December already! Sabbatical life has been an absolute rollercoaster and I’ve loved every second of it. Being able to represent students and implement change is an experience like no other and I’m excited to see what Semester 2 brings.
What have I done this term?
After reports by students of lecturers only releasing ReCap recordings a few days before exams, I brought this to the attention of the ReCap Strategy Group, arguing for a change in policy. I worked with the group to update the policy so that it explicitly informs staff that this approach should never be the case, which the University accepted. This shift in policy will allow for academic reps to argue a better case when dealing with this newly raised issue.
I’ve also proposed to the group a ‘Peer Teaching Initiative’, where students are given creator status for the ReCap software so that they can create and upload recordings to share with their cohort. This idea came from my own days as a student when friends and myself would use the visualizer in an empty room to work through past exam papers. So I thought, what if students could go through a past paper, record it, and share the video with their whole group? This idea was very well received and there’s many more possibilities that students could use a creator status for other than recording past paper exercises! This initiative has now been implemented into the ReCap strategy, and will report in to the Technology Enhanced Learning Sub-Committee. Once it’s rolled out it should prove to be a very big academic win!
The ReCap work doesn’t stop there however! In November I attended the Panopto (ReCap service provider) conference in London and delivered a short summary to the conference on the University’s work on the Peer Teaching Initiative. Prior to the conference, the Panopto CEO and other staff visited the campus to provide an update on progress with development requests. I made an additional request that students be allowed to choose their own speed of recording, which is currently locked at 1x, 1.25x,1.5x etc. This request has now been adopted into their development plans for the software.
I’ve been working on designing a poster to promote student awareness of the current ReCap policy, titled ‘Right to ReCap’. I’m currently waiting for the poster design, and then it will be ready for distribution at the start of Semester 2.
This term I’ve lead a rebrand of ‘Academic Rep Awareness Week’ into ‘Shout Out’, which encourages students to provide feedback that can be given to their academic reps or taken on by NUSU to implement changes that support our Big Academic Wins campaign. The idea of giving the campaign a brand came from other successful, long-term campaigns such as S.H.A.G week. I also researched other SU’s across the country where students felt they had a strong voice through their union.
The week in November had a record number of reps hosting stalls and had a strong presence across campus, including the Robinson Library. Approximately 350 feedback cards were filled in, and the Academic Rep Assistants are currently typing up responses so that we can begin to review and analyse feedback. The Shout Out page a huge number of page views which is pretty big deal for a campaign. Overall a really strong outreach for Shout Out.
At the end of the week I presented at the annual rep lunch and arranged for the Dean of Taught Programmes at SAgE to deliver a highly engaging presentation on the value of student representation to the University. There were also some fantastic presentations from students which focused on the successful operation of Student-Staff Committee’s and involvement in multiple NUSU representative roles. The campaign will run again next year in March.
Society representation in SSC’s
I’ve worked alongside the Activities Officer to deliver an e-mail to all society committee members that encouraged their representation in Student-Staff Committee’s. I’ve also produced a video with the President of the Maths society to begin a social media campaign highlighting the benefits of SSC involvement to societies. This will now be going out early next year in time for the next round of SSC’s. The work I’ve undertaken has led to an increase in representation of societies on SSC’s, and stories of successful implementation will be gathered and used to support the campaign for others to get involved.
October Council delivered a fantastic improvement in Council democracy, after I was able to successfully pass a motion by 80% to remove abstentions from the online voting system. This has given Council a true abstentions system, as in the past it was effectively counting as a no vote and leading to a broken system. I was also able to pass a motion for NUSU to adopt a stance of opposition towards ‘Essay Mills’ services, after they hit the news this September. In November, I officially added questions to the Part-time Officers to the Constitution and introduced notices to Council, which proved highly engaging and got those who might not often speak in Council to get involved.
Behind the scenes of Council I’ve chaired 6 meetings of Steering Committee this term. Steering have proved highly effective in ensuring motions are factual and suitable to be accepted as NUSU policy, and I’d like to thank them for their hard work this term.
Bridging the Gap
After finalising the Bridging the Gap content in September, I’ve worked with our Digital Media Support worker to produce 2 Bridging the Gap videos featuring all Sabbatical Officers. I’ve requested that the video files be saved so that the campaign is better future proofed, e.g. allowing future Sabbatical Officers to add new sections to the video if other key differences are adopted into the materials. The campaign has received significant attention from the University, and I will be leading a Bridging the Gap panel at the 2019 Learning and Teaching Conference in April.
The NUS referendum has been hot on the agenda for our team since we came in and now we’re finally into voting! My involvement in the referendum has been taking part in the NSR debate on the No side, organising a video featuring myself, President and Welfare and Equality Officer where we went out to see what students knew about the NUS, and publishing a written statement on my social media highlighting my stance.
Following my manifesto pledge to introduce break days between exams, the University trialled my proposal for break days in between exams as a constraint in the scheduling software. Unfortunately, with this constraint the software couldn’t schedule approximately 60 exams and so the policy couldn’t be implemented for this exam period. The constraint will be trialled again for Semester 2 where there is an additional week of exams, and so the proposal may be more successful. Overall this is proving a difficult policy to introduce and requires further consideration into what other ways NUSU and the University could be supporting students during the exam season. I discussed with the University the possibility of hiring extra venues to achieve this aim, however it appears that the reasons for consecutive days for exams comes from the high degree of module choice and the need to schedule around that. Hopefully we see better results in Semester 2, but again this has highlighted that the problems around exams needs to be explored with a wider scope of potential solutions.
Additional Course Costs
Another one of my key manifesto pledges is now well underway. I brought this item for discussion at Education Exec and the previously titled ‘Hidden Course Costs’. We’ve decided to move away from this frame of language towards additional, as the aim of this work is to get rid of the costs not simply have the University better publicise them. Reps have been invited to provide examples of extra costs they’ve experienced, and the item has been brought forward at the HaSS Faculty Education Committee on the 5th December. I will be meeting with our Representation and Research Coordinator at NUSU to discuss our strategy in tackling this issue in greater detail, which at the moment is at the information collating stage.
- Organised the All Rep Social in December.
- Secured an agreement with Money Saving Expert to hold a telephone interview with NSR, on the subject of student affordability.
- Held regular catch ups with the Academic Advisor on key updates from University meetings I sit on and emerging patterns of academic issues coming through the Student Advice Centre.
- Began working with the University on the Closing Attainment Gaps project with the Welfare and Equality Officer.
- Consulted with a number of key University staff on the Postgraduate Sabbatical Officer and arranged for an open debate at Council to discuss the duties of the role.
- Worked with the University on the new online induction project, an online course designed to provide students with a greater understanding of University life and expectations before they arrive.
- Supported the work on the Ed Farmer memorial event by emailing all Heads of School asking for their help in getting lecturers to distribute the postcards. Lots of support from schools has been received.
- Held a meeting with LTDS to follow up on the passing of my Essay Mills motion, and work through plans for producing materials that warn students of the risks of using these services and the support in place.
What has been you biggest achievement??
For me it easily has to be changing the ReCap policy. My school actually had quite good ReCap practice, so I was shocked to hear that a few lecturers in other schools were withholding recordings until just days before an exam. In my eyes this was completely unacceptable and only encouraged crash revision and was not in any way supporting student learning throughout their module, which is one of the key purposes of ReCap. It also discriminates against those who are unable to attend a lecture perhaps due to sickness of disability until right before the exam, which again is unacceptable. I’m highly grateful to the support I’ve received from University staff in changing this policy so that when reps face a similar issue again, they can use the policy as a clear indicator that this behaviour is simply bad practice. My ‘Right to ReCap poster will also be used to strengthen student understanding of what the policy is, hopefully leading to more and more staff getting on board with this vital service.
What could you have improved on?
I believe I could have done a better job in feeding back on updates from University meetings. A lot of things get discussed which I’m sure students would be very much interested in, but when you finish a meeting it tends to be straight onto the next meeting or task and you don’t get a lot of time to reflect.
What do you plan to do next term?
- Visit London campus with the academic advisor
- Plan campaign work on affordability within Education.
- Review and analyse Shout Out feedback. Run a ‘You Said, We Listened’ style campaign so students can see changes being implemented throughout the year as a result of the feedback.
- Continue the review of additional course costs and begin compiling information gathered.
- Distribute ‘Right to ReCap’ poster to reps.
- Arrange a meeting with the Robinson Library to discuss extending opening hours over the summer for PGT students, following my own manifesto pledge and feedback from the PGT survey
- Work on further planning for NICOT 2019.
- Plan out NUSU contributions to the Learning and Teaching Conference 2019.