A reflection on my time as a Student Digital Champion

Written by Olivia Muggleton, Student Digital Champion

Olivia Muggleton

I began my role as a Student Digital Champion (SDC) in the Summer of 2021. Having recently returned from my much needed post exam holiday, I was re-energised and raring to start making some changes to our digital learning experience as students at the University of Bristol. Since then, I am proud to say that I have provided the DEO with a number of insights, resources and other miscellaneous contributions which I feel will prove useful, not only for current and future students, but also for the DEO in helping them understand what it is that works for us. Beyond this, however, I have also received an immeasurably valuable experience thanks to the DEO, as it has pushed me to develop my skills and confidence in a way that I could not have imagined prior to that Summer of 2021.   

As it was an entirely remotely based role, being an SDC enabled me to gain valuable work experience despite living at my home in South Wales for my final two years of study. Although I was wholly inexperienced in working remotely, I soon discovered that organisation, time management and the ability to work productively and efficiently with minimal supervision, were going to be key to adapting successfully to this new style of work (at the time I had also started Peer Mentoring so this lesson was learnt doubly as fast!). As I was afforded great freedom to select and complete my tasks and projects in my own time, the SDC role really enhanced my skills in all the aforementioned areas, especially as it was a role that I undertook alongside my fulltime studies – Self motivation and drive are essential! As a result, I am now confident not only in my ability to adapt to new modes of working, but also in my ability to produce high quality work in a timely and efficient manner, by setting my own deadlines and keeping a thorough log of my hours. 

Desk with a laptop and lamp. Photo by Rich Tervet on Unsplash

Being able to work autonomously in this sense was not, however, the only skill that I developed thanks to my work as an SDC. The ability to communicate and work well in a team was also a central requirement for this role. Thanks to the highly collaborative and open minded environment that the DEO and other SDCs have created, this is an ability which I feel I have strengthened tenfold. I now feel that I can better appreciate the value and insight that can be gained by encouraging individuals from diverse backgrounds and circumstances to share their ideas and perspectives, as these will inevitably lead to more effective problem solving and an all-round more supportive (and subsequently productive) workplace – From accessibility requirements and culture to professional background, everyone has a unique perspective which can enable you to see the bigger picture when trying to creatively solve problems and overcome particular challenges. In the same vein, the SDC role provided me with an opportunity to focus on the areas of my communication skills which I felt least confident in – For instance, I was able to coordinate and lead two presentations which portrayed the student voice to university staff and academics within and beyond the University of Bristol. This has increased my confidence in presenting and orally communicating my ideas to my team members and audiences in a formal, presentational setting. It has also improved my confidence in taking the lead on projects, a confidence subsequently demonstrated by taking the lead in creating the student digital glossary and keyboard shortcut guide. 

While I would love to elaborate on all the interesting projects and tasks that I had the pleasure of working on during my time as a SDC (and all the skills that I subsequently developed in relation to these projects), I believe it is sufficient to say that this was an incredible opportunity, for which I owe a great deal to the DEO. Accordingly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the following individuals who made working as an SDC such a valuable and enjoyable experience. Firstly, I cannot convey enough thanks to Naomi (Nay), my first port of call when I needed any guidance in this role – From the beginning Nay has always been in touch and eager to put our ideas into practice, she really cares about our progression as SDCs and what we get out of the role, not simply how we can benefit the DEO. She works incredibly hard and is generally a lovely person who always made me feel comfortable in expressing any thoughts or feedback and regularly encouraged me to pursue the things that I cared about most. I would also like to thank the rest of the DEO team – Every one of them truly respect and actively seek out the student perspective, going out of their way to do it justice. It was nice to be treated as an equal in a professional environment where my input was highly valued, and I have the upmost confidence that the team will continue to work hard to shape their work around the needs and concerns of the students at the university long into the future. Last but not least I would like to thank my fellow SDCs – Although I have seen many come and go due to my extended time within the role, each one of them has inspired me with their ideas and passion, enlightened me and opened my eyes to perspectives and challenges which I may never have even considered without their contributions. Everyone has always been friendly and eager to help each other to be successful, which made for a very easy environment to collaborate and work productively as a team, so thank you!  

Person walking on a beach. Photo by José M. Reyes on Unsplash

I think my three extensions make it quite clear that I would happily go on to continue my work as a SDC, but unfortunately I could not do the role justice as I am no longer a student! So where do I go from here? As of July I have completed my LLB Law with The University of Bristol and cannot wait to get stuck into the legal world in practice. It is fair to say that this role has set me up incredibly well and provided me with a level of confidence in many skills which will prove highly transferable when I commence my next role. From team working and communication (written and oral) to problem solving and even remote working (time management, minimal supervision, organisation), working as an SDC has enabled me to leave university feeling prepared and ready to tackle the next phase in my life, but it has also provided me with some treasured friends which I know will help me on that journey.  

Girl looking over hills. Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

All that is remaining for me to say (in case I have not made it clear enough) is that I highly recommend that you apply to become an SDC – It is more than a source of extra income, it is an opportunity to shape the digital learning experience that is provided by The University of Bristol (and perhaps beyond) while gaining valuable experience and friendships along the way.  

Thank you 

Diolch 

Olivia 

Why the student voice is so important, and how I am using mine to shape the digital learning experience for others

Written by Helena Thornton

Student Digital Champion and Undergraduate student of Psychology


When I began at the University of Bristol in September 2020, I had no idea what to expect. If university at all is a big step to take, moving across the country to start my degree in the middle of a pandemic felt like a giant leap. There were so many unknowns: of course, I had the more usual university concerns of whether I would like my flatmates, learning to cook for myself, and working out how to write a university-style essay. However, alongside these I faced Covid-specific questions: How I would receive my teaching? What would online teaching look like? Would it be accessible and engaging, or isolating and frustrating? Could I still build a social life with impending lockdowns and restrictions? 

A year on, many of these questions have been answered in some way or another. And, I am pleased to say that, while my first year of university was certainly a strange one, there were definitely positive elements of the experience. A lot of this has been down to how the university has managed to facilitate learning and even social opportunities online over the past year. 

Online learning took a while to get used to. One of my favourite things about it has been the flexibility it provides: I have enjoyed being able to watch pre-recorded lectures wherever and whenever during the week! This has been particularly helpful for me as someone with a disability: being able to break a lecture up across a longer period of time when needed, or spend a bit of time re-playing a part I didn’t understand, has definitely made the content more accessible.  

As expected, there have also been difficulties associated with learning almost completely online: from the more general problems, such as feeling more isolated from others on the course, to the more specific confusions around how to get Blackboard and other pieces of software to work!  

As the year progressed, I began to realise that, despite having almost exclusively online learning, there were still a lot of ways I could get involved with the University, and with other students. I started off by joining societies, and as I had an interest in Accessibility and Inclusivity, I sat on various committees as a Disability & Equalities Representative. This was a great way to meet people, and to help to build student communities online, by organising virtual events and participating in campaigns.  

It also made me realise the huge variation in student experiences of online learning, and of university as a whole. The switch to remote learning and online assessments has been much easier for some than others. It’s so important that anyone disadvantaged by the new systems, or struggling to adapt to them, is given a voice, and access to the support and resources that can improve their experience.  

With this in mind, this year I have started as Chair of the University’s Disability and Accessibility Network, leading the student platform for students with a disability, mental health condition or neurodivergence. This is an exciting opportunity to work with other students, finding ways to amplify their voices and improve their experience. 

As well as this, this role – alongside the others I have had in the past year – have (and continue to) offers fantastic opportunities to work with University members of staff, particularly those focussed on improving the student experience. As someone both with a disability and in a representation role for other disabled students, it has been really great to get involved in this type of work, being able to feed back about the different experiences students have had, and looking at ways to resolve the difficulties that come up.  

When students are placed in a position where they can speak and be listened to about the problems – and successes – of university learning, powerful changes can be made. For example, last year the Disability & Accessibility Network worked with the University to highlight the gaps in disability accommodations being provided in online assessment formats. As a result, new solutions were found, which have had an important impact across the University to the student assessment process. 

Going into second year, I have also started working with the Digital Education Office as a Student Digital Champion, a student role where I can give feedback, work on projects, and create resources alongside the DEO staff members. Although I haven’t been in the role very long, working with the DEO has been a really positive experience: it not only gives students a voice, but also provides a channel through which to collaborate with staff at the University to improve the resources available to students ourselves.  

The Student Digital Champions, alongside the DEO, are able to work together to improve the online learning experience for students. As we all have unique experiences of online learning and assessment, we can use these to ensure that the DEO’s priorities are as relevant as possible, and are approached in ways that can make a lasting impact for students.  

As a result, I am now not only able to answer the questions I had as a new student facing online learning, but am able to help create these answers myself! At a time when there has been so much change to the university learning experience, this is a great way to ensure that the new systems and ways of learning are positive changes, and I am very pleased – and proud – to play a part in that. 

If you would like to find out more about the Disability and Accessibility Network, feel free to visit our SU Network Page: https://www.bristolsu.org.uk/groups/bristol-su-disability-and-accessibility-networkor our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BristolDSN,or join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bristolsudisabilityandaccessibilitynetwork/.