Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Higher Education Strategy Forum- Student Experience and Digital Lancaster

I'm at a Higher Education Strategy Forum at the moment, which is an interesting event, but more on that later...

Lots of short presentations, so I'll see how I get on posting about them.

First up is about the student experience, particularly in relation to their learning experience, and what we should be doing to improve it. Important to understand the current experience, concentrate on what you can do something about and take action. Need to engage with students and gain their trust. Needs to be a much deeper engagement than just talking to student officers. Engage them in course design and development. They can bring elements around the curriculum, a broader picture to make sure it is engaging and relevant. Involve students in co production of knowledge, not just about the flipped classroom, but creating a space where students and staff can interact. My question was how do you get students to accept this way of interactive learning, our experience in some areas has been " I've paid £9,000, now teach me". If something isn't credit bearing, or it involves a lot of work, they're not interested. Of course, I've exaggerated slightly, but our recent experience of "Achieve More", where all of our first year students had to take part in a week long cross faculty exercise designed to teach them a number of transferable skills including team work, problem solving etc was very illuminating. The biggest complaint was that it had no credit attached to it, so why did they have to do it. Their learning experience didn't come into it. If it didn't contribute to their marks, they didn't want to do it. I found that really sad.

Next up was Paul Harness from Lancaster University, talking about Digital Lancaster. They have a five point Digital Strategy.
The world in changing, and many organisations have had to change and develop digital strategies including the music industry, retail, banking, cities and even the government. Universities are no different, and a digital strategy should attempt to answer the question:
How will our organisation survive and thrive in a digital world?
They used a model from Gartner, which was a lens on the university strategy to look at digital opportunities and threats facing the institution, and then looked at capabilities and gaps.
Vision is aspirational and ambitious. Trying to use digital technology innovatively to give them an edge, and make the institution think differently, ie about culture, not about technology.

They've put together a number of resources, including a one page summary and a video which you can see here.

Important that this isn't seen as an IT strategy, but a University strategy. Different parts of the strategy are assigned to different senior managers to oversee implementation.

Some examples of implementation:
1 Mobile applicant engagement.
Have a mobile app, 0.5 FTE working on it, rest of team are students. Have built a lot of functionality. Have developed an app tailored to the needs of applicants. iLancaster. Went into schools and talked to students about what they wanted. Information sent to them about the app with offer letter. Hoping it will improve offer take up. It contains welcome information, accommodation information, 3d tours, booking for visit days etc. Each academic dept can put their own content into the app. Also can initiate live chat sessions.

2 Innovation Hub
Small team of two people looking at innovation and ideas generation, operate in highly agile and flexible way. Operate like a start up, challenging existing processes. Partnering with computer science software development programme. Have created on line ideas platform where ideas can be submitted and voted on.
One of the ideas which came out of this was the Minecraft campus.
The student gaming team comes into their department one afternoon a week and are building the campus in Minecraft from info provided by estates. Can fly through etc. Has cost very little apart from engaging with students.

Some great ideas from Paul. I'm very keen to develop a Digital Strategy, and am hopeful that we can deploy our ideas platform, Ideascale very shortly. I also like the idea of partnering with computer science, and we have our very own company EpiGenysis, who might get a call when I get back. And as for building the campus in Minecraft, genius!

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