In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors – the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Working Group of the School of Computing Science at a Scottish University - were involved in implementing changes to the delivery of lectures and lab sessions to continue the provision of labs and tutorials online according to government regulations and guidance. Such a drastic overhaul presented a variety of challenges when trying to preserve the student experience and satisfaction. Here, we discuss these challenges, as well as the benefits and positive developments of online teaching. Our approach tackled the difficultly of online-only interaction by reducing the staff-student ratio and providing a tiered support network for staff members to foster an effective teaching environment across the undergraduate program. We reflect on our experiences and use evidence from GTA and student surveys to understand the impact of online only teaching. We examine possible explanations as to why students felt the new approach fell short before detailing the revised teaching methodology implemented in the 2021/22 academic session to address these limitations. With the phased return to face-to-face teaching, we were able to supplement online teaching with limited in-person labs. We utilised the limited in-person teaching to mitigate the shortfalls of online-only lab delivery by forming a hybrid approach, of which we explore both GTA and student survey responses. While the response to online learning was positive, the hybridisation was viewed less favourably. GTAs indicated that despite in-person teaching being the best solution, they preferred solely online classes to a hybrid approach.


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Cite as

Kavanagh, W., Fraser, D., Hunter, E., Pancheva, A., Parkinson, J., Paun, I., Wallis, T., Ada, M., Border, H. & Norman, G. 2022, 'Experience report: challenges and opportunities of remote labs for a computer science department', Postgraduate Pedagogies, 2(1), pp. 173-210. http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/274364/

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Last updated: 02 September 2022
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