Co-creating transformative partnerships with students

By Lisa Harris and Sarah Dyer

As lecturers we have all had the experience of bumping into someone we used to teach. It is lovely to hear about how they are and what they are up to. In these chance encounters you often also get feedback on your modules that is pure gold. With lectures and office hours over, coursework submitted and marked, exams done and dusted, there is an open conversation that gets to the heart of the matter – the module’s aim, the challenge and how it is communicated, and the transformative learning we want to bring about. We want to make space for more of these conversations in our universities.

Authentic student partnerships

Student feedback is key to both academics’ professional development and the review of modules and programmes. We have formal and informal ways of gathering this feedback, from mid-module surveys to national ones; office hours to department SSLCs. In responding to COVID 19 we needed to innovate in how we worked with students – feedback wasn’t going to be adequate, we needed to involve students in the design and creation of education before, and as, it was being taught.

So this year we are working directly with a group of 69 recent graduates who are employed as full time members of staff (Digital Learning Developers, or DLDs) and 168 current students (Digital Learning Assistants, or DLAs) Distributed across all colleges, the DLDs are supporting teaching staff with the redevelopment of their modules for online learning, and the DLAs are providing feedback on the changes from a student perspective. While the student voice has always been important, the level of investment in these roles across the whole university has taken “students as partners” to a far more strategic level.

Never work with animals… (or DLDs!)

Our Auditio Blog

We see our blog as a way to pull together co-created teaching and learning experiences so that students and recent graduates have a platform to communicate what it’s really like to study or work at the University of Exeter. This can then inform the development and direction of our education strategy beyond the pandemic emergency response.

Three of the DLAs – Maria, Millie and Poppy – are jointly editing this blog with us. You can read more about them here. Between them they decided on Auditio as the name of our blog, and designed its logo and layout. They have already published posts about their own experiences working as DLAs with staff. They are now busy commissioning more stories from their colleagues and interviewing teaching staff about their educational experiences this year. For example, key themes they are investigating include what people have found challenging, what has been enjoyable, and how students are preparing for a very “digital” future in terms of work, life and learning.

Challenging the “deficit” model of online learning

We recently wrote a piece for WonkHE titled “let’s take the remote out of online learning”. Our objective was to challenge common perceptions of online education in the media as somehow “compromised” or “impoverished”. The assumption is that when we teach online, we can neither provide good education nor the sense of connection and community that makes learning possible. By highlighting authentic stories written by you as students or recent graduates we aim to counteract this by building an evidence-based narrative around themes of resilience, challenge, innovation and opportunity.

So please get in touch if you would like to contribute to our blog. What are the stories you think are important to share?


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