University Rocks – engaging students with blended learning opportunities
Type of snapshot
Literacies and informal competence testing were timed to coincide with the students’ arrival at university.
What was the context for this snapshot?
We wanted to understand more fully the technical skills of incoming students and their confidence levels in using a variety of types of technology, including their personal technologies. Part of our mission in the Blended Learning Unit is to engage with students and to evaluate the student experience at Hertfordshire. We used a stall at the annual Freshers’ Fair to promote the Blended Learning Unit with sticks of peppermint rock as incentives for taking part in our survey.
What kind of learners were involved in accessing this provision or support?
We targeted the new first year undergraduates, who were the typical Freshers Fair attendees.
What skills or literacies were particularly being addressed?
We were seeking to understand students’ own perceptions of their literacy and confidence levels in using technology, We chose to use a paper-based survey and short interviews. The benefit of having a stall at the Freshers’ Fair was that it was a relaxing and student–friendly environment, so it was away from their academic experiences. This meant that they could be as open as they liked without any concern that their ability was being tested by their programme tutors.
Who provided the support? How was support provided?
Three (younger!) team members manned a stall at the University’s annual Freshers Fair event in September, to promote the use of technology to enhance learning across the University. They were also promoting the Blended Learning Unit which regularly researches the student experience through the year. In 2008 they offered sticks of specially commissioned peppermint rock to any students who agreed to complete a short questionnaire on their use of technology. The team also used voice recorders for capturing soundbites from students. Over 400 students were contacted through the afternoon.
Benefits, outcomes, and lessons learned
The results from the Freshers’ Fair survey were used to inform our ongoing research into the prior experiences of incoming students, which is shared among academic staff and informs planning for supporting cohorts of students where there is less confidence in using technology to access learning. The benefit from receiving the survey results was a comparison with previous years’ results of online surveys.
The session was good for raising the profile of the Blended Learning Unit and provided an excellent opportunity to invite students from all campuses and programmes to take part in the regular focus groups which we run to gather student opinions. In terms of lessons learnt, it is a fun but exhausting way to gather student opinion. We would choose a quieter spot next year as it was difficult to record interviews this year with an adjacent music group! Students were very willing to take part in the survey and more staff could have been used.