Naomi Beckett and some of her champions will discuss the recent introduction of Student Digital Champions at the University of Bristol. She will present the development of this project, how the students work across the institution and reflect on the progress made so far. This is an exciting approach to help understand the students’ digital experience, and the session will give you a chance to learn more as well as share and discuss with others. In, I think, an ELESIG first, we will hear from some of the students too!
The move to online learning during the pandemic in 2020 was a real chance to develop and improve what digital education resources we had for students. The Digital Insights Survey data already showed us that our students did not feel they had a voice in decisions around their digital learning environment. It was more crucial than ever that all students could access engaging and timely help and guidance, and that they were all able to approach online learning with confidence. However, the Digital Education Office (DEO) at the University of Bristol (UoB) was always primarily focused on helping staff, so student-facing work was a new direction. It was difficult for us to access a direct student voice, but we knew it was important that students were involved in any changes that were being made. They were the ones learning online and we wanted to ensure that they got to have their say.
Introducing the Student Digital Champions
In November 2020, 12 Student Digital Champions (SDCs) were recruited by the DEO and Bristol SU, from across all faculties in the University. They were hired to reach out to students and course reps, and channel the student voice across the University straight to the DEO. They were particularly interested in finding examples of excellent student engagement, and looking at ways to foster feelings of community and motivation when learning online. Throughout their time working with us, they have created some incredible case studies and short media pieces, and concrete ideas for how we could do things differently as well as showcasing what is really going well. This fantastic work, which has made a real impact in the university, includes new student facing digital education blogs, online mingles and toolkits for staff using breakout rooms. They have also been instrumental in creating our ‘Digitally Ready’ induction course for 1st years, hosted on Blackboard, as well as providing feedback on a range of projects, including our Blackboard templates project.
The SDCs have shown us that co-creating solutions with students is a powerful, efficient and joyful way to work. They will now be a permanent addition to our team. It has been difficult to help them navigate the realities of the digital education world, and show them the constraints and limitations we face. However, in doing so we all have a better sense of what is possible, and desirable, for the future of student support and skills development. In this presentation, we hope to inspire others to consider changing their practice in such a dramatic was as we did, and to show the highs and lows of trying to co-create solutions to complex problems with students in real time.
- Short video about the project
- Short video reflecting on a term working with the Student Digital Champions
- Digital Champions Project page