Whatever Challenges Face Higher Education, the Collaborative Culture Lives On

A Brief Preview with Explorance Collaborators and What's to Come

Reading Time: Less than 3 mins.

Synopsis: This blog details recent events, blogs, and presentations from Explorance partners such as Cardiff University and Stockholm School of Economics. With many challenges and obstacles facing the Higher Education sector, the value of community and collaboration still prevails.

University strike ballots over pay and pensions, rows around freedom of speech, fears over student safety with reports of spiking by injection, challenges around the sector’s commitment to climate change ahead of COP26 and IT cyber-attacks: these are just some of the stories making the headlines over the past month alone.

Higher education is a fast-paced and dynamic sector, and this is one of the reasons why I love working in it, but it is also a sector that is faced with a multitude of strategic and operational issues at any one time. Therefore, I really value Explorance client universities making time to share their views and experiences with our community. During the period when all these stories have hit the media, institutions have participated in events we have run to showcase how they are working with us and their learnings.

Insights from Cardiff University

Ellie Mayo-Ward, Student Engagement Manager at Cardiff University, recently presented on how they adapted legacy approaches to student voice by utilising Blue to introduce Cardiff Pulse: an agile, near real-time feedback mechanism. She described how they wanted to frame this as a conversation starter with students; a conversation every month from March-June open for seven days to all 30,000 students where they could pick up issues/concerns and deal with them. Ellie said the best thing they did was integrating Pulse with Blackboard. Following VLE integration the response rate in April was 20% (compared to 7% in March). This brought the highest number of responses they ever received.

We will be publishing a blog by Ellie next month reflecting on the project, some of the challenges and how these were overcome, but for me Cardiff’s approach is one of the most refreshing and innovative I have seen during the last 12 months. She said herself how time for implementation and staff engagement was limited, yet it showed that as an institution they can work rapidly when needed and when students need them to. This is a good example of how universities generally have (and this has been accelerated by the pandemic) sought to actively listen to students and effect change more quickly. That our software, Blue and Bluepulse, is helping universities achieve change is very satisfying – and we are now working with Cardiff to implement module evaluation surveys.

Stockholm School of Economics – Their Experience

Similarly, and beyond the UK, we heard a really valuable account from Stockholm School of Economics. Assia Viachka, Academic Controller, and Kristin Petersmann, Data Insights Manager, discussed how Blue had impacted on their institution through automation and time saving. Flexibility of module questions in accounting for variations in course structure, timely delivery of results to allow teachers to work with feedback while the memory of the course is still fresh, and data analysis to help teachers easily identify what they should focus on were just some of the key benefits that were shared. This followed an in-depth case study we developed this year, which you can read here.

Looking ahead, we are now planning an event on whether student evaluations of teaching should be used to measure the performance of university staff. Systematic approaches to end-of-module evaluation surveys, or mid-module/Pulse surveys, are generally developed on the premise that universities need to respond to student feedback more effectively and use that feedback for evidence-based decision-making.

However, in some institutions, students evaluate individual teaching staff as well as the module. The extent to which this happens, and contributes to Faculty performance management, is a big debate within the sector globally. So, we are going to run a panel discussion event looking at the pros and cons of whether module evaluation surveys/student evaluations of teaching should be used as a tool to measure the performance of Faculty.

This is a subject that has come up in previous insight reports we have produced and, whilst it may be a controversial one, we see our role at Explorance as the convenor for discussion on such hot topics. We will be sharing more details soon.


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