“We want to ensure that the student voice, and student needs as well as staff needs, are positioned in the planning ready for the next academic year”

Written by Dr Joanna Hendy, Director of Learning Enhancement | Cardiff Metropolitan University.

At Cardiff Metropolitan University we have embraced a cyclical process of how quality assurance informs our learning and teaching, and how our learning and teaching enhances our quality assurance processes. We want to position our students at the heart of what we do so have based our student voice and engagement team in our newly-created Quality Enhancement Directorate.

I am working with the University’s senior management team, including the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Engagement, to plan how we are going to move what we currently call our ‘emergency teaching’ to the delivery of a hybrid, flexible model for the next semester. Within this model we want to ensure that the student voice and student needs, as well as staff needs, are positioned in the planning ready for the next academic year.

Our focus is on new and returning students. Within Cardiff Met we have a well-established student representative system, where the Quality Enhancement Directorate and academic schools work collaboratively with our Students’ Union. Each school has a student rep system which feeds into our Learning and Teaching and Student Engagement committee.

However, we were feeling that there was a need to capture the wider student voice beyond our reps. We were conscious that whilst our reps do an excellent job we needed an extended base to inform our academic practice for the next academic year. Although we work a lot with students as partners we really wanted to bring them in as co-creators in the change process.

One example is our student-led ‘What to know before you go’ online guide: an interactive model that allows students to come in and navigate their way round the systems to support their transition to university. We also wanted to make sure that we positioned the student voice in our planning for the next academic year so we have developed a very basic ‘How are you?’ survey, which ran for two weeks in June and attracted over 1,000 responses. Using our ‘Met Voice’ branding – which was designed in a module with art and design students – we shared this survey with groups of students to find out how they are feeling about the coming year.

This information has given us insight into what support the students want and what challenges they might face. We subsequently held a webinar with the Students’ Union team to explore in more depth what students need for their transition, how they are expecting the academic year and curriculum to look like, and the communications that they want to make that easier.

All this work has been shared with our academic schools to inform their curriculum design for the next academic year – and is based on delivering our Student Engagement Strategy and the policy that we have that positions the student voice at the heart of everything we do.

Returning to the question posed in the webinar title, ‘How can effective student feedback help universities to survive and thrive in the next academic year?’, it is clear that mid-module touchpoints are going to be key to identify any issues and challenges that students might be facing. As a module tutor this also gives me the opportunity to react to things more quickly.

It is also important to have check-ins at the start, and end, of lectures. Leaving time at the end of a lecture to give anonymous feedback works really well, as I can respond immediately. Students are also more likely to give me feedback because I do not know who has posted the query.

Finally, we should not forget that whilst this is a challenging time for students, it is also a challenging time for staff and they need support mechanisms too. If used effectively discussion forums on Moodle can help to take the pressure off staff having to provide formative feedback. Students can be part of the formative feedback process as well.

So when I was a module tutor some of the pressure was taken off me, if I used the Moodle forums in the right way, as students in the group would answer various queries that had been posted as we moved through the module. I just needed to keep an overview of this.

Perhaps utilising the sole process of the traditional end-of-module survey needs to be looked at, and become a much more live continuum process we move through this ‘new normal’?

Dr Joanna Hendy is Director of Learning Enhancement at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Dr Joanna Hendy is Director of Learning Enhancement at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and was a panellist on Explorance’s ‘Preparing for our ‘new normal’: how can effective student feedback help universities to survive and thrive in the next academic year?’ webinar on 24th June.

 


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