The power of the student voice

I was very fortunate to attend the recent QAA Quality Matters Conference in Birmingham. This is an annual conference which QAA run for student representatives and supports their engagement with the quality enhancement agenda and student engagement. Anthony McClaran in his introduction in the conference programme says, ‘It is vital that students have the right tools to enable them to shape the quality of teaching and learning in their place of study, and QAA is committed to investing time, resources and expertise to ensure that students can have a significant impact on the quality of their own higher education.’

This was evident throughout the day with student-focused sessions on quality enhancement related issues and the sharing of best practice. Students were fully engaged in the discussions and there was a real buzz about the event.

I was invited to run 3 workshops sharing the outcomes of from the Digital Student project – Postcards from 2020: Scoping students’ future digital needs. The slides for these workshops are available here.

I was delighted that over 50 students from colleges and universities attended the workshops and were highly engaged in sharing their experiences of the digital environment. I used the Postcards from the future as prompts for discussion and to explore students’ current experiences in their own contexts. Students were also keen to share what they wanted improved – for example they wanted more consistent use of the VLE and more innovative use of learning platforms.

I concluded the workshop with asking the students ‘What one thing should institutions do to enhance the digital student experience?’

The responses I received are collated here. The top issues are summarised as follows:
• Students were very keen to ensure there was better support for digital literacies and ICT skills as part of the induction process and that this support is available throughout their educational journey.
• Ensure that tutors have appropriate digital skills to pass on to their learners so as to support their more effective use of technology for their learning.
• Ensure a balance with the blended use of technology and importance of real human interaction should always be valued
• Maintain an ongoing dialogue with students around their digital student experience.

For me, an important take away message was the importance of engaging student union and course reps in discussions about the digital – and when implementing new digital projects to have student representation from the start.

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