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'Students First 2019': Day Two highlights

Sarah Crossing

Sarah Crossing

Jul 26, 2019


And just like that everyone was back on deck this morning for Day Two. Still focused on 'Students First,' today would nevertheless bring brand new perspectives - uncomfortable, inspiring, insightful, technological...


Students at >20 different universities all said this...

Professor Chris Tisdell, Scientia Education Academy Fellow at the University of New South Wales (...and YouTube star, mathematician, former DJ...) kicked off the day by talking student word choice, feedback, and psychology, and wellbeing.

Why? After every Studiosity session, students give feedback. That feedback from students needs to be analysed and used in practical ways (especially recalling Associate Professor Phill Dawson on Day One, who discussed the importance of feedback literacy and translating it into action.)

Chris presented findings from a national study which used the feedback from students from more than 20 universities.

Students used the words confidence, improvement, understanding, reinforcement in their feedback. We heard from Chris how just ten words account for nearly one third (28.5%) of all student feedback on the Studiosity service. If you put those ten words into a sentence, you get: “Thanks very much for the feedback, it was much appreciated. This is a really great and timely service.”

Outcomes: Twice as many students framed Studiosity as a 'service experience' over a 'learning experience'; First Year students had a higher instance of 'learning experience' framing. The word "Confidence" had higher incidence amongst Pathways and First Year undergraduates. Students bring a set of expectations influenced by personal characteristics. The analysis shows that there was a change in a student's confidence as a result of the interaction.

Recommended action: Students need to be supported in personal ways. To improve student confidence, educators should ensure timely support. Online, 24/7 support is also needed as much to fulfil student expectations for their overall university service experience, as it is needed for delivering learning outcomes. More analysis is needed to investigate results based on demographics and other identifiers.

The myth of learning

Dr Jared Cooney Horvath led the room next to discuss why humans aren't naturally flexible thinkers and what this means for students. The author and Educational Neuroscientist at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne was also quick to use delegates as guinea pigs to prove the point:

Outcomes: The ability to learn is transferrable, expert skillsets are not. A context - the facts - can negate even override skillsets.

Recommended action: Are university students learning to learn? Students - as part of their degree - should be equipped to be better critical thinkers, communicators, collaborators, and creators in order to have sustainable and successful careers, and for society to benefit from effective problem solvers.


Do you really care about students?

Michael Burgess, Western Sydney University's Chief Student Experience Officer, who also brings a wealth of consumer experience, was always going to make the room uncomfortable with this session.

Nevertheless, It was a good prompt, because it called for a pause in proceedings and serious reflection. Perhaps because of the guests in the room at this 'Students First' Symposium - the answer was "yes, we do care" about students, and universities are doing more. Western Sydney University's work to put students ("customers") at the core of the university's model, showed delegates what's involved in building an exceptional student experience.

Outcomes: Being 'students-centric' is not the end game - it simply enables us to deliver a better experience. Do academics have the capability to transform institutions?

Recommended action: Universities need an evidence base for what students want and need, and then act on these needs, or consider whether there is the capacity to act on student needs, and change that as well. The university executive must have a focus on students, and allocate resources to delivering improved student outcomes.


Universities could do better looking after the Deaf community

Dylan Beasley, Project Officer at deafConnectEd, presented in Auslan to the 'Students First' room. Dylan explained deaf people have differing education experiences, capabilities, personal and family circumstances, and past experiences.

Under the demand-driven system, this diversity in student backgrounds is now the norm for the entire student population. So with greater personalisation, accessibility of support, and improved duty of care, will the Deaf community start to benefit as well?

Outcomes: Universities could do better looking after the Deaf community, but already have a wide variety of people with different needs to cater to. Deaf and hearing impaired are a small proportion of this group so often not well catered for right now.

Recommended action: Improve the student experience by educating hearing students in some basic Auslan. Deliver literacy and numeracy tests prior to starting a degree or course can assess who needs more help. Deafness awareness training for staff would also help.


Is it time to digitalise peer-assisted learning?

Yes. Mike Larsen, Studiosity CEO, showed us why.

Opening with praise for the effectiveness of peer learning support to-date (eg, PASS), Mike then provoked thought by positing that traditional, face-to-face peer-support methods are however limited by time and place:  9 - 5pm, only part of the day, and at odds with students' diverse lifestyles.

There were nods from the room. Perhaps Dr Chris Tisdell's discussion was fresh in delegates' minds - students are sensitive to both service delivery and learning delivery. Student support needs to be expanded to improve both service expectations (timely, 24/7) and learning expectations (help with unit-specific content).

Augmenting peer-to-peer learning with online delivery seems like an obvious, democratic expansion. This change is especially needed for universities that are keen to maintain high student satisfaction scores and academic outcomes (or those trying to catch up).

Outcomes: How do we as a sector provide this level of at-scale, peer-to-peer support?
Recommended action: Use the Studiosity platform to connect your students to each other, 24/7.


Preview of new technology developments in 2020

Adam McNeil, Chief Technology Officer at Studiosity, concluded 'Students First' by talking about a critical part of improvement: data. 

Adam first explained that the opportunities for Studiosity data also expanded with the services' move to 24/7. Adam also reminded us that data is only as good as the action it informs, and that Studiosity student data helps improve student engagement in other ways across the university, too. Drawing on examples of industries outside the education sector, the point was clear - do something with your data.

So we heard two options.

Option 1, take advantage of Studiosity's API (Application Programming Interface) which feeds data into your university's data warehouse or BI tool (for example, like Chris Veraa's Day One talk, this makes retention analysis much, much easier.)

Haven't set up the API just yet? You have Option 2: the Studiosity Partner Portal. The portal allows you to see everything you need about the Studiosity service at a granular level.

For effective change of the student experience, and other high-level metrics - whether belonging, retention, satisfaction - insight into student behaviour is key. With that in mind, Adam alluded to Studiosity's next development, the student engagement score. But if you weren't in the room... you'll have to wait to hear more about that later.

Outcomes: Data is useful if it is timely, actionable, and accessible. 
Recommended action:
Set up the Studiosity API with your university's data warehouse or BI tool to get new levels of insight; or, for now, use the Partner Portal to get granular detail into service and learning delivery.


That's a wrap!

According to delegates:

  • 94.74% would attend 'Students First' again next year
  • Most valuable parts of the event were: learning about Mental Wealth; practical use of feedback and feedback literacy; and, the opportunity to cross-network with like-minds across institutions
  • Everyone wants to hear more about: the Studiosity online specialists, employability, feedback literacy, case studies from partner universities, and data, data, data.

Will you be there next year?

>> Stay in the loop for Students First 2020


About Studiosity

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