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Lack of skills holds back digital learning

Lack of skills holds back digital learning

25 October 2021

OUP has launched a new, global report—Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide—exploring the digital divide in education following the shift to digital learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. It captures the views of 1,557 school and English language teachers from 92 countries, and looks at the barriers to effective teaching and learning, and the impact of the divide on learners’ long-term development.

While poor digital access (i.e. physical access to the internet or a device) was the biggest barrier to digital learning, with 68 per cent of teachers citing it, a lack of digital competency among learners and teachers has compounded the issue; 56 per cent said skills gaps were a barrier to effective digital learning.

The research also revealed that:

• Engaging students in online lessons was cited as a major barrier to learning by 61 per cent of teachers, making it more of a challenge than costs, education funding, or digital infrastructure
• 70 per cent of teachers said that disadvantaged students had lost learning during the pandemic, due to limited access to devices, and 44 per cent said the wellbeing of disadvantaged students had been negatively affected during the pandemic.
• Half of the teachers surveyed (50 per cent) said that a lack of parental understanding of digital tools and platforms limited the effectiveness of support available to their children.

Based on the insights, OUP has made the following recommendations to governments, policymakers, and those working in education, to help address the deepening digital divide:

• A greater focus on independent learning: students who take an active role in their learning will be more engaged in their education, leading to better outcomes. Additionally, independent learning gives students valuable screen-free time and removes some of the pressures disadvantaged students feel to be online for a full day.
• Build digital competency skills among educators, students, and parents: a move from sporadic ‘upskilling’ to ‘always-skilling’, in which teachers have regular training touchpoints, will ensure that digital knowledge does not become outdated.
• Target resources to address both ends of the digital divide: prioritize investments that support affordable access to reliable internet connections and devices. Governments should also actively collaborate with teachers and students and use their recent experiences to inform future policy and curriculum development.

Speaking about the report, Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press said: ‘The world of education continues to undergo significant digital transformation, and yet so many learners are being left behind because of the digital divide. And as our research shows, it isn’t just about ensuring people have access to the relevant devices, or improving connectivity; unless we fill skills gaps and make sure teachers, learners, and parents know how to use digital tools effectively, the digital divide will only continue to grow.’ 

The report will be discussed in more depth at OUP’s upcoming event on Thursday, 4 November, The Forum For Educators—a global, online event bringing together educators from around the world to connect and share ideas on how to improve learning for the future. You can register to attend the event here.

Click here to view the full report.