Student engagement in blended and connected learning and teaching: a view from students



This article addresses two key issues in the context of the student experience at the University of Portsmouth in relation to Covid-19: lessons learned in the area of Blended and Connected (B&C) learning and teaching, and potential features of the post-Covid student experience.

Through the eyes of students, we address significant questions, including: Is the initial vision for B&C learning fit for a future where the student experience may be shaped by lower physical proximity and lower synchronicity? Did digital tools, such as content capture and virtual learning environments, play a different role in promoting active learning within a student-centred pedagogic mix? How will universities explain their student-centred pedagogic approach when students demand a return to face-to-face teaching?

The article begins by exploring the pre-Covid period by considering the pedagogic change journey that the University embarked upon in 2019, known as the institutional shift to B&C learning (Dunbar-Morris, 2020). It considers the principles and expected outcomes of our B&C approach at Portsmouth, and how it was received by students. It reviews feedback from students who experienced modules that had been redesigned for B&C learning, and the role played by academic staff in the roll-out and embedding of this approach. The analysis covers: (1) learning materials, (2) synchronous (real-time) activities, (3) asynchronous work (including tutor-facilitated activities, independent learning and learning in groups), and (4) organisational and timetabling aspects.

Student feedback is used to gain an understanding of the impact of the pandemic on student perceptions and experience of their studies. We review this data to provide insights into the extent to which the additional constraints associated with Covid-19 affected the student experience. The findings section reflects on the effect of the B&C agenda on the University’s response to the pandemic as all courses moved online in March 2020. The analysis is used to examine lessons learned from the pandemic so far and considers a number of features of potential post-Covid student learning experiences and students’ expectations within that future.

Based on these findings and lessons learned, the article concludes by putting forward a post-Covid scenario for learning and teaching at this University and potentially beyond. 


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Author Biographies

Alejandro Armellini, University of Portsmouth

Alejandro (Ale) Armellini is Professor and Dean of Digital and Distributed Learning at the University of Portsmouth. His key role is to provide leadership in digital learning and teaching and learning innovation across all faculties and services. His portfolio covers the development, implementation and evaluation of Portsmouth's Digital Success Plan for Learning and Teaching. In addition, Ale is responsible for leading and managing the university’s partnership with CEG Digital for the collaborative provision of distance learning programmes through Portsmouth Online.

Ale is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Ale’s research and doctoral supervision focus on learning innovation, online pedagogy, course design in online environments, institutional capacity building and open practices. He holds visiting professorships at several UK and overseas universities.

Harriet Dunbar-Morris, University of Portsmouth

I am the Dean of Learning and Teaching at the University. I am also a Reader in Higher Education, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) and a National Teaching Fellow (NTF).

As Dean of Learning and Teaching, I am responsible for ensuring the voices of our students are heard, and that student engagement always sits at the heart of what we do. My operational and strategic leadership skills shape how we enhance and evaluate our student experience. I am also the line manager of the Directors of the Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement and Careers and Employability.  

As a PFHEA, NTF and Reader in Higher Education, my research expertise is in Student Experience; Learning and Teaching; and Widening Participation. Since 2004, I have been engaged in high-quality research and analysis in the field of Higher Education (HE). I have worked on research projects on: the student experience of teaching and learning; the transition to HE; widening participation to HE; and admissions to HE.

Amy Barlow, University of Portsmouth

Head of Academic Development

Dylan Powell, University of Portsmouth

Dylan Powell is the student governor for the University. His work focuses on enhancing the student experience.


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How to Cite

Armellini, A., Dunbar-Morris, H., Barlow, A., & Powell, D. (2022). Student engagement in blended and connected learning and teaching: a view from students. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 4(2), 165–181. Retrieved from