Friday, 8 February 2008

WP5 Student Retention

The focus of WP5 is on student retention and progression.

To recap, we began last year by engaging with staff in student-facing departments across the Library, Humanities and Business and Law. We did this mostly through interviews, although we also used a written survey and liaised with Jo Leese from our Students Union. We collated substantial information about the type of communication and information that is usually available, particularly for first-year students and tried to identify any perceived gaps that could potentially be tackled by using Web 2.0-type technologies.
Although several areas were mooted, such as wikis for potential students before they begin, it was decided through various meetings with colleagues that a first step should be to try to extend and better tie together our existing provision, but without duplicating what colleagues are currently doing. This has received considerable support from staff.

A new site is in the process of being created for students in Humanities and steps are being taken in Business and Law and the DMU Library to enhance our provision of information and opportunities for engagement and interaction with and across the student body, particularly focusing on first-year students.

We have had a range of staff meetings. In Humanities, for instance, we had a meeting with staff this week and decided on concrete steps to build resources and ideas over the next months. Administrative staff from a range of departments will participate in training and awareness raising sessions. We have begun by creating additional online information about re-enrolment for current students; which will be available alongside current learning resources. Central to this WP is capturing the student voice on this; therefore, we intend to run focus groups before the end of term with students in each or our three areas of engagement. So, although we have ambitious plans for including more sophisticated technology in the longer-term, it is clear that to work successfully there needs to be a synergy between the working practices, (and tech know-how and aspirations) of staff in these important student-facing roles and what we hope will be an enhancement of engagement for our students.

Meanwhile, staff in the library have been using blogs and wikis in particular work areas only, but to try to give this a bit more impetus, two things are happening: The first is that some web 2.0 focussed activities are being incorporated into the library service’s strategic objectives for the coming year, and secondly we are going to provide some more “focussed” training sessions. The IT training team are also developing some courses that will support staff development across the university including Coursegenie and articulate.

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