For lots of students, the transition from school to university can be a stressful period and, for many incoming students this year, the transition will be particularly difficult, given the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
For Simon Brookes and his team at The University of Portsmouth, this means leaning into the challenges caused by the pandemic and doubling down on ways to create safe and inclusive environments for current and incoming students alike.
Simon sits down with GoodCourse’s co-founder, Chris Mansfield, to discuss how the university is supporting students to alleviate issues like student non-continuation and how he believes their partnership with GoodCourse can move the dial when it comes to engaging students on equity, inclusion, and values topics.
I'm Simon Brookes, the Associate Dean of Students in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, tasked with looking after our student induction and pre-arrival content. I also work in a team called the Being, Belonging and Becoming group, which looks at a wide range of initiatives to help students develop a sense of belonging - from when they join us right through to leaving and becoming professionals.
So quite a broad remit really, but this year we're very much focused on the first part of the journey, which is the pre-arrival and helping incoming students to feel like part of the university community as quickly as we can.
For me, it's all about GoodCourse’s novel approach to the delivery of the content. It’s short, snappy, hyper-focused content, delivered mobile-first in a student-friendly way. It’s built for young people, so it's not just stuffy old gits like me saying, ‘This is really important, you must listen to this.’ It feels much more like you’re being spoken to by one of your peers and I think that's incredibly important.
We also really liked that the information is delivered in very manageable chunks - you don't need a massive amount of time to dedicate to it. If students are able to pick up and remember just a few of the key messages, then there is huge value in that.
There's no doubt in my mind that these topics are becoming increasingly important - we're seeing lots of issues with students with mental health conditions and we're seeing this impacting on behavioural issues when students are here. So we really need to think carefully about what the core issues are and how we can think about educating young people and supporting them through it.
Well, I suspect it's the same for the majority of universities. When you get big groups of young people moving away from home for the first time, often having this level of independence for the first time, and sometimes learning about appropriate ways of interacting for the first time - you see issues and problems. We do however have excellent mechanisms in the institution to deal with these issues when they arise, but what we'd rather is that these issues aren't emerging as commonly as they do in the first place.
Hence it's really important for us that we demonstrate to students that Portsmouth is a safe environment for all students, regardless of who they are and where they've come from. Using GoodCourse is a great way of us saying, look, this is one of the things that we're trying to do to help and support in that area. When you have over 20,000 young people in place, there are unfortunately always going to be issues - which means we really have to focus our efforts and attention on incident prevention and supporting survivors too. Students need to feel safe and supported and be free to focus on having a great learning experience at university.
So it’s been really positive experience all around and we're very excited to be working together. I think we can all see the potential of GoodCourse and I think you've landed on some great topic areas that will very much resonate across the Higher Education sector.
We also like the way that you're packaging the information up, it just makes perfect sense from our point of view and sits extremely well alongside the current programme of student support. It’s clear there are lots of different situations here at Portsmouth where we can see your approach to micro-learning working and, as such, we’re feeling extremely positive about this first rollout and very much looking forward to working together further in the future.