The second day started well, with a gourmet full english breakfast and a beautiful view over Exter. Here we were able to draw up our battle plan, with the aim for us to split up and attend as much as we could to try and cover a broad range of presentations and workshops. We have provided some small summaries of the presentations we attended for a brief overview of content and the general theme. We can however say that as a whole the presentations were fascinating; seeing some of the great projects being worked upon by our colleagues was a helpful, and motivational experience.
Ivan and Avalon watched a presentation which demonstrated the ‘digital’ platforms used to communicate – socially, it came up that facebook, snapchat and instagram were used predominantly for social reasons. General communication came down to texting, whatsapp, facebook messenger whilst professional communication came through email and linkedin. However, employers have mentioned that they sometimes check a prospective employee’s facebook, a fact which should come as no surprise to anyone. Facebook have been adding more features to enable you to log your employment more efficiently.
There were some concerns addressed however, which included that a lot of people feel that they are forced to do updates on their various applications without really understanding what is being updated. A general lack of knowledge given on the security features of each update when combined with little knowledge of the systems can cause concern when it came to secure technology and software.
Furthermore, there was an interesting talk delivered by academics from the University of Westminster, sharing how their students created an interactive platform in the form of game, which developed their creativity and instilled interest and engagement in many students across the department.
Tom attended some sessions looking at the student role. The first focused on students as recruiters. This session looked at how we might be able to utilise students whom when trained and supported are able to to play active role in recruitment process of prospective staff. It was particularly interesting as it discussed some of the criteria for partnership – it has to be a meaningful partnership; not tokenistic. Benefits include new perspective and insight into the university for the students and led to some valuable positive feedback. One challenged noted was that it can be difficult to promote staff engagement with the project.
Following this, we received a talk on online student-staff partnership boards for sharing ideas. Created by Student Academic Rep in Exeter, this talk looked at what was missing in the academic representation. The team decided that a student partnership board was needed, following an issue with ‘sitting partners’ rather than engaged partners when working with students. The concept was to provide and facilitate a college Level meeting where all disciplines able to attend, meet senior staff to offer ideas and get feedback; essentially a forum for students and staff to communicate. An interesting parallel with the work we do in southampton includes the use of a Facebook page and other social media to promote and enable communication between participants.
As no recount would be complete without reflections from Stefan, here are some comments on the presentations that Stefan attended on the second day:
I had a fabulous time with students who undertook an innovative research project to support the community thinking about itself, with local councillors. Through that, not only did they gain great confidence in the work they did, but they could also see the impact of their work for the benefit of the community. It made me think of how helpful it could be if we could redesign our final year dissertation module to allow for final year student lead collaborative projects. Currently the dissertation asks you to do a piece of independent qualitative research, and can be very specific in its methodology; being quite abstract and academic. The students on the penryn campus created a research project that manifested its data in a form of monopoly, which they then used with community leader to explore priorities for development. Through doing something that actually has an impact in real life and real time, there is an attributed sense of practical achievement, as well as contributing to your final degree in a physical manner. The traditional style of dissertation can make it difficult to identify the link between abstract writing and learned skills. This could be in the form of final year consultancy with small companies, with the report and feedback being assessed. There is a connection between theory, practice and impact which is evident and fully recognised and assessed towards your degree.
The next session looked at how a university developed a strategy to work out ways in which students could join curriculum design and be inducted into how to be university friendly students. To this end they created small packets of information for students relating to curriculum design to help understand the bureaucracy etc. For me this raised a few questions, notably the issue of trying not to force students into the bureaucratic ‘pot’ of the university which currently exists – and was able to have some positive discussions with the presenters. We have some concerns whether projects that are established to involve students and staff on an equal footing can ever truly work if organised from within the central university hierarchy.
In summary the conference was a deeply valuable learning experience for all of us. The ability for us to present our work and projects and receive some constructive criticism was helpful, whilst finding out more about projects in the area of Students involvement within university has given us much food for thought. We can’t wait to implement some things we have learnt, and look forward to the next conference!