Digital Teaching and Learning Review

Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future

Last updated: 01 March 2021


The first national lockdown in March 2020 sparked a rush of activity in many universities and colleges to transition from in-person teaching to online delivery, often in exciting and creative ways. In June 2020, the Secretary of State for Education commissioned OfS chair Sir Michael Barber, to conduct a review of this shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On these pages you can find an executive summary, recommendations and selected case studies from the final report of the review, or download a full PDF copy.

Read the full report

Download the full report as a PDF

Watch the event

Watch the event to launch the report of the digital teaching and learning review.

In November 2020, 93 per cent of undergraduates were receiving all or mostly digital teaching and learning, and this was similar for postgraduate students (89 per cent).[1] Digital teaching and learning is not new, but this is the first time it has been used so extensively and at such scale.

The circumstances of the past year have been immensely challenging and often frustrating for students, staff, and senior leaders. Despite this adversity, there was a shared enthusiasm for the opportunity to use this experience as a foundation for better use of digital teaching and learning in the longer term. Many of the people we spoke to for this research stated that what they thought would take years has been done in a matter of weeks and days.

This report captures the lessons from an extraordinary phase of change and is based on interviews, a call to evidence, roundtable discussions and surveys. It features case studies and practical recommendations for the future on digital delivery.  It also features six actions university and college leaders can take for next academic year.

Our recommendations have been written both with preparation for the next academic year in mind and as a guide to the most significant longer-term opportunities, when the external circumstances will be more stable. These recommendations should not be read as regulatory guidance.

We have distilled what we believe are the core components of successful digital teaching and learning, based on our research. You can learn more about these six core components in the video above.

The report also sets out a definition on digital access to give educators a tangible framing for exploring access challenges with every student, ensuring barriers are overcome quickly, before any learning is lost.

In using the term ‘digital teaching and learning’, we are referring to a broad spectrum of approaches. This report does not argue that all higher education providers should move towards fully digital delivery of teaching and learning. For many higher education providers, an approach that combines both in-person and digital delivery may be the best fit.


[1] This data includes some responses from students who are likely to be on a course specified as distance learning from the outset, rather than a predominantly in-person course that moved online.

Digital Teaching and Learning Review
Published 25 February 2021
Last updated 01 March 2021
01 March 2021
Link to launch event added.

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