting up in the middle of the night to deliver remote classes to students in different timezones.
Others, meanwhile, have organised socially distant walks and quizzes to continue their engagement with students.
The extraordinary lengths lecturers have gone to were revealed as a new study showed the highest satisfaction levels among students in six years.
The snapshot survey carried out by the university found some students may have been able to work harder without the distractions of campus life.
It would be unrealistic and unfair to expect that activity to continue at the pitch of the first semester.”
Vice-principal Clare Peddie.
Of 22 St Andrews schools, 21 maintained or significantly improved their student satisfaction scores.
There were also no significant differences in attainment between students taught in-person, those who received a blend of in-person and remote teaching, and those taught entirely remotely.
The anonymous online study was carried out between September and December before new lockdown restrictions were imposed.
The university is currently only offering remote learning with students not due to return before the end of the academic year.
St Andrews vice-principal Professor Clare Peddie said the results were remarkable but should be treated with caution.
“It reflects well on our staff’s ability to deliver high quality teaching during the pandemic and on our students’ willingness to appreciate and recognise what is possible under current circumstances,” she said.
“Overall, these figures suggest that students who engaged remotely only – and did not benefit from in-person teaching or the facilities provided on campus – performed as successfully as their peers.
“This speaks to the parity of our provision and the quality of our preparations for online teaching.”
St Andrews Students’ Association president Dan Marshall welcomed the findings.
“It is testament to the way in which students and staff have worked hard and pulled together to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
“I’m glad the students have recognised staff who have gone above and beyond to support them.”
First wave effect
Professor Peddie warned however that some staff had “moved heaven and earth” to make it work.
She said the “first wave” effect had seen people work round the clock to support students on site in St Andrews alongside a globally dispersed population.
Meanwhile, students were inclined to be sympathetic to first term gremlins.
It reflects well on our staff’s ability to deliver high quality teaching during the pandemic.”
Vice-principal Clare Peddie.
“Feedback from our heads of school suggest the level of staff commitment and engagement witnessed last semester is unlikely to be repeatable,” Professor Peddie said.
“So many colleagues set personal considerations aside to be there for students in difficult circumstances.
“It would be unrealistic and unfair to expect that activity to continue at the pitch of the first semester.
“Students will also, quite rightly, expect a higher level of preparedness than was possible in the first semester.”
She added: “None of us, our students least of all, would have chosen to have such a disrupted semester and to be teaching and learning in such alien circumstances.
“Our students have done really very well but we, and they, have missed on on-campus experience enormously.”
St Andrews is one of a growing number of UK universities to have confirmed that teaching will remain online only for a majority of students for the remainder of the academic year.
This is due to government restrictions on travel and public life.