Students and staff working in partnership is driving change at universities
With this in mind I wanted to share with you what we are doing to help build partnerships between staff and students to understand and meet their needs better.
Working in partnership on digitally related projects enables both staff and students to have a shared understanding of how technology can better support the learning experience.
The 2014 UCISA digital capabilities surveyreports that 30% of staff are working with students to lead on changes to how colleges or universities are run. Another 46% are ‘working towards’ this approach.
How are we supporting you to develop staff-student partnership working?
I work as part of a team running the Jisc change agents’ network, which actively supports a community of students and staff working in partnership on technology related projects and encourages the sharing of best practice.
One element of this is through our related digital student project where we have produced a set of 50 exemplars which explore how colleges and universities are responding to the challenges of supporting the digital student experience. They show the importance of involving students not only in improving infrastructure and provision but in designing relevant curriculum activities.
The examples also evidence students’ emerging digital capabilities and challenge their assumptions about the role that digital technologies will play in their learning in the future.
I believe we need to support the active participation of students in setting and supporting the digital agendas in colleges and universities, which is what this work is all about.
This new guide, enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach, provides valuable guidance for colleges and universities and will hopefully help you to make some steps forward.
Lastly, I wanted to let you know that we are producing a series of case studies to share examples of practice from colleges and universities who have partnership working fully embedded, to those who may just be starting out on this journey.
Why work in partnership – what are the benefits?
At one of our recent networking events 76 staff and 40 students from across further and higher education shared their experiences of working in partnership on technology-related curriculum projects.
As part of the event we created an ideas wall which illustrated the challenges and benefits of partnership working explored over the two day event.
At this event staff and students shared their experiences. For example Birmingham City University (BCU) has successfully worked with students over the past five years, on over 550 projects involving over 900 students. One of their approaches is the Student Academic Partners (SAP) programme.
The programme aims to integrate students into the teaching and pedagogic research community within the university in order to develop collaboration between students and staff.
Students spoke at the event about gaining an experience of leadership and influencing change and of increased confidence and skills in areas of communication, team-working, management and research skills. One of the key benefits quoted was around improved employability and job prospects.
Students are also gaining recognition of their work through awards such as leadership, academic credit, extra-curricular awards and external accreditations.
Benefits which colleges and universities are realising include:
- More opportunities for students to gain skills to support employability
- Greater involvement in their learning and teaching experience which aids retention
- Developing enhanced engagement and engaging students with research-led change.
I see one of the most important outcomes from this work is that students can inspire lead academics in technology-led educational innovation, meaning technology is fitted to their needs.
We are seeing a growth in partnership working across further and higher education, some colleges and universities already have embedded this model into their practice, but there are still challenges to scaling up projects and embedding practice.
The culture of an organisation, senior management support, issues of staff time and incentives for student participation are some of the challenges that institutions are facing in embedding practice.
How you can get involved
- Sign up to our change agents’ network community mailing listwhich supports students and staff with the sharing of their practice.
- To keep up with activity have a read of the first edition of the network’s Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change. The second edition will be published in September 2015. We welcome reviewers and submissions of papers for the journal.
- If you would like to express an interest in becoming a reviewer please email Simon Walker, head of academic development, University of Greenwich.
- Our student partnership toolkit will help support you in implementing partnership working.
- Join our SEDA-accredited course for student change agents and institutional change – this supports those involved in implementing partnership working.
- And lastly, why not join one of our monthly webinars which shares best practice in partnership working and student engagement.