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As debate rages over the benefits of working online versus working from the office , a survey of postgraduate university students found that more than three-quarters who have studied at home during the pandemic think digital learning is equal to or better than face-to-face learning.

Consultancy Deloitte say the results are a green light for universities to do more blended teaching, which combines online with face-to-face . On a satisfaction score, students said online was equal to blended or face-toface learning when it came to ‘‘ tailoring a curriculum’ ’ that suited their needs. And they gave online teaching an eight out of 10 satisfaction score for meeting their personal and professional interests, which was better than the result for face-to-face or blended classes.

Overall, 77 per cent said digital learning was equal to or better than face-toface learning. The survey was carried out in August and involved more than 500 postgraduate students across Australia. Colette Rogers, head of the national education practice at Deloitte, said the message was that students did not want to go back to the old ways of learning when conditions returned to normal. ‘‘ The pandemic has improved postgraduate students’ perception of digital learning. For universities the future is probably blended, a mix of face-to- face learning and online,’’ she said.

Ms Rogers said the report was intended to guide investment by universities and showed they could afford a greater focus on technology. There were some anomalies – more of the face-to-face students said their qualification helped them get a job than was reported by fully online students. This was probably because most fully online students were based in remote locations, which affected their employment chances. And evidence from earlier Deloitte studies reinforced the importance of human interaction and the experience of being physically on a campus. One of the surveyed students said: ‘‘ I generally prefer to study on campus so I have access to all my lecturers, but I actually do all my best study at home. So my online learning experience hasn’t been that different to on-campus study.’’

Ms Rogers said the study was based on postgraduate students but it sent a broader message about the need for flexibility around the workplace. ‘‘ This report points to the benefit of blended learning that is online and face-to-face . And that’s a flexibility Australian workers are looking for in their jobs. It’s about the need for flexibility in delivery models,’’ she said. ‘‘ Students want flexible assessment, they want to pause, restart, re-engage . Workers are the same.’’ A report in May from the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at Melbourne University said online teaching was contingent on good interaction.

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