Being on the Teaching and Learning committee this year has really opened my eyes to what a broad and ever moving student body we have. But also how their expectations are shifting and moving and how we have to jiggle to accommodate.
'Engagement' 'Retention' and 'Success' were the key players in yesterday's Teaching and Learning committee away day, and these are not just things that we discuss to amuse ourselves. The engagement and sense of belonging for each student is key to our success. And in order to achieve that we have to go beyond merely laying on some events in the students union or occasionally ask 'how's it going?'. We have to be aware of what the university community is now - because it's not just the students on campus, the students away from home, the undergraduate students or the students who have a thriving social life. All of these groups still exist but we are also meeting more students living at home, from non-traditional academic backgrounds, post-graduate students, students completing their courses online and those who merely don't want to identify with their university as anything other than their place of education. And all of these students too have to be 'engaged' somehow - driven to come to university and take part in their education.
In response? Well, it seems we have to be flexible; offer information repetitively in as many formats as possible and allow the students to see and hear information in their own time and at their convenience.
I know, it doesn't sound like rocket science. But actually, in the academic world this can mean big cultural shift. Academics working alongside the students and making information accessible, whilst maintaining that university education is about independent learning and study. The student still has to want to find out in the first place.
But bigger than that, and more important was a real drive that students should be involved in their own systems for engagement - not just having a few nights out or buddy systems (although they're important too) but in being part of the strategy and its implementation and see their work in action.
This year the Drama department have embarked on a project with the Higher Education Academy to look at initiatives and interventions which aim to improve and sustain retention and success across the university sector - 'engagement' by another name, We have chosen to look particularly at our pre-arrival students looking at how we can engage our new students before they even arrive in September. With our new slogan 'Are You Ready?' - we challenge our freshers and hope that they take the bait. And with our new pre arrival website we give them 'JEIJET'...........
Just enough information in just enough time.
It may be simple but we hope it's effective and I'll be bringing the findings to this blog - why not take a look......