Evaluating expectations and engagement with emergency remote teaching: a cross-faculty case study of a Sino-British university

Derek Irwin, Amarpreet Gill, Lauren Knowles, David Krygier, Chiew-Foong Kwong, Matthew Pike, Dave Towey, James Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Purpose – The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) was the first Sino-foreign (Sino-British) higher education institution to be established in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was being felt in the PRC in the Spring semester of 2020, the UNNC found itself under a strict lockdown, with many academic staff stranded overseas, and many of its 8,000-strong student population restricted from entering the campus. The UNNC was forced to devise a strategy for Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT), with large numbers of courses adapted for online delivery of teaching and learning (T&L), and assessment. This case study examines the student expectations and engagement over that period; and it explores the different approaches adopted for ERT and assessment, highlighting how a gap in skills and prior exposure to the relevant technology, for both teachers and students, influenced the experience.
Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on data from multiple surveys, supported by cross-faculty interviews and focus-group discussion, and reflective examination of individual experiences, this paper explores the different expectations, engagements and perceptions of facing the challenges caused by
the pandemic.
Findings – Disconnects between expectations (of both staff and students) and how the semester actually evolved are exposed. Reasons for these disparities, including the unpredictable nature of the pandemic at that time, are examined, with suggestions for how to better insulate T&L moving forward. Training and familiarity with appropriate tools are identified as key elements for more smooth adaptation to the ERT T&L. This paper offers insights into best practices for managing similar situations in the future.
Originality/value/implications – The UNNC was the first Sino-foreign university to return to face-to-face T&L, in May 2020, and thus its experience is unique and of interest to the wider community. The identified disconnects between expectations and reality indicate clear opportunities for where institutions can bolster staff (and student) competencies, to better prepare for the ‘new normal’ in post-pandemic T&L.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2021)
EditorsEva Tsang, Kam Cheong Li, Philips Wang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439683
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventInternational Conference on Open and Innovative Education - Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Duration: 5 Jul 2021 → …


ConferenceInternational Conference on Open and Innovative Education
Abbreviated titleICOIE
CityHong Kong
Period5/07/21 → …
Internet address


  • COVID-19
  • emergency remote teaching
  • new normal
  • student engagement
  • student expectations
  • staff upskilling


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