Online social learning spaces for building campus communities?

Self actualisationUCASU provide a number of groups, societies and activities for students at UCA to join at each campus.  Many students at UCA take up this offer, but providing campus experiences is a key challenge for our four campus communities.  Some of this may be about student availability (ie holding down jobs, needing to get back home), but it seems there might also be some value to moving beyond the physical and exploring the possibilities of creating online collaborative spaces, co-created by students.  These could be used for online peer groups, mentoring, study groups, etc.  Whilst we have anecdotal evidence of the range of social media tools used across UCA courses (What’s App, Facebook, Instagram, Base Camp, Linked In), we have never conducted a study of this area and we have never really captured the student voice around this.

Between 2017 and 2018, we commissioned George Charman, Senior Lecturer (FE), Epsom, to lead a learning and teaching project to explore this area.  The study explored the literature around online social learning and talked to UCA students to find out what online tools they were engaging with, and what tools they would help build more of a sense of community and belonging with their course and campus.  The final study, entitled Towards a digital Village- The Use of Online Social Learning within Higher Education is published here.

The key conclusions from the research invite us to reconsider how we facilitate the use of spaces on campus (studio, library, workshops, refectory) as places to de-compress dialectic online communication through active and more expressive dialogic critical engagement.  If we expanded our definitions of campus spaces, we could activate the campus as a trans-disciplinary tool for informal, self-actualized learning.  Our research suggests that we consider the benefit of an opening out of the institution through the creation of shared collaborative spaces, co-created by students that move ‘beyond the usual physical learning environment into collaborative open spaces’ that are both digital and physical.

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Addressing the attainment gap at UCA

Students in the libraryOver the last few decades, the widening participation policies of successive UK governments have led to higher participation rates among 18 to 21 year old black and minority ethnic (BME) students (Sanders and Rose-Adams, 2014).  At the same time, the difference in degree attainment remains at just over a 15% gap between BME students and non-BME students in terms of achieving a 2:1 or 1st degree outcome.  In September, Advance HE published the data for 2016-17, which revealed:

  • 75.1% of Chinese students were awarded a good honours degree (a degree attainment gap of 4.5 pp)
  • 68.7% of Asian students (a gap of 10.9 pp)
  • 55.5% of black students (a gap of 24.1 pp)

It is vital that we explore intersectionality as we seek to address these gaps. For example, 52.8% of black male students gained a good honours degree in 2016-17 (a gap of 24.8 pp from white male students) while 28.6% of white students gained a first class degree compared to 12.3% of black students (a gap of 16.3 pp). Students’ chosen subject also affects their chances of attaining a good honours degree. In 2016-17, the BME attainment gap was 11.3% in science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects and 15.4% in non-SET subjects.

These figures show that Higher Education currently reproduces racial inequalities. As a result, action is being taken to address this across the sector. Continue reading

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Creative Arts Technicians in Academia – Tim Savage

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Webinar recording: Creative arts technicians in academic: to transition or not to transition?

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How do technicians feel after moving into an academic role? UCA’s Tim Savage conducted research into the experiences of UCA technicians who have become academic staff, and his study was recently published in the Journal of Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education.

Tim’s research investigated whether the factors that have elevated the status of technicians have also eroded traditional academic roles, and whether this enables individuals to transition between what many experience as disparate camps. In this webinar, Tim will be talking about what he found out during the research, and will be discussing the relationship between technical and academic staff in higher education.

 

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Co-creation as a tool for course enhancement?

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I have been hearing a lot about the benefits of co-creation as a collaborative approach to including students as partners in pedagogical planning processes. But just how do we go about shifting perspectives of students as stakeholders to students as co-creators?

Perhaps before we explore this, we should define what we mean by co-creation, what its value might be to staff and students and how we might use it as a curriculum enhancement tool.

What is co-creation?

Co-creation is the development of student-led, collaborative initiatives leading to co-created outputs. The outputs may be part of the curriculum (unit assessment driven for example) or co-curricular (related to the programme but not to a particular unit assessment/expectation). Co-creation can be applied to many areas of HE, in particular in curriculum development and research where students work in partnership with academics to improve the student experience. Continue reading

Posted in Active learning, Co-creation, Educational enhancement | 1 Comment

NSS Student Success stories

Music journalism students Epsom

The Creative Education team have been talking to UCA courses with 90% or above in the National Student Survey.  The idea of the conversations has been to explore some of the creative pedagogies used to keep students satisfied with their course experiences.

We capture the first of these here, with an interview with Mark O’Connor, Course Leader for Fashion Journalism.

What approaches to learning, teaching and student engagement did you take last year?

We monitor everything unit by unit and always close the feedback loop at Course Boards.  This helps us to improve practice year on year.  Students are encouraged to feed back on the experience of doing the unit through a Unit Evaluation Form.  These are then gathered up by our Course Administrator in Campus Registry.  She minutes them and puts them into an action plan to form negative and positive feedback.

What do you think was distinctive about your approaches last year? How do you think this might have helped with NSS scores? Continue reading

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Nicholas’ teaching tips #4 and #5

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A double helping of teaching tips this week from Dr. H – here they are:

If a learner has an unfamiliar ‘non-UK’ name, it is important to pronounce it as well as possible (rather than mess it up, or avoid using it). It is fine to ask for guidance from the student while you learn an unfamiliar name.

When giving feedback, have a checklist of things you will feedback on. (This might be informed by the assessment rubrics.) In this way, you make sure that all students receive parity of feedback on all the important points.

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Nicholas’ teaching tip #3

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It’s time for Nicholas Houghton’s teaching tip of the week. This week’s tips is:

Learn all students’ names as soon as possible. You’ll find you can do it; we all can. By using their name every time you address them, you not only help them to feel valued, you help yourself to learn their name. The first session you might consider giving them post-its to wear with their names on, so you don’t have to keep asking their name.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
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