Trying new learning methods and experimenting with different approaches to challenges is just as important for educators and Higher Education (HE) leaders as it is for students themselves. Developing strategy through practices like Lego Serious Play, for example, can create solutions that may not otherwise have been considered.
Professor Susannah Quinsee, Vice President (Digital and Student Experience) at City, University of London recently sat down with Kira Matthews, GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead, to discuss adapting to change after the Covid-19 pandemic, fostering community safety and what brilliant student experience looks like.
I’ve been Vice President (Digital and Student Experience) at City since January 2022, so about six months. Previously I had worked in educational development and educational technology, so I have had an interest in how to improve the student experience and how digital technologies can improve education for some time. I’m also interested in innovative techniques for education and am a National Teaching Fellow, so that is how I got into using Lego Serious Play in my work.
We started thinking about curriculum analytics and how we could design the curriculum in response to how students were engaging with different parts of the virtual learning environment. When the pandemic started we realised we needed something around student engagement, so we accelerated the project in that direction.
Our big strategy at the moment is trying to improve our information sources and going back to basics in terms of a lot of our student systems, as part of the overhaul for the next two years and thinking about how we can articulate our vision for learning engagement, and what that means for now.
There’s so much data now, it’s about making use of it. We need to interact with it intelligently and trigger interventions where it’s needed.
We’re really focusing on this at the moment. City universities normally take different approaches because they’re not traditional campuses. 80% of our undergraduates live at home. People have complicated lives, meaning they don’t always want to be on campus.
We’re also working with the Students’ Union (SU) on community building and trying to design timetables and learning spaces so they support students.
I’ve been a Lego play facilitator since before the pandemic. We have a project on setting up and defining graduate attributes, which involved workshops with staff and students to define this, as well as creating various models of what our graduates could look like and what skills they might need.
I’m leading on the workstreams around defining our student experience. We’re always talking about engaging students in different ways of learning — as a leader that’s important too. Using play in a serious and structured way can give students opportunities to try something new.
Coming into large spaces can be anxiety-inducing. We’ve been working on a couple of things, talking to the SU about how they’re supporting students, but also ensuring everyone treats others with kindness and respect. We’re bringing this into our induction and welcome week activities.
Ask questions and be kind. One big learning from the pandemic was that it’s possible to do things differently — we shouldn’t just slingshot back to 2019.
The resilience of our students. Our previous President of the SU, who is the new NUS president this year — she’s a role model and inspiration.