Kate Fitzpatrick, Lead Digital Strategist, Great State

Covid-19 has been a powerful catalyst, accelerating emergent trends and setting new consumer expectations. As some degree of normality becomes reality, the organisations that will excel are not focused on creating experiences and designing services for how people behaved in the past but how they are likely to in the future. This is important when you consider that historically the higher education sector has been somewhat behind the curve when it comes to harnessing the potential of e-learning and recognising the holistic student experience.

Most current university students are part of the Gen Z cohort, which means they have grown up in a technology-enabled world where they are only a tap or swipe away from anything they want to see or do both online and in ‘real life’. Across all aspects of their lives there are digitally accessible services, geared towards making complex tasks simple; from banking to shopping, food delivery to dating. This generation is aware of the hallmarks of a good experience. They are also quick to recognise when a solution doesn’t work, and in those instances it’s rare they give it a second chance. In a world moving at breakneck speed, legacy IT systems and disjointed learning experiences are slowing down and impacting students’ progress.

More than ever universities need to be aware of the outside influences that surround their student populations.

Student satisfaction levels on the decline

Across the country, universities have been forced to push the fast forward button on their digital learning offerings, but what do students really think of their efforts? At Great State, we spoke to over 1,000 UK undergraduates and 500 pre-university 16–18-year-olds between December 2020 – January 2021 to find out to what extent studying under repeated lockdowns and restrictions has changed perceptions and expectations of the university offer.

A key finding was that pre-Christmas, just over half (53%) of university students were satisfied with how their university had handled the crisis. This figure dropped by 10% in January. We also found that 72% of undergraduates felt in-class teaching is better than online, whereas only 1 in 5 students feel online learning is better than in-class. These results just shine further light on the massive gulf emerging between student expectations and their experiences of learning through lockdown.

The march towards hybrid models

When undergraduate respondents were asked to list the disadvantages of learning remotely, responses were many. They included anything from limited access to resources and online learning options, lack of suitability for some learning styles, through to the negative impact on collaboration and learning from peers. We also found a widespread lack of consistency across tools, support and teaching approaches adopted. Over 60% felt they did not get enough one-on-one help and nearly 40% did not find the online materials helpful or useful.

However, when reflecting on the potential benefits, a consensus emerged for a mix of in-person and virtual approaches in future. It’s also interesting to note that online-only degrees could attract a third of potential students, with many liking the fact they would be able to stay in the comfort of their home, the flexibility of being able to get tasks done and the potential for lower fees.

Although undergrads acknowledged the advantages of these new ways of studying, our research serves to underline that many institutions have to significantly improve the consistency and quality of solutions offered, to warrant the fees currently being charged for mostly online learning.

Enter, service design

The practice of service design is concerned with human experience and how by mindfully aligning and optimising operations and infrastructure to support customer needs, services can be designed to be much more effective.

HE is a sector that is increasingly looking to the commercial world, and the widely adopted application of service design thinking is something universities are leaning more and more towards. By putting the student at the centre of their operation, it is helping them to restructure, and they are making better, informed decisions about investment.

Universities should start considering themselves as service providers, creating consistent experiences to support a multitude of needs that better integrate the physical and digital worlds of their students. Instead of retaining ‘ivory tower’ academic mindsets, taking learnings from the commercial world can fuel a more experience-led view of their offer - which can itself influence the successful outcomes of their courses. By thinking about how their services are delivered, many can dedicate their efforts to developing strategies that support students’ individual needs more effectively from the moment they apply through to graduation and beyond.

The future is now

Although our research did find some positive support for e-learning and remote teaching, the overwhelming conclusion is that UK universities’ offerings and tools are patchy at best and are simply not meeting needs or satisfying students’ expectations.

Only when institutions can break down the historic battle lines between academia and HQ to focus on students as individuals and the university journey as a holistic set of experiences, will change truly be possible.

C-19 may well have presented an opportunity. In the short term at least, a university education is seen by many as an advantage in a post-covid world. Now is the time for universities to behave like the best in the consumer market by adopting a service design and customer experience mentality to differentiate their offer and be better prepared for the future.

Kate Fitzpatrick, Lead Digital Strategist, Great State

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Saj Mohammad MSET had a status update on Twitter 8 hours 52 minutes ago

RT @LouMycroft: #IdeasRooms are efficient and magical *because* we collectively hold the rules in place. #FreedomNeedsBoundaries This s…
View Original Tweet

National Education Group has a new avatar. 2 days ago

To what extent are parents aware and responsible
for correcting their children's behaviour in this

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page