Thinking ahead


By Jill Lebihan

(Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research)

Don’t judge me too harshly but I was pleased that this week (9th June 2016) saw the release of the results of the 2016 HEPI Student Academic Experience survey.  The HEPI report is based on a relatively large survey of the student population (a bit over 15,000 respondents from across the HE sector).  The report covers the usual satisfaction and value-for-money/student-as-consumer stuff, but it also reports on students’ happiness and their own sense of motivation and responsibility for learning.  Many of the issues that the report considers will be discussed at SHU’s forthcoming Learning and Teaching Conference and I have a vested interest or two.

One area of the report which shows there is dissatisfaction is in support for students to develop their own interests. So I’m drawn to sessions in the Learning and Teaching conference that address this problem, in particular to the solution of co-designNatasha Taylor and Will Roberts have used Google+ to engage students as active participants and co-producers of their learning resources, rather than passive consumers.  Getting students to design their own learning package is a way to support them to develop their own interests and share those with peers, so I’m going to see what practical tips Natasha and Will have to offer.  Stella Jones-Devitt is also concerned with student engagement and she is going to be looking at ways of making barriers to participation more permeable, allowing a bit more flux and flow between roles of teacher and student.  She’s asked me to do a bit of roller-derby-style blocking in that session, so I’ll be digging out my shin pads.

HEPI, with impeccable timing, have also just published a report on students’ views on freedom of speech on campus, and their conclusions provide food for thought for Liz Austen and my own session on ‘Safe Spaces’.  The HEPI/YouthSight report suggests that many students are not as opposed to restrictions on speech and discussion on campus as we might assume, even though the NUS has been very vocal in its opposition to Prevent.  The report concludes that students are, at the very least, confused in their views on freedom of speech.  I think we may find, in our workshop, that lots of us are conflicted on this matter.  I’m looking forward to having the chance to explore all of this a bit further with colleagues at the event.