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Blog post Covid-19, education and educational research

What you need to know to get the best from online education: A BJET/JCAL virtual special issue

Niall Winters, University of Oxford Paul Kirschner, Open University of the Netherlands

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all going through a period unlike any we have ever experienced. With respect to teaching and learning, students can’t attend school and universities – and won’t be able to for weeks or months. Consequently, we must make a quick shift from traditional teaching and learning to technology-enhanced teaching and learning. Fortunately, we have a number of things in our favour.

  1. Technology enhanced (online) education can offer at least a partial solution.
  2. We can continue to make use of many of the instructional techniques we normally use: while we may be unable to use them in entirely the same way we do in the classroom, they remain good starting points.
  3. We have a wealth of empirical research from the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) and the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL) to help us design and implement online learning in an informed manner.

BJET and JCAL have worked together to produce a two-section free-to-view virtual issue on the role of technology in online education. This collection reflects the expertise and focus of both journals across the field of technology-enhanced learning. The papers chosen by the BJET and JCAL editors will be useful to teachers, lecturers, practitioners and researchers looking for resources that can help them design and implement online learning within their own institutions and settings.

‘The virtual issue addresses key issues to help those new to online learning to realise its potential within their own learning contexts.’

Papers in the virtual issue address key issues to help those new to online learning to realise its potential for themselves within their own learning contexts. The BJET papers focus on student perceptions and experience and teacher’s practices, and the JCAL papers discuss the effects of different technological and instructional interventions on student learning.

The specific topics covered include, but aren’t limited to:

  • how to understand student and teacher perceptions of, and engagement with, online learning
  • the possibilities for embedding librarians in online classes
  • appropriate theories for technology‐enhanced learning
  • how to develop a sense of collaboration, support student discussion and enquiry, and develop communities online
  • how to provide appropriate feedback
  • the effects of games and animations on learning
  • the effects of modelling and feedback in technology-enhanced learning environments on learning
  • different aspects of multimedia on learning
  • factors impacting students’ online learning experience in a learner‐centred course.

Furthermore, two datasets are provided that will be of interest to researchers in the area: MOOC-Ed and EU Kids Online II. The MOOC-Ed dataset is mainly for researchers interesting in modelling network mechanisms that help us to gain improved insights into information flows between educators teaching online. The EU Kids Online II dataset provides comparable cross‐national survey data from 25 European countries, consisting of interviews with 25,142 9-to-16-year-olds (and one of their caregivers) on children’s internet use.

The papers highlight the importance of developing nuanced understandings of the role of a range of technologies in learning and teaching practice, and stress the value of interaction and collaboration when learning online. For those new to remote teaching and learning, the move away from face-to-face is never easy but it offers opportunities to develop pedagogy in new and important ways. We hope that educators will make use of these resources to help both students and themselves get through these troubling times.


The two sections of this virtual issue are free-to-view until 31 May 2020, courtesy of the journals’ publisher, Wiley. The BJET papers can be accessed here, and the JCAL papers here.