Day 1 of the JISC Change Agents Network Conference

I’ve been lucky to attend Jisc’s annual Change Agents Network Conference, held this year at the University of Exeter.

I recorded the following quick recap at the end of Day 1, but wanted to return to some of the sessions that I found most interesting (though everything that I’ve attended so far has been informative and worthwhile).

As  promised, here are a few write ups of the sessions I enjoyed the most from Day 1.

Digital Leaders: Running a peer-assisted digital skills programme

Holly Singleton (Subject Librarian) and Janine Diva (Digital Leader) from the University of Coventry

This workshop covered the Digital Leaders programme at Coventry University, which was a collaboration between staff at Coventry’s Lanchester Library and the institution’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL). Digital Leaders is a staff-student partnership programme, but one that seeks to enable peer-to-peer student learning.

Holly Singleton spoke on behalf of the Library staff involved with the project, while Janine Diva represented the students who had participated as Digital Leaders. The project involved recruiting Coventry students to take part in five workshops:

  • one introductory session
  • three thematic workshops – Social networking and communication; Digital wellbeing and privacyFinding, handling and sharing information
  • A final “passing it on” workshop, where students were asked to identify areas of digital capabilities of interest to them.

The participants who were selected to be Digital Leaders were then grouped together in areas of interest and given a (fairly) free reign to develop projects. These could be around developing workshops for other students, producing online resources and guidance, developing community projects – anything really! You can find out about some of the projects that Coventry’s Digital Leaders have undertaken here.

We had the opportunity to try out an activity that Holly and her colleague Phil use in their Introductory Digital Leaders workshop – What Digital Animal are you? . This activity was originally developed by Emma Coonan and you can try it out yourself on Qzzr here:

What Digital Animal are you? on Qzzr

Here’s a supporting blogpost from Emma on the activity. This was a really good ice-breaker activity and prompted loads of discussion – though as the solitary spider in the room I had to join the eagles 😦

I thought the Digital Leaders project sounded really interesting. Holly and her colleagues have done a great job of engaging a group of students around the subject of digital literacies, and have enabled and supported them to take forward projects in a variety of areas.

Refresh Your Maths’; Peer mentoring and student-created online resources to improve students’ numerical reasoning skills

Katie New (Maths mentor) and Jake Hibberd (Student Engagement Manager) from the University of Exeter

Exeter’s Student Engagement Team identified the need to extend maths support at the University, particularly due to the prevalence of numerical reasoning tests used in graduate recruitment across a range of sectors. Jake gave the example of timed numerical reasoning testing employed by the Civil Service; such testing is challenging for students from a mathematical-related discipline, let alone those who may not have studied maths for a number of years or at HE-level.

Exeter sought to leverage the skills and experience of their Maths students to deliver peer support, while also giving those Maths students the opportunity to develop their mentoring, presentation and content-creation skills.

Exeter’s Maths department use 2nd year students as mentors to their 1st years (this is currently an unpaid voluntary role). Jake shared how the Student Engagement Team targeted those same students as they entered their 3rd year, with the opportunity to continue to build their mentoring experience. The new Maths Mentoring scheme was also a paid role (Jake explained that they considered it equal to the responsibility of a PGR Teaching Assistant, so it was important that the pay reflect that).

As well as running face-to-face workshops, the Maths Mentors also developed a range of online materials to complement the sessions or work in a stand-alone context.

Peer-led Maths sessions are open to all Exeter students and can be booked online. Here’s a screenshot of how students can book a place (from Exeter’s Peer Support pages, though details of the sessions themselves are on their careers portal behind a log-in).

Maths Refresh

Katie Wild is a 4th year MMath student at Exeter, and was a Mentor on this scheme – she was able to give first hand evidence of how mentorship had increased her confidence when it came to presenting and how it had led her to further mentoring opportunities that she didn’t think she would have considered otherwise. We also saw video testimonials from other mentors: some of them highlighted that mentorship has given them experience of explaining mathematical concepts to others, which has been a really positive experience. Some also noted that online numerical reasoning tests can require a very specific skill set and even though they considered their maths skills to be strong, they also benefited from delivering the revision sessions and would feel more confident with this kind of testing in future.

Evernote Camera Roll 20170420 155228

Feedback on the Refresh Your Maths scheme has been overwhelmingly positive (students rated their satisfaction with the online materials slightly higher than the workshops, but both were very positive, around the 88-90% mark satisfied). Attendees at the workshops did highlight that they wanted more opportunity to engage with practice numerical reasoning tests, so that’s being designed into a new peer-led session .

The mentors are looking to compare test results of students before and after engagement with the workshops and resources; they are still compiling these results but I’d be really interested to see this when available. I thought this was a great project and one that had really benefited both participants and student mentors, while exhibiting great partnership between students and staff as well.

If you’re interested in what else took place on Day 1 of the conference, slides and resources will be added here and Sarah Knight’s Storify of the day in tweet form is here.

Check back in a couple of days for a write up of Day 2 of the conference!

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