Reports on Use and Perceptions of eLearning

Survey Reports

CLT conducts surveys of faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students to learn about trends in technology use and university teaching and learning at Dalhousie University. The surveys seek to determine attitudes, experiences, and use patterns of institutional technologies, technology-enhanced pedagogy, online tools, and teaching/learning environments.

The 2021-2022 Dalhousie University eLearning surveys sought to understand student and faculty use and perceptions of various eLearning tools and technologies for learning, teaching, and working. As in the past, the survey results will help guide future decision-making around available tools and technologies and the supports and resources offered, and the policies, practices, and supports around online and blended learning. This is especially needed as the pandemic has changed how we all use and interact with technologies in the teaching and learning context.

Based on the results of student and faculty students, we are making four recommendations:

Continue to integrate interactive technologies and digital media into teaching.

Both students and faculty have a positive experience overall with the technologies available at Dal, whether that be those related to teaching and learning, from the computers and projectors in in-person classrooms to Brightspace as an LMS, or those used for working, like email, Teams, and OneDrive. And as more than half of students feel they get more involved in courses that integrate technology in its various forms, we recommend faculty continue to integrate interactive technologies and digital media into their teaching practice, whether teaching online, in-person, or in blended formats. 

Interactive technologies include those that foster active exchanges between students and between students and faculty. For online courses, this can be as simple as faculty holding regular synchronous classes, labs, or tutorial sessions, or using technology to support robust collaborative group work opportunities and peer-review processes with students. In person, faculty might encourage interaction by employing Top Hat, Dalhousie’s student response system, into their classes. 

Students and faculty are generally to completely supportive of the use of digital media in learning and teaching. For example, Open Educational Resources (OERs), digital content that is readily available and free to use (Otto et al., 2021), can mitigate the rising costs of education for students and offer instructors a broader variety of resources that support student learning. Video, whether instructor-provided or student-created, is another digital resource that can engage students and support assessment (Hawley & Allen, 2018).

Consider expanding use of existing ed tech to support student engagement and learning.

Dalhousie’s instructional technologies, like Panopto, Collaborate, and Teams, which students and faculty have overall positive attitudes towards, are useful for bringing interactive elements and digital media into the classroom. However, the results suggest that these technologies were used in more expected ways, for example Panopto for hosting instructor-created videos and Collaborate and Teams for holding synchronous lectures online. As such, faculty might consider expanding the use of the available educational technologies to support online interaction and activities, and student group work and collaboration, in order to improve student engagement and learning. Panopto, for example, features collaborative notes and timestamped discussions, which although asynchronous, give students the opportunity for authentic dialogue around course video content. Panopto can support assessment through embedded quizzes to check students’ understanding or as a tool for students to express their knowledge. 

Synchronous technologies, like Collaborate or Teams, can also be used to enhance opportunities for interaction between students and between students and faculty. Students and faculty had overall positive experiences in using these tools for live class sessions, but results show that Teams and Collaborate were not used as often for demonstrations, activities, group work, or assessment. Live captioning in Teams supports accessibility and student comprehension in ways not available in in-person classes. Functions like built-in polling in Teams offer opportunities for formative assessment; the breakout rooms in Collaborate can facilitate smaller groups of students holding a discussion or working collaboratively on a problem or project. Both technologies can mirror an in-person exam environment online, where students take a test or quiz synchronously, with the opportunity to raise their hand, ask questions, but without the pitfalls of online proctoring systems. 

Consider exploring possibilities for blended learning.

Further to above, we recommend faculty continue to explore possibilities for blended learning, especially as almost twice as many students and faculty indicated they would be interested in taking/teaching blended courses in the future over fully online ones. Just as with learning how the available instructional technologies can be used to more robust ways, redesigning courses as blended may require an investment of time on the part of faculty. Blended course design is one that Joosten et al. (2021) call a “strategic integration” (p. 11) of course elements into in-person and asynchronous online modalities. This alignment is already evident in the surveys where both students and faculty agree that in-person is the preferred modality discussionsgroup work, and learning activities.

Blended courses may serve as a solution to the tensions highlighted in the results of these surveys. For example, half of the students emphasized the importance of accessibility and studying of having lectures recorded and posted in Brightspace for asynchronous review. However, almost half of student respondents indicated they are more likely to skip in-person classes if lecture recordings are available online. In a blended design, an asynchronous platform (e.g., Brightspace) can be used to support the more passive elements of a course, such as accessing content (including lectures), guiding independent work, turning in assignments, and checking grades. Synchronous classes (in person or online) can be reserved for active learning, such as discussions, collaborative work, and activities that allow students to apply or practice what they were introduced to during asynchronous study.  

In questions about level of involvement in online courses of different formats, both students and faculty expressed that levels of active involvement were greater for online courses with some synchronous elements versus those fully asynchronous on Brightspace. Although not a traditional “blended” course, which usually refers to courses held partially online and partially in-person, the capability of videoconferencing technologies that allow students to see and hear their instructor and classmates may represent a balanced compromise between in-person and fully asynchronous online courses.

Centre student learning, equity, and accessibility through the implementation of UDL.

The first three recommendations based on the 2021-2022 Dalhousie University eLearning survey results together lead us to the fourth, which is to centre student learning, equity, and accessibility through the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Considering the close relationship between technology and digital media, and successful UDL implementation (Edyburn, 2010, 2021), it only makes sense that results from a survey about teaching, learning, and technology could be coded against the principles, guidelines, and checkpoints of UDL. 

Throughout the results, students reference classroom practices that are tied directly to UDL. For instance, the UDL Guidelines ask faculty to provide options for students to perceive course learning materials, such as text alternatives for auditory information, although in the survey, about one-quarter of faculty had not used the captioning features of Panopto to create accessible audio/video content. The themes from students’ responses to the question, “What is oneway your instructors could use technology to enhance your learning?” align with the three principles of UDL. For example:

Providing Multiple Means of Engagement – Through the survey, students asked for faculty to embed more interaction in online courses, including more opportunities for students to work together in groups on collaborative projects. Students also noted missing timely communication from or presence of their instructors in online spaces.

Providing Multiple Means of Action & Expression – Across learning environments, students commented on how having scaffolded assignments, ones where the assessment was broken into multiple, smaller steps, would allow them to express better what they learned. They also felt that support for their executive functions, through a consistent, predictable schedule, regular announcements, and clear activity and assessment directions, especially in online classes, would enhance their capacity to learn.

Providing Multiple Means of Representation – Students responded with the desire that faculty post content, including supplemental resources, in a variety of formats: videos, text, visuals, simulations, games, and e-books. Several students emphasized accessibility by asking their instructors to ensure course content is screen reader compatible and that video and audio recordings have captions.

In conclusion, through the integration of more interactive technologies and digital media; support for online interaction and students’ collaboration through expanded technology use; blended courses designed by careful consideration of the most compatible environment for various teaching and learning activities; and the implementation of UDL, we will continue to see improvements in student and faculty use and perceptions of the various eLearning tools and technologies for learning, teaching, and working at Dalhousie.

Download an abbreviated version of the 2021-2022 survey (PDF 7.1 MB).

You can read the full reports of this and past eLearning surveys on the Resources page. 


Edyburn, D. L. (2010). Would you recognize universal design for learning if you saw it? Ten propositions for new directions for the second decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(1), 33-41.

Edyburn, D. L. (2021). Universal usability and universal design for learning. Intervention in School and Clinic, 56(5), 310–315.

Hawley, R., & Allen, C. (2018). Student-generated video creation for assessment: Can it transform assessment within higher education? International Journal for Transformative Research, 5(1), 1-11.


Joosten, T., Weber, N., Baker, M., Schletzbaum, A., & McGuire, A. (2021). Planning for a blended future: A research-driven guide for educators. [Report] Every Learner Everywhere Network.

Otto, D., Schroeder, N., Diekmann, D., & Sander, P. (2021). Trends and gaps in empirical research on Open Educational Resources (OER): A systematic mapping of the literature from 2015 to 2019. Contemporary Educational Technology, 13(4), ep325.