Learning and Teaching Reimagined Student Experience and Wellbeing Teaching and Learning Uncategorised

Learning and Teaching Reimagined Webinar – the changing needs of students

Chris summarises the main points and comments that emerged from the first Learning and Teaching Reimagined webinar on the Changing Needs of Students.

Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined project launched last week with a webinar looking at how students’ needs are changing in the light of the measures taken to combat COVD19.

Learning and Teaching Reimagined is a project led by a partnership of organisations including Jisc, Advance HE, Universities UK and Emerge Education to support Leaders in the HE sector to build the capabilities to deliver an excellent student experience within the new circumstances.

We’ve released the recordings and transcript for the event but I wanted to take some time to outline the thinking behind the event and some of the key things we learned. I’ll also highlight some of the further outputs for this that will be coming along soon.

Our rationale

This was the first of 3 webinars led by Jisc looking at the changing landscape of teaching and learning in HE and it was important for us to start the programme looking at it from the student perspective.

The COVID crisis has challenged many of the fundamental aspects of teaching and learning in higher education. The systemic impacts of the disease will filter through to all areas of society so education post-COVD19 will need to be done differently. That’s not to say it’ll be unrecognisable, but we need to look at some of the pre-COVD assumptions to see whether they are still valid.

The changing needs of students will have to be at the forefront, hence the decision to place this webinar first in the series.

The plan for the session was to examine what we believe is happening to student needs, but then to look at how we can bring students and their experiences into the discussion and also use available data to build a rich picture that better represents reality.

Understanding student expectations

(Jump to 14:43)

After Jisc’s chair David Maguire set the scene for the whole programme

Subject specialists Esther Barrett and Julia Taylor took the participants through a number of exercises and reflections on what our core assumptions are about what students want in this new environment.

You can download the full range of responses to this exercise here. I’ve classified them into 4 areas and I’ve added a selection of quotes here:

  • Student experience

Contact time with staff and students, a sense of belonging

to be on campus

To be inspired, motivated, enthused, interested.

Value and belonging

Recognition that the student experience is different for every student

  • Teaching and learning

Flexibiliy – of mode, time, engagement, methods  start and end dates

To try new things in a safe environment

High quality distance learning resources, that are well considered and planned.

  • Graduate outcomes

industry experience

Qualification and applying to life

  • Value for money

An Excellent product and experience for their investment

  • Other

we shouldn’t be just assuming! We should be asking

Ideally a return

different students need different things at different times during their experience. Flexibility, approachability are key here

This changes across the student journey…

I’ve also gone through the chat panel for the whole session and isolated a few of the key comments from the participants which give some great food for thought.

Mark Schofield: The ‘new normal’ seems to include an undefined on-campus blend next semestre ….. the nature of this blend and the relationship with F2F is really worrying in terms of inclusion and a quality experience for all students

Denis Fischbacher-Smith: All too often online is portrayed as something of a technology-related issue when it is an issue of learning design. In terms of the perceptions of online learning, the question should be in terms of a student centred approach. Both face-to-face/on campus and on-line teaching will face potential problems unless we take account of the learning needs of students.

Cristina Devecchi: I think we need to listen to students because we have a professional responsibility to help them build their future. It’s about their needs, but also about their aspirations

Jasper Shotts: Student wants does not equate with what they may need -depends how well they are informed and what experiences they have been supported to gain

Yvonne Cornejo: [in reply to Cristina Devecchi] I include co-creation in the notion of delivery btw:) Students don’t always know what is possible yet, which is why I’m wary of simply / blindly following what they think they need or want. Constant dialogue and exchange of perspectives are key.

Cristina Devecchi: really interesting point made by the student on the ‘new normal’. While students long to go back to usual, I would suggest that what they are experiencing is a valuable future employability experience since the new normal is what people are experiencing at work.

Student interviews

(Jump to 35:42)

Zac Gribble and John Sumpter interviewed 2 student partners, Laura and Brad, as part of the webinar to gain an insight into their personal experiences of the last few months and to hear their recommendations.

We plan to do an extended interview podcast with Laura and Brad and include other students as the 20 minutes we had during the webinar meant that we couldn’t cover all the ground we wanted. This should be ready in the next few weeks.

The picture Laura and Brad painted was a fascinating and complex one and there are a few points worth highlighting.

They talked about the upheaval and uncertainty and how it had adversely affected their and their peer’s learning, welfare and financial situation. But their was cause for optimism in how their respective institutions had responded to the crisis and the digital capabilities of the staff to keep contact and learning going effectively during the emergency measures.

Brad also referred to how his institution is taking a considerate and flexible approach to student wellbeing with measures like suspending the need for students to provide written evidence from a GP of health difficulties when asking for flexibility. He said he was less clear whether flexibility extended to assessment boards yet.

Laura made some interesting comments on how the student experience could be enhanced by rationalising and collecting in one easy location the digital tools and resources they needed. She also talked about how digital tools had been extremely helpful in maintaining contact with staff and peers, both formally and informally.

Emerging data

(Jump to 1:04:21)

Jonathan Neves from Advance HE took us through some of the emerging data from their Student Academic Experience Survey for 2020, co-authored by Rachel Hewitt at HEPI. The data set from this survey is particularly interesting because about half was collected prior to lockdown and half after.

As with Laura and Brad’s contribution there is positive news to balance some of the more concerning results. There’s an indication that students’ academic experience compared to expectation is actually improving. Jonathan talked about how currently students are understanding of their institutions, that the impact of COVID19 isn’t the universities’ fault, but also reflected that this goodwill isn’t inexhaustible.

Among the more concerning messages was the fact that student mental well being lags behind wellbeing in the general population and that the experience of higher education for different ethnic groups is still very variable.

Lastly, from a digital perspective, the report found that although a small percentage of students felt teaching was supported by “advanced technology” (around 7%) but those students then reported higher levels of satisfaction with their courses. This needs quite a bit of unpacking but is interesting nonetheless.

(Jump to 1:15:28)

Finally, Sarah Knight, Jisc’s Head of Data and Digital Capabilities took us through some of the most recent findings from the Digital Experience Insights survey which is due to report fully in September.

Sarah made the point that effective use of data is going to be particularly important to help benchmark progress, improve services, gathering baseline data year on year.

She also drew attention to the fact that students report a high availability of personal devices such as laptops, tablets and phones to support learning but that doesn’t always extend to connectivity or even space to learn remotely.

And to bring us round to the beginning again, the survey results show that only 17% of students had the chance to be involved in decisions about digital services. Where we are interested in co-creation of knowledge, partnership and dialogue we need to allow students to contribute and share their experience.

Future events

Follow the Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme web page for information about future events and activity as well as ways to get involved.

By Chris Thomson

I'm a Subject Specialist at Jisc focusing on online learning and digital student experience.

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