What does a Vice-President Digital and Student Experience do?

On January 1st this year I became Vice-President (Digital and Student Experience). Very exciting, very humbling and, if I am honest, rather daunting too! The first three working weeks in my new role though have been spent handing over my previous role (as VP Education), preparing for my teaching, attending coaching workshops, vice-presiding at graduation and writing a book chapter, amongst other things. I’ve just started to think about what I should be doing in my new role and thought blogging about it might help my thought process ….(I should say that obviously I do have a job description but….).

My VP coaster given to me by a friend 🙂

Student Experience

Let’s start here, this seems like the more straightforward part… Well, in
some respects! Perhaps I should say more immediately understood. Working
closely with our Students’ Union and understanding the experiences of our
students. I’ve been involved with our Covid responses and this seems naturally
to fit this part of the role. Also some schools have Student Experience
Associate Deans or similar so working with them will be important. I chaired
our Student Experience and Evaluation Forum last week – this will be an
important part of the role. What else… knowing our students – we are doing a
lot of work on getting more data about our students to inform other projects.
Not that there is a typical student, actually the opposite, but our very
diversity means that how we deliver learning and teaching needs to acknowledge
our students are very unique and have different backgrounds to most of our
staff, particularly our teaching staff. There has been a lot about the student
experience in relation to the NSS, which is obviously important, but I believe
we should be thinking about our students because it is the right thing to do,
listening to them and enabling them to achieve, and that goes beyond the NSS.
Also thinking about how we support our students, particularly in relation to
mental health, and as we (hopefully) start to move beyond the pandemic.

What would I like to do here….I would love to do some shadowing of our VP
Education and our students. I’d also like to do more on what our students want
now after learning during a pandemic and how this has shaped their experiences.
Also want to engage with parents. So many of our students live at home at
undergraduate level that parental engagement is key. And I would like to put
inclusivity and wellbeing at the heart of our curricula and student experience.

Digital (transformation)

What does this mean?! This is the bit that feels less known and equally exciting. Is it Uber for education or netflix for education and what does this mean?! I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means, particularly as the pandemic unfolds. If you look at digital disruption pre-pandemic, it was all about moving online. Now, well, less so! More about moving back to campus. But, but, so many of the issues are the same as before – whilst we are all keen for more in-person social interaction, we are also used to being able to access meetings, people, learning, resources online. Where and when we want to. So, for example, we have seen a huge uptake in some of our student services through the use of webinars rather than in person sessions. And for so many students being able to access materials online that are high quality and can be referred to again and again or used on the commute to the university is a real win. We also now have students coming to university who are used to learning in a blended way – ok much of that was by necessity over the past two years but this is now becoming by design too. My children in primary school often have lessons delivered by subject expert online whilst they are in in-person school. This is a model that they will be used to by the time they come to university.

There are some really exciting things I would like to explore in this space. Firstly by articulating what we mean by “digital” and the scope of this activity. Then taking this and starting off by working with our students to understand what community means and how they want their learning, teaching and student experience to be delivered. Also working with our staff to understand what they want and what skills everyone needs. I really want to understand how our physical and virtual estate and activities intersect, as well as how we can expand our digital offer and use that to innovate our learning and teaching models.

Lots of questions, lots of things to do. I do not think I have the answers but I have a lot of questions and I know working with others we should have some great conversations.

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