This year at Sense College we have had a re-imagining of Learner Voice. Students were asked to volunteer to be Student / Learner Reps for each area and Pathway (Vocational, Creative and Enterprise and Sensory, Interns, FE Students and Flexible Futures) and in our first meeting on March 10th the reps decided to call themselves College Ambassadors.
Technology enabled Ambassadors to do a range of activities that would not have been, otherwise, possible. These activities have also highlighted where we need to develop the use of technology further. Here are some of the activities that have been carried out this year.
One of the College Ambassadors representing the Interns started a learner voice work placement. The intern carried out a range of weekly tasks that included creating a half termly newsletter, carrying out surveys, analysing feedback from the surveys, and maintaining the College Ambassadors / Learner Voice boards.
When carrying out interviews the student used a dictaphone and an iPad to record the questions and answers. This student has Cerebral Palsy with a mild communication difficulty, as well as difficulties with typing, spelling and grammar. Standard speech to text technologies will not work for him, but technology such as Voiceitt would have helped him to be more independent. This is something we may need to purchase in the future.
Surveys and Learner Feedback
Feedback from students regarding the outdoor spaces led to some fantastic ideas being proposed as well as the creation of different garden areas. These garden areas are slowly being worked on by students, as well as staff.
Feedback from students has also led to the painting of a wooden fence in order to turn it into an art installation. The two students involved in the art project used an iPad to take photos of the area and to draw designs onto the photos. The art work should be finished before the end of the academic year.
The outdoor spaces look so much better, even though they are not quite finished. These improvements will continue next year, and we hope to use technology to help make the outdoor areas even more accessible and inclusive.
The College Ambassadors also did a number of surveys to gain feedback about a range of topics. One of the surveys was about students’ experiences of working at home during lockdown as well as the experiences of students who continued to attend College. This information was placed into a bar chart and sent to the College Management Team and to the Governors.
Surveys were available in print, large print, Braille and widget, but it would have been more accessible with the use of voting technology where students could tap the screen to indicate their responses. Additionally, voting technology would help the Ambassadors to get more feedback more quickly and more often when compared with paper based surveys. This is an important area of development for us.
All College Ambassadors were invited to take part in a Question Time session, using Teams, with the College Management Team as well as with the Governors.
The Ambassadors shared their questions and suggestions during the meetings and shared answers and actions from the meetings with the students in their Pathways. Suggestions included having more vegan and dairy free options in the Bell Bar, requesting more iPads for each Pathway and having a card reader instead of paying with cash. Ambassadors now have a list of actions including finding out how many students have a debit card and how many prefer to pay in cash. This will then be fed back to the College Management Team and Governors and a decision made.
Newsletter and blog
The first College Voice newsletter was created with lots of interesting articles about being a College Ambassador and a peer buddy, as well as interviews with the Principal and Work Placement officer. The newsletter will continue to be created half termly, and next year the College Ambassadors will also create a whole College Learner Voice blog. The blog and newsletter will be managed by a small group of students as part of a marketing work placement. More iPads and / or tablets would help the students with this activity, so this is an area for development at College.
During the rest of this academic year, and into next year we will continue to work on incorporating learner voice into all activities, including sessions, interviews with new staff, meeting and greeting visitors and prospective students and creating a film about the importance of learner voice using the College Media Hub’s filming equipment and editing software.
In sessions students will be asked to evaluate the session and voting technology and the use of switches would help to make sure all students are heard. With any interviews or meeting of visitors students with communication difficulties will be able to use an AAC devise, iPad or tablet to ensure that students from different Pathways can take part.
Next year we also want the College Ambassadors to continue with all the activities we carried out this year, but develop those further. For example we would like College Ambassadors to run Green awareness events, take part in the College’s self-assessment report, and hold Learner Voice events for current and prospective students. Technology will play an important role in the continued development of learner voice at Sense College Loughborough.