Online learning within the Engineering faculty


Kosi Emmanuel-Anyim, a Student Digital Champion from Engineering has spent time outlining the pros and cons of Online learning based on the feedback from 1st, 2nd and 3rd years who are currently studying Engineering. He also shares some good examples of practice from Dr Francesco Fornetti‘s 1st year Linear Circuits lectures.

It’s been a tough year for everyone and the DEO have done great work to maintain the exceptional learning experience that the University of Bristol offers.



Find out what has worked well and what can be improved in Online Learning, with a particular focus on synchronous sessions within the Engineering faculty.

What was done

Kosi sent out a survey with questions surrounding synchronous online sessions. He talked to just over thirty students who ranged from first year to third year. After asking what platform was most preferred for synchronous session he then asked some free response questions about why they has picked that platform and what were the positive and negatives experiences of them being used in synchronous lectures.


Online learning

What could be improved

  • Students haven’t really been able to interact with others on their Course, this is most prevalent among first years who might still not know anyone on their course.​
  • The differences in how lectures are planned and run can be quite different with the move to online learning.
  • Simulations haven’t made up for in person lab experiments, students really missing lab experiments.​


Asynchronous sessions

What went well

  • Students feel they have more control over their learning experience, and they can learn at their own pace through watching asynchronous content.​


Asynchronous content should complement live sessions. Students prefer short videos (10-20 minutes).

Live lectures

Live lectures with poor engagement have been an ongoing theme among the students in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Faculty. This has led to poor attendance in other synchronous content such as lab simulations.

‘Positive: more interaction Negative: too long’

‘Positives: Questions get answered quickly and concepts are elaborated on and explained in detail according to student responses. Negatives: Internet issues such as connection unstable sometimes on my end, other times on the lecturer's end.’

‘The major downside is when lecturers repeat content the same way they’ve already covered in asynchronous lectures. It’s a poor use of time unless they are answering questions or introducing a new take. One good way synchronous lectures were utilised well was with NPP where the live lectures tested the knowledge of the asynchronous lectures by going through past paper questions. This was a much more superior approach as it allowed us to memorise more easily.’

‘Something that really frustrates me is being given new questions to work through in a lecture. I find it really hard to get my head around the question while listening at the same time. EMAT 2 has a good system where worked examples are presented in ansync then worked through in the live.’

‘Positives: Easy to follow along with examples on your own laptop(e.g coding). Lectures with ta's which answer questions. Not travelling to lectures’

What went well

  • Students are less shy about asking questions during lectures, as they can just type it in the chat section.​

What could be improved

  • Synchronous lectures have been less engaging as it just ends up becoming a Q&A session or the lecturer just reading off slides or repeating asynchronous content.​


  • Students' current locations should be taken into account, and the most suitable time for live lectures should be selected. This could be quite difficult due to the vast amount of international and non-UK residents in the University of Bristol.
  • Lecturers should employ the use of Teaching Assistants (TA’s) as moderators in their live lectures, these moderators aid in the smooth flow of lectures as they answer questions in the chat panel. One of the moderators in Dr Fornetti’s lecture has advocated for its effectiveness.​

Student engagement

  • Lecturers need to be able to keep students engaged. PollEverywhere and Padlet have proved effective. Polleverywhere keeps students on their toes and is helpful for the lecturer to get a classes’ overall understanding of his lecture. Another student mentioned: “ PollEV and Discussion boards is helpful so that students are actively answering questions.”
  • Students engage more with instructors solving exercises or questions live, or explanations of asynchronous content, rather than repetition.

Platform consistency

  • Students prefer to use one platform for all the live lectures. They have found it helpful to have everything in the same place.​
  • MS teams seems the most favorable among students, who find it the most convenient and reliable platform. Reasons cited include familiarity, consistency, ease of use, ability to view chat questions and messages at a later time, ability to share files​.

    Preferred platform for synchronous lectures. 81.3% chose Microsoft Teams, 15.6% chose Blackboard Collaborate and 3.1% chose Zoom.

  • Another solution to improve consistency would be to create an FAQ sheet. This could include questions that get asked regularly in the chat and will save lecturers and TAs from repeating themselves.