The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected higher education. Remote teaching/learning, which was introduced under emergency conditions, has been placed in the spotlight and has become a topic of interest for higher education institutions (HEIs), higher education systems and higher education policy makers.
However, the concept of remote teaching/learning is far from new. Even before the pandemic, remote teaching/learning had been developed and implemented since the late 1990s, with an expansion of interest in both theory and practice in the 2000s. Planned remote teaching/learning should not, however, be confused with emergency remote teaching/learning such as that carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant and substantial differences exist between the two, which derive from the differing contexts in which they are implemented, and the needs they are intended to serve.
During the COVID-19 pandemic most of HEIs were not prepared for the sudden shift to emergency remote teaching/learning. Consequently, many generalisations were made in the public discourse regarding the negative effects for remote teaching/learning, and the advantages of face-to-face teaching and learning. Still, the lessons learned from the emergency implementation of remote teaching/learning during the COVID-19 pandemic need to be integrated into a comprehensive body of knowledge concerning the value and limitations of online teaching/learning. With this in mind, this report presents systematised evidence from studies carried out before and during the pandemic with regard to the efficiency of planned online teaching/learning on the one hand, and emergency remote teaching on the other. The aim of this report is to explore the differences between the two, and to find out whether most of the negative effects attributed to emergency remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic were caused by the online delivery itself, or by the fact that such online delivery was not based on comprehensive planning since it was a quick response to a pandemic.