Students are shaping the way technology is used at Gloucestershire College through the Student Innovators project. The idea is to involve students in changing the way digital technology is used in the college. Amina Begum, a Digital Learning Coach at the college told Julia Taylor about the project.
Who can be an innovator?
The idea originally stemmed from the ‘learners’ voice’ at Gloucestershire College. They wanted to be more empowered in their curriculum. We recruit Innovators at the beginning of the academic year during Fresher’s Fayre. Student Innovators come from all departments and courses – from areas such as; Health and Social Care, Performing Arts, Early Years Business etc. We reach out to different departments to engage students that we think can contribute or benefit from the role. We reassure them it won’t add to their workload and is designed to fit alongside their course with a couple of 10 minute meetings a month with a digital coach.
Once signed up, they are tasked with finding an app of their choice that focuses on supporting their learning journey, i.e. note taking, time management, revision and subject specific apps. It gives students a chance to try out and review apps in the classroom with their peers and find out what works for them. Innovators then write up their reviews on the Student Innovator blog where others can find out more about the apps.
How do staff benefit?
A selected ‘App of the week’ is circulated in the GC Weekly update – keeping you up-to-date with the latest College news and events – with the Student Innovators stamp of approval, so that staff know about them. They can then ask for training from the digital learning coaches so they can begin using them in their teaching / lessons. Student Innovators take part in learning walks and help staff as well as students to use the apps.
The project started with a recommended list of apps for a wide range of uses for example RefME (now Cite This For Me) for research but we have been adapting the ‘Student Survival Apps’ list ever since with apps recommended by Student Innovators. One particularly popular app is My Study Life. It offers time and subject management so you never forget assignment deadlines or exam dates.
How do students benefit?
One of the best things about being a Student Innovator is that it gives them real experience of a work environment – attending meetings and doing presentations – they get to add this to their CVs. We see improvements in their writing, digital skills and confidence. It keeps our IT use current and really engages all the students with everyday IT that helps them study more effectively.
All too often, apps that make studying easier are only promoted to disabled students and that makes them feel ‘different’. GC Student Innovators have recommended apps for remembering tasks, like Wunderlist, capturing notes with OfficeLens, visually mapping ideas for assignments with Inspiration and improving writing through the Grammarly browser extension. In fact these ‘productivity apps’ can be useful to everyone so it is great to see them being shared by students.
We never set out to focus on accessibility but students share apps that have made a real difference to their study. Here, any student can get ideas on how to manage their work better.
Since our presentations at the Jisc conference and Bett show, the project has had wider exposure and interest from other FE and HE institutions. We are hoping to collaborate with some of them through the project but also get involved in piloting the idea in their organisations. In house, at Gloucestershire College we will begin to collaborate with our graphic students who will be tasked with re-branding the GC Innovators brand. We hope in time the project can be taken over by students and managed by them exclusively.