Supporting online students

Support from the IAD and sector-wide resources.

Learning together in a global pandemic: practices and principles for teaching and assessing online in uncertain times

The final report from an international research project funded by Universitas 21 (U21) is now available. It synthesises academic colleagues’ experiences of the pivot to ‘emergency remote teaching’ in March-April 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Download the Learning together in a global pandemic report (PDF)

Research-intensive universities in three countries

The study gathered questionnaire data from academic staff at the University of Queensland in Australia, Lund University in Sweden, and the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

Survey about, and concise case studies of, change process 

A total of 216 academic staff responded to an initial survey, and this was followed up by purposeful selection of 19 staff who were then interviewed, resulting in case studies from across many different disciplines and levels of teaching experience.


Despite some experience of running online programmes, many academics were not prepared to become fully online teachers at very short notice, and similarly, students were not prepared to learn online. The research has investigated the changes that took place during this difficult time from the perspective of teachers. Findings include:

  • clarity about the essential role of student-staff and student-student interactions within teaching;
  • a heightened focus on caring for student learning and well-being;
  • changes to teaching practices and assessment tasks differed across disciplines;
  • creative problem-solving was used to adapt teaching; and
  • there was a sense of change due to Covid-19 that will persist post-pandemic.

Guiding principles for navigating late stage and post-Covid-19 teaching and learning 

Those interviewed highlighted many valuable lessons learned, which have led to the proposal of a set of guiding principles for ongoing and post-Covid-19 planning:

  • recognise academic problem-solving and ingenuity in response to Covid-19;
  • teaching cultures, networks, and communities matter;
  • collectively reflect on post-Covid-19 directions that build on new practices; and
  • and connect pedagogy, assessment, and digital technology in curriculum development.


Matthews, Kelly E., Lawrie, Gwendolyn, Mårtensson, Katarina, Roxå, Torgny, Bovill, Catherine, and McLaughlin, Celeste (2021). Learning together in a global pandemic: practices and principles for teaching and assessing online in uncertain times. Brisbane, Australia: University of Queensland.

From the Institute for Academic Development

The IAD offer a range of short courses to support online postgraduate students at the University of Edinburgh.

Institute for Academic Development - online support for PGT students

Student Transitions into and Through Online Learning

Part of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Enhancement work, a set of transitions resources are available to support students studying online. it comprises of four themes:

  • Being an effective online learner;
  • Working with others online;
  • Learning effectively with technology;
  • Being a responsible online learner;

From the Enhancement Themes website, you can download the:

Checklists and reflective activities (PDF)

Tutor guide

There is also a playlist of four videos, one for each theme:

Supporting online students transitions - video playlist