Digital learning experience of engineering students in the pandemic

The perspective of graduate teaching assistants


  • Di Wang University of Warwick
  • Yiduo Wang University of Warwick
  • Zhizhuo Su University of Warwick



Digital Learning Experience, COVID-19, Engineering Students’ Engagement, Digital Literacy


During the unprecedented world crisis of COVID-19, traditional offline courses were forced to be delivered online. Most students struggled with this change of delivery approach due to difficulties in accessing online resources, overwhelming and independent work, communication and concentration, isolation and longlines issues in online learning. Therefore, providing a positive digital learning experience for students was an important concern in UK Higher Education. Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are an indispensable part of the teaching community at the University of Warwick to deliver modules and facilitate WMG engineering students’ learning. Owing to the dual identity of student and teaching staff, doctoral researchers have a unique perspective in investigating students' digital learning experiences. As students, doctoral researchers empathise with the affective impact and physical constraints of online learning that hinder the student experience and learning. And as tutors, doctoral researchers recognise the pedagogical strategies that the digital tools enable, such as peer learning or reflection. This paper provides a reflective evaluation of how effective digital tools, and their uses are supporting the constructive alignment of learning while benefiting the student experience, such as Vevox, Padlet, and Microsoft Teams. In sharing a reflexive account of experiences with digital tools for learning and teaching, guidance is provided on how students’ digital learning experiences can be improved.


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Author Biographies

Di Wang, University of Warwick

Di Wang is a PhD researcher and belongs to the Energy Application Group of Warwick Manufacturing Group. His main research field is cell instrumentation, which provides technical support for the development and monitoring of a new generation of smart batteries. Di Wang has been working as a postgraduate teaching assistant for the Study, Professional and Analytical Skills (SPA) module since December 2020. He currently provides teaching support in qualitative and quantitative analysis to the SPA team, and provides diverse academic services to more than 1,000 WMG master students, including online and offline seminars or lectures, one-on-one offline tutoring for targeted students, development of synchronous and asynchronous learning materials to fully meet students' learning needs, etc. He also provided technical support for the upgrade and improvement of the SPA's online Moodle platform. 

Yiduo Wang, University of Warwick

Yiduo Wang is a PhD researcher from the Warwick Manufacturing Group. Her research is to investigate the effect of STEM outreach on secondary students’ attitudes towards STEM funded by the Lord Bhattacharyya Family Trust and in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering. Since December 2020, Yiduo has been working as a graduate teaching assistant for the module of Study, professional and analytical skills (SPA) to provide academic support for more than 1,000 WMG master students, including delivering seminars, running one-to-one mentor sessions, designing synchronous and asynchronous learning materials and refining online Moodle platform. Yiduo holds an Associate Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy. 

Zhizhuo Su, University of Warwick

Zhizhuo Su is a second-year PhD student from the Intelligent Vehicle, WMG, University of Warwick, UK. He has received a bachelor’s degree in Vehicle Engineering from Jilin University, China, and a master's degree in Vehicle Engineering from Chongqing University, China. As a senior graduate teaching assistant, he hosted academic writing seminars, weekly drop-in mentoring sessions and designed synchronous and asynchronous curriculum (e.g., face-to-face tutorials and recorded video sessions) in the WMG module of Study, professional and analytical skills (SPA) for over 1000 postgraduate students. He is now focusing on the Analytical Stream of SPA and supporting students’ analytical skills with quantitative and qualitative methods. He holds an Associate Fellowship from the Advance HE (previous Higher Education Academy).