After 100 hours of very hard work, Anna has now completed her student placement with us, producing a great report on how we can increase student engagement with continuous improvement. The main aim of the project was to understand how the University can better engage with students when improving processes and services that directly involve and affect them. We also wanted to look at the best ways to inform and consult students about any changes and improvements that are implemented.
This week Anna presented her findings to our steering group meeting who found them very interesting. Below is an outline of her project and the key findings.
- Clear scope - we scoped the project to include undergraduate students only as they make up the larger proportion of our student body and the current methods of engagement and feedback topics for undergraduates are similar across The Faculties. We ensured that each Faculty was represented, rather than just focussing on one.
- A focus group.
- An online questionnaire.
- One-to-one interviews.
- Development of customer personae (hypothetical archetypes), as a way of understanding the different student types, their characteristics and their needs.
- 85.2% of students said they would be more likely to respond to a feedback request if it was quick (5 minutes). But 72.9% were prepared to spend 10-15 minutes on something they feel strongly about. A suggestion from the focus group was to design short, five minute questionnaires that could be extended if the student wishes.
- 71.3% of students prefer to give written feedback. Outputs from the interviews and focus group suggested that this was because it could be done more quickly and that it allowed anonymity, particular important to some students when providing negative feedback.
- Students sometimes fear the possible negative consequences of giving negative feedback suggesting that feedback could be collected by an impartial party to negate this. Although this was suggested and prioritised by the focus group only 13.9% of the students surveyed felt as though this was necessary.
- 42.3% of students surveyed would like the opportunity to engage on issues outside of their direct department/course, suggesting that despite the time constraints, students would like more opportunities to help improve the student experience.
- Only 76.2% of students confirmed that they were asked for feedback on their course. This was surprising given that this research was carried out over May/June when course assessments are sent out to students. The possible reasons for this need greater research, however our focus group suggested that as many feedback requests are sent out as generic departmental emails some may be ignored or missed. They suggested that requests may receive a greater response if sent more personally via course reps or tutors for example.
- Keep feedback requests concise with an option to extend.
- Use a range of methods to engage different students such as focus groups and interviews which allow greater detail to be extracted a greater degree of collaborative engagement between the student and The University.
- Incentives will not necessarily make students more inclined to complete feedback requests however simple gestures such as a free lunch may be an encouragement.
- We found that the most popular time to hold a focus group was over the lunch period as students said they would be having a break from their studies then anyway.
- Encourage staff to respond to feedback appropriately, creating a blame free, impartial environment.
- Communicate to students about how feedback is being acted upon or why certain changes can not be made. Many of the students we spoke to said that they do not respond to feedback requests because they believe that nothing will be acted upon.
It was wonderful having Anna to work on this project, it was particularly helpful for the research to be conducted by a student as she was better placed to empathise with some of the concerns expressed and talk more candidly about the process and experiences raised.
There is plenty more work to be done in this area but Anna’s hard work has given us a great starting point.