I have unfortunately ascertained a headache from pondering. Not just my day job but something else relating to student engagement. So, I need your help! Here I am sharing my short version of the back story and hope you can collaboratively help connect the pieces…
The phrase ‘staff-student partnership’ was something I got accustomed to during my undergraduate years. Being involved in partnership projects at university provided me with an insight into how the higher education system work – from increasing my awareness of other university services to seeing the emphasis placed on students’ learning being the ‘heart of the university’. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of our ‘Students as Co-Creators’ scheme at university and collaboratively working with staff and students across different disciplines to work on projects that matter to us. It was at university where I learnt partnership to be a reciprocal process where students had a shared responsibility for shaping our learning and teaching experiences. Through such collaborations, I am embracing I am a student with a place in the community and not simply passing through the system.
A few years on since that story began and 9 months on since I last stepped into my office on campus; that isolation feeling that I once had this time last year came back. Now having to work from home yet somewhat finding my motivation is challenging at times. The waving from across the corridors or chasing after someone on the staircases when in need to ask them a question was something that we could no longer do. Yet being part of staff-student partnerships pre-pandemic was more than ‘just completing a project’ – but rather able to engage with university campuses more easily without having to ‘pre-book’ a slot days ahead knowing you have exactly 60 minutes in a 60 minutes meeting. Reflecting on the ‘old norms’, it was so much easier to develop our learning capabilities without many barriers. But conversely, online partnerships unite classrooms around the world, offering the benefits in engaging with others who we never thought of interacting with before. (For once, I certainly did, and was able to connect with other researchers around the world! Strange times…)
COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and on so many levels has created situations both personally and professionally which we are constantly adapting to. We know that partnership schemes are still there in our institutions but maintaining that energy and motivation for virtual partnerships is another matter which no-one has a clear answer to. We are still learning to create a ‘new normal’ where students are learning using innovations and partnerships, with available supports for not only the academic problems but also the profound emotionally and psychologically effects that come with this pandemic. Without the traditional means of support, we are all doing our best to build this newfound virtual connection with our students and colleagues.
Many questions have been floating in my mind having conversed with others on enhancing partnership virtually: “Would staff-student partnership be as effective virtually than in person? Could we ever create the new norm nurturing virtual partnerships in the future?”
So here is where I need help from #LTHEchat-ers!
A partnership is about investing and empowering students to co-create, not just extending their learning and knowledge in their field but also our educational system. But what do we perceive virtual student partnerships to be? Could we ever make them as effective as in-person partnerships? Is there a toolkit or the most important question is… is there any framework?
Please bring your ideas and hopefully we can collaboratively unwrap this headache I have…
Kiu Sum is a Doctoral Researcher in nutrition at the University of Westminster. Her research predominantly explores the impacts of workplace nutrition and dietary behaviour of healthcare professionals undertaking shift work and the impacts on their mood and emotions. Kiu found her interest in student engagement activities through participating in ‘Students as Co-Creators’ projects of which she’s also a Student Ambassador and continuing to collaboratively work with staff and students on pedagogy research focusing on student experience, engagement, partnerships and assessments and feedback. Kiu serves as the Student Officer on the RAISE committee, Chair of the Student Section at The Nutrition Society and currently guest editing the next issue of the ‘Journal for Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change’. As a side hobby, Kiu also hosts ‘The Education Burrito’ Podcast, unwrapping student engagement and pedagogy approaches in higher education.