To explore potential effects of disadvantage on engagement and attainment under different teaching and assessment regimes, the influence of pedagogic changes implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic on attainment and engagement of students from different backgrounds were compared using a cohort-study design. Learner analytics and attainment data from first year undergraduate students during three learning regimes were compared: (i) in-person teaching and assessment, (ii) in-person teaching with online assessment, and (iii) online teaching and assessment. The gap in end-of-year mark between disadvantaged students and their peers was widest when teaching and assessment was online, with poorer outcomes for disadvantaged students, although the gap in the percentage of students passing all their modules did not change. Overall, online teaching and assessment during the pandemic was associated with a widening attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. Possible explanations for this are discussed, including the relationship between attainment and engagement. Higher Education providers should monitor and review the potential implications of their chosen education strategy on different groups of students: how you teach and who you teach are both important.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2245424
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Early online date11 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • learning analytics
  • disadvantage
  • student engagement
  • higher education
  • digital poverty
  • attainment


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