Conference Proceeding

Unintended Consequences of E-Learning: Reflections on the Digital Transformation of Learning in Higher Education



Robinson E, McQuaid R, Webb A & Webster CWR (2021) Unintended Consequences of E-Learning: Reflections on the Digital Transformation of Learning in Higher Education. In: Larsen C, Kipper J, Schmid A & Panzaru C (eds.) Transformations of Local and Regional Labour Markets across Europe in Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times: Challenges for Regional and Local Observatories. 16th Annual Meeting of the European Network on Regional Labour Market Monitoring (EN RLMM), Timisoara, Romania, 22.09.2021-24.09.2021. Baden-Baden, Germany: Rainer Hampp Verlag, pp. 379-398.

The use of digital technologies in Higher Education has grown dramatically dur-ing the COVID-19 pandemic with many courses moved to online teaching, a trend which is likely to continue post-pandemic. However, the rise of such E-Learning is likely to have a number of unintended consequences for students, teachers, higher education institutions, employers and society more generally (Webb et al. 2021) . These have important implications for regional and local labour markets, skills development and observatories. E-Learning can generate innovative approaches to learning and can enhance ef-ficiently and convenience, particularly for those wishing to work or study re-motely or ‘at a distance’. Some students favour the use of digital technologies and enjoy having on-demand access to lecture content and other materials, par-ticularly for revision and assessment. However, there are a number of associat-ed issues that can lead to unintended consequences for those involved and for wider society. After the introduction, this chapter starts with a brief description of digitalisa-tion in Higher Education to offer context for the digital transformation of univer-sity learning. Section 3 considers who might be particularly affected by barriers around the move to large-scale E-Learning in terms of digital access and the dig-ital divide. This is followed by exploration of three key issues around the unin-tended consequences related to the rapid uptake of digitised teaching and learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues are: (1) the impact of E-Learning on assessment, particularly where and how learning is delivered due to remote learning and assessment; (2) the use of learning analytics, and how da-ta is gathered and used particularly with the growing use of learning analytics which can undermine privacy and increase the surveillance of people’s activi-ties?; (3) the implications of machine learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI) in learn-ing and teaching, and what ways students are supported by digitalisation through the increased use of Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI) assis-tants for students? Finally, conclusions are presented.

e-learning; unintended consequences

FundersEuropean Commission (Horizon 2020)
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online01/10/2021
PublisherRainer Hampp Verlag
Publisher URL…times-id-100850/
Place of publicationBaden-Baden, Germany
Conference16th Annual Meeting of the European Network on Regional Labour Market Monitoring (EN RLMM)
Conference locationTimisoara, Romania

People (3)


Professor Ronald McQuaid

Professor Ronald McQuaid

Emeritus Professor, Management, Work and Organisation

Dr Aleksandra Webb

Dr Aleksandra Webb

Lecturer, Management, Work and Organisation

Professor William Webster

Professor William Webster

Personal Chair, Management, Work and Organisation

Projects (1)