ALTernative views?

On 1st of April we ran an ALT webinar in Blackboard Collaborate (recording here) as part of our consultation process. As with our other consultation events we reviewed the work of the project to date and then set our participants a number of difficult questions to engage with.


Given that this event was online we opted to split into 4 groups and respond via discussion and online white-boards. The questions posed were:

  1. What do we still need to find out about students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment?
  2. How can institutions engage with students in productive conversations about their digital practices?
  3. What should institutions prioritise in order to better meet students’ expectations?
  4. What kind of digital experiences should institutions offer students?

What we are keen to emphasise in the project is the need to consider both how to meet expectations and also how to provide relevant experiences. ‘Expectations’ tends to revolve around the provision of access, technology and information (although there was discussion around supporting staff in their use of the ‘digital’). ‘Experiences’ tends to focus on practice, especially practice which is perhaps on the fringes of the curriculum but bridges the ‘educational’ out into the wider world.

Of course we aren’t likely to progress in either area unless we find elegant ways of discovering what students expect of higher education or what their day-to-day practices are in digital spaces. Response to question 1 Indicated that people favoured the survey as an instrument to find out what their students were thinking. This was mainly because it’s relatively efficient to analyse survey data.

Personally I think we need to find better ways and means of collecting and analysing more qualitative data alongside this. As far as I can tell most people think that a qualitative approach to research involves recording then attempting to analyse interminable hours of interviews and focus groups. I’d argue part of the answer to question 1. and 2. above is the use of more efficient forms of qualitative research; mapping, card sorting etc. – being confident enough to draw out messages which are not only in the form of bar charts. If we can develop these skills in the sector then this should lead to a much clearer picture on questions 3. and 4. It’s an ongoing process though and you can read our participants responses to all of the questions here.

If these are the kinds of questions that you what to explore further then take a look at our consultation events page for upcoming opportunities to get involved. [

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