The Expectation Gap Survey

WONKHE and Pearson today released the analysis of their second Student Expectation Gap survey. The survey was available throughout December 2020 and covered English and Welsh universities with 3,389 student responses. Students have understood the situation academics are in and are satisfied with their responsiveness to feedback and support requests; however, only 40% agree that their experience as been of sufficiently good quality.

What we take from the findings is that among the students we surveyed, the fundamentals are generally in place. Teaching staff seem to be (mostly) engaging and responsive, and though some students flagged specific frustrations about learning remotely, most reported good access to learning resources.


The responses showed that 46% of the courses were delivered entirely online, and a further 14% started with some face-to-face and then moved entirely online during the term. Only 33% of student had campus-based sessions throughout the period. 80% of the students have less than 10 hours of timetabled sessions per week, and 17% had less than two hours (mostly PGT), the rest of their couses were independent study.

The pandemic has accelerated the move to technology-enhanced learning. According to this survey, students are open to keeping the changes once the government lifts the social distancing rules. Universities now have the challenge of assessing what delivery looks like post-COVID. They must decide what should be retained in the short term, what to develop for the longer-term strategically, and what to remove.

The survey suggests students want:

  1. More significant interaction between students on campus and supplemented online through discussion forums
  2. More contact time with tutors in the classroom, online in seminars, through remote check-ins with tutors, and via email.
  3. Encouragement and support to become independent learners through online formative self-assessment, more frequent assessments, and progress reviews indicate how they perform on the course.
  4. A more consistent approach to teaching across modules
  5. The campus and classrooms used for interactive tasks and activities, practical experiences, lab-time, and fieldwork. 
  6. Online learning used to add flexibility, remove constraints around scheduled contact hours, and enhance learning delivery.
  7. A better User Experience UX design of the VLE to improve signposting and to set expectations around learning.
  8. Content broken into manageable chunks interspersed with a large variety of activities and knowledge checks.
  9. Online access to wellbeing, careers, and academic support services.
  10. More skills development through independent study learning activities for academic writing, digital learning, project and time management, the confidence to engage with groups, information literacy, and independent learning.

You can read the summary and the research findings on the WONKHE website.