An opportunity for self-paced learning in a synchronous, distance-learning environment




Self-paced learning, distance-learning, eLearning, COVID-19, video-conferencing


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Higher Education to adopt distance-learning approaches in traditionally face-to-face and practical-based fields such as the Health and Life sciences. Such an abrupt change to distance-learning contexts brings a variety of challenges to student learning communities, and ensuring key skills are effectively transferred. Chief among these is the limited opportunity students have to discuss their individual needs with their educators and peers in a synchronous manner. Proximity-based video-conferencing platforms such as can offer a unique opportunity for learners to interact with educators as well as pre-developed materials in a self-paced manner to tailor the teaching experience, and develop these relationships in a distance-learning context. In this case study the concepts of statistical analysis and the use of the data analysis software R is introduced to 38 University students using the online platform With the use of private spaces, pre-recorded videos, and demonstrators, students are trained in both the concepts and practical skills to undertake data analysis in a self-paced manner. Both students and demonstrators provide their opinions on the effectiveness of the platform, and identify its benefits, preferring it to alternative online systems such as MS Teams for their educational sessions.

Author Biographies

Colin Derek McClure, Queen's University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences

Dr Colin D McClure (he/him) is a Lecturer (Education) within the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University, Belfast, a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE, and chair of the Digital Learning Committee within his School. His teaching focuses on genetics and genetic modification, as well as data analysis amongst other research-related skills. His educational research to date has focused on embedding sustainability into the Higher Education (HE) curriculum, and has a keen interest in utilising technological applications in tertiary education to support authentic learning and assessment experiences.

Paul N Williams, Queen's University Belfast, School of Biological Sciences

Dr Paul N Williams (he/him) is a lecturer in Soil & Environmental Biogeochemistry and adviser of studies for the Agriculture Technology degree at Queen’s University, Belfast. His teaching encompasses undergraduate and postgraduate training, covering practical skills in environmental/analytical chemistry through to fundamentals in experimental planning/design, in addition to scientific writing. Having worked extensively overseas, in countries such as China and Malaysia, he is a proponent of purposeful/impact-driven research learning and has specific interests in technology-enabled teaching communication for enhancing global and rural education delivery.


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Case Studies