Category 4 ~ Engaging Diversely

An initiative delivered by a students’ association, or led by a students’ association in partnership with their college or university, which demonstrates a clear commitment to developing student engagement activities that reflect the diversity of the student population

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Winner:

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Make a Difference – Dynamic Learning Initiative
~ City of Glasgow College

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Runners-up:

ESTABLISH: The Student-led Year-long Induction
~ Edinburgh Napier University

STEP UP Module for Articulation Students
~ University of Dundee

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Read more about all three submissions...

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Make a Difference – Dynamic Learning Initiative
~ City of Glasgow College

Following focus groups, students from Building, Engineering and Energy Faculty identified that they would like more industry experience to help build their skills. There were also a number of low retention groups within this Faculty. City SA, in partnership with the Student Engagement Team and the Faculty, worked to develop a cross-faculty community-led student project that would allow students to use the skills they learn in the college workshops and help people in the Glasgow community. The ‘Make a Difference’ Dynamic Learning Initiative was born and began in academic year 2017/18.
Students from the low retention groups were recruited to work in partnership with a local community project called “The Arch Resettlement Unit” which provides residential support to male services users who have been, or are at risk of becoming, homeless. Cross referencing the project criterion with their course curriculum, students studying painting and decorating worked to renovate a tenant’s flat, students studying brickwork dismantled an external brick-work plant area, removing an old course of brick and replacing it.

Taking cross-curricular partnership further, the project recruited Media and Journalism students to document the transformation throughout the renovation journey. The aim of the project was to create an opportunity outside of their normal classroom setting for students to practice and develop their academic and interpersonal skills, enhance employability skills, the chance to engage in the community and improve retention rates by creating the space for them to feel motivated to continue their course and feel supported by the college and local community. Students involved undertook a ‘Respecting Others’ workshop to ensure respectful communication with the service users, who were invited to the Awards Ceremony where students received an official volunteering certificate from Saltire Scotland and the new College ‘Industry Academy’ certificate. The students who took part in the project were overwhelmingly positive about their experience, and importantly, retention levels increased. View the Youtube video about this fantastic initiative.
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ESTABLISH: The Student-led Year-long Induction
~ Edinburgh Napier University

Over the past two years, Edinburgh Napier students, in conjunction with the Widening Participation Team, have endeavoured to strengthen early student engagement by building a sense of community amongst incoming widening participation students, even before their first day on campus. The aim is to foster a sense of belonging which they hope will ultimately have a positive impact on retention. This year, this 100% student-led project is taking things one step further with their plan to create the ‘year-long induction’. Once offered a place, students identified as being from a widening participation background are sent an invite to a private Facebook group, to provide support, answer questions, aid with matriculation and create networks in advance. In addition, the Establish Instagram profile aims to make incoming students feel more familiar with where they are coming to study; and the Establish YouTube page includes content on topics such as mental health, exam prep, essay writing, and cooking on a budget. All content is chosen by the students, with a focus on the very particular support that these students may need. The project also provides ongoing support through training sessions based on ‘what works for us’ as well as ‘mini social and academic support groups’. The team also carried out research into why students from a widening participation background tend not to apply for mobility trips, which led to a successful short-term mobility trip to the University of Newcastle in January 2019.

The shared ownership of the project gave the student team a real sense of pride that what they were doing was having a big impact on engagement for the incoming students, demonstrated by the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from the students benefitting from the project, with 98% of them indicating they would suggest that future students join the group. Creating a sustainable, dynamic team is one of the core aims of the project, with many students who have benefitted from the project being recruited to join the project team, to ensure that it continues for future generations. This shareable framework is easily transferable, and the team are keen to work with other institutions to help them implement a similar project.
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STEP UP Module for Articulation Students
~ University of Dundee

This credit-bearing Level 1 module running in semester 2, is aimed at enabling effective transitions from College to University for Associate Students in the Humanities and Art & Design (DJCAD) subject areas. It is designed and delivered by staff from the Academic Skills Centre in collaboration with Academic and Support staff from across the University. Associate Students spend their first year at Dundee & Angus College completing an HNC while also being fully matriculated at the University of Dundee. They articulate into Level 2 on a 1+3 programme - so the STEP UP module runs alongside their work at College.

Students have helped shape the curriculum in a number of ways:

  1. The first cohort of students in 2016-17 took part in a research project on the effectiveness of the module in terms of student confidence, academic skills and preparedness for University. The results of this were used to enhance the module for the following year.
  2. 10% of the module grade is for participation and engagement. This is graded by module tutors based on preparedness for, engagement with, and attitude shown towards the module, workshop sessions, and online discussions. Students decide on the particular details of this in class, giving them ownership of this assessment.
  3. As part of the development of the module, in January 2019 a new reflective assignment will be introduced for a further 10% of the module grade. This will take the form of a 'creative output' to give student's flexibility to approach this how they see fit.

Feedback from the students has been excellent, increasing their knowledge and confidence; and the institution has seen an amazing improvement in the retention and progression statistics. The Level 2 to Level 3 data shows a 100% retention (up from 54%) and a 91% progression rate (up from 46%) from students who took STEP UP in 2016-17. This kind of approach fits within a range of options for transition support for articulation students, such as summer schools, induction programmes and welcome events - helping to create connections and a student sense of belonging, shaped and developed by the students and their experiences.

Student Engagement Framework
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