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Students’ reading practices have transformed over the past 20 years, with the increasing digitisation of resources and the widespread use of mobile devices; changes that were further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This project investigated how students read and engage with resources online; how they are taught to do so; how this relates to their overall learning; and which pedagogic strategies are most effective.

The headline finding is that online reading is an indispensable element of learning in higher education, irrespective of discipline or level of study. If deployed in a constructive manner, it has a number of benefits for students and academics, including:

  • Learning: It can function as a powerful driver for learning, especially when students are encouraged to engage actively with readings, for example by adding annotations.
  • Social: Online learning can be a highly social activity and many students spoke of the benefits to comprehension and socialisation that accrued from working collaboratively on a text.
  • Accessibility: Students and staff spoke repeatedly about how online reading is accessible because it does not tie them to a physical space and provides for a significant degree of flexibility.

Read the project blogs

Hear more from project lead Jamie Wood and students Annabelle Mansell and Samantha Sharman, from the University of Lincoln in our two blog posts. 

The project team also identified a number of challenges associated with reading online and as a result, have produced a collection of resources to help staff and students overcome, or at least minimise them, to maximise its potential as a support, or even a driver, for student learning.

The resources include:

  • Pedagogic resources including an annotated reading list; a literature review on online reading; a reading audit to track reading practices; and a reading template to support students to work in a structured way through their reading.
  • Case studies from project partner institutions.
  • Examples of effective practices from current students.

You can access the full project report and an executive summary below:

Project lead:

University of Lincoln

Project partners:

University of Nottingham, University College London, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Salford, University of Hertfordshire, Keele University, Royal Holloway University of London, University of Lincoln, Royal Historical Society, Council of University Classics Departments and Open University, History UK and Talis

Other Collaborative Enhancement Projects

QAA supports a number of projects every year, covering a range of topics and interest areas. Each is led by a QAA Member, working in collaboration with other members institutions. You can find more information on all projects, and access resources and outputs, on our website.