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 

Appinions – Gaming

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Georgie Pitts, Kexin Li and Leah Parker: Student Digital Champions.

Georgie PittsKexin LiLeah Parker

August 2022- Gaming

The age-old battle for control of the gaming industry has been waged between console and PC. Improvements in mobile technology, 5G networks and AV/VR integration could see mobile gaming closing the gap.

Unlike their rivals, mobile game developers often adopt a freemium business model, where games are available for free (or very little cost) and users are encouraged to make in-game purchases known as microtransactions.

Powernode

Powernode icon

Powernode is a puzzle game which requires you to “combine numbers to create energy sources and feed the network”. Essentially, power stations are numbered, and when numbered nodes pop up, you need to sustain them using these power stations. For example, you can use two “3” power stations to sustain a “6” node.

However, if you connect a power station to multiple nodes, it becomes less efficient, so you need to consider how you’re organising your board!

When you open the app, there are two game play options: Zen or Rush. I believe Zen is a slower version, whilst Rush is more fast-paced (although this isn’t explained).

Pros

  • It’s a very aesthetically pleasing game
  • It is challenging, which can be a good thing if you enjoy a challenge
  • Requires you to multitask and plan ahead
  • There is a global leader board, and as its a relatively new game, there are only 2000 people on it, so you could work your way up quite quickly

Cons

  • I couldn’t locate the “How to Play” section. Whilst there was a brief introduction, this was not enough to fully teach the game rules, so it was hard to get the hang of it!
  • It is challenging, which can also be frustrating if you’re looking for an easy game
  • Whilst there are two different modes of game play, there are no levels, so the only way to track progress is using your score

The aesthetic of the game is great. It claims to be very “zen”, and I would agree.

It is not an easy game to get the hang of and was actually quite frustrating at first! However, once you get the hang of the game, it is fun and challenging.

It is definitely a game you could spend hours playing, and I do get better every time I play it. At first I was unsure, but now I would definitely recommend if you like to be challenged, and enjoy focusing on different things at once.

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google play icon. Link to appapp store link

Brawl Stars

Brawl stars app icon

Brawl Stars is a mobile e-sports game from Supercell. The game is a multiplayer shooter where players battle each other in multiple competitive modes with different goals, from being the last brawler to collecting the most diamonds. Brawl Stars will display many different events as the player’s experience value increases such as Bounty, Gem Grab, Heist, and showdown, Brawl Ball, and Boss Fight. Brawl Stars’ gameplay takes the basic logic of MOBA games and cuts it down to the bare minimum — there’s no equipment, no pre-development time, and mostly you’re just waiting for wave after wave of group battles. The match time of about three minutes is also in line with the characteristics of mobile games. It makes full use of people’s fragmented time. Even if you lose the match, the frustration will become very small because of the short match time.

Pros

  • You can team up with friends for game battles
  • No advertisement
  • The game takes very little time, allowing players to start a game anytime, anywhere
  • Compared to other competitive games, the game is low in difficulty and very friendly to newcomers
  • The game design and the characters are very cute

Cons

  • Communication between teammates is difficult and can only be communicated through emojis
  • You need to pay for gems to buy boxes, skins and other things from the shop
  • Some players reported bugs in the game

I personally like this game very much, it makes me feel very relaxed and fun. It doesn’t require me to have any game skills, and I can adapt to the game very quickly. I often play this game in groups with my friends, and we discuss strategy or chat together during the game, which makes the game more interesting. My favorite event is the Showdown, its logic is the same as PUBG, which is to get the final victory by shooting the enemy, but this game is very easy to play, and I don’t need to spend a long time to finish a game. Besides, the game’s characters(Brawlers) are very cute that I’m tempted to spend more time in the game to collect them.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Luminosity

luminosity app logoBrain training app aimed to improve your cognitive skills including memory, attention, reasoning, flexibility, processing speed and problem-solving, using a variety of exercises. Lumosity claims it takes research from labs and has converted this into over 50 fun minigame-type exercises, using your performance score form to provide you with feedback on how your mind works.

Lumosity sets you a daily brain workout, consisting of multiple tasks that aim to improve your performance in one the training modules mentioned. If completed daily, this feature will allow you to track your progress on these exercises over time, providing you with information about your game strengths and weaknesses. Analysis of your game play is used to help understand your cognitive patterns and set up braining training habits, and subsequently used to curate a programme personally tailored to the individual.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Easy to navigate around the app
  • Unique and fun minigames

Cons

  • The free version only allows for three minigames in three training modules each day, meaning you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version to get extra features.
  • Insights, including game progress report and game strength profile, remain locked on the free version.
  • Subscription only, cannot buy game outright.

Overall, I liked the features of Lumosity and found it quite fun to do the daily fitness workout games and see how I was improving over time. However, with the free version you are fairly limited in what you can do on the app. A lot of the cool features I was excited about, including progress reports and all the games, can only be accessed on the premium version of the app. As such I did the premium free trial, and I would definitely say the premium features make the experience a lot better and more exciting, so the quality of brain training may depend on your subscription. All in all, the free version is still fun and challenging as modules and games are alternated each day, so it is an app I am definitely going to continue using.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Bad North: Jotunn Edition

Bad north app iconBad North is a strategy game in which you and your troops defend islands, travelling along the map and avoiding defeat.

You open the app and begin a campaign (you’re able to have 5 at once on different accounts), choosing your commanders and deciding on an “easy”, “normal” or “hard” option. Then, the game begins and you’re deployed to an island. The enemy approaches on boats, and if you defeat them, you get coins.

Your troops are replenished when the next level begins if they died on the previous island, but if your commanders (and all your troops) die, then it’s game over for that campaign, and you must restart it again from the beginning. However, you can recruit new troops if you win a battle on an island they already live on.

If your troops are low health, you can replenish them in a house on the island, but be careful if there are enemies approaching as you’ll need to fight them.

You can even upgrade your troops with different classes, skills, items and traits. For example, equipping them with bows and arrows and developing that skill until they’re veterans.

Pros

  • Option to restart the level midway through or flee if the battle seems lost
  • It is very simple to understand the rules
  • You can unlock different achievements which is great way to track progress and keeps you engaged
  • Easy, medium and hard options for the campaign
  • Good variety within the map in terms of islands you defend
  • Can have 5 campaigns going on at once

Cons

  • It is a bit frustrating that once your commanders die, it is game over and the campaign is lost
  • I didn’t realise that the shadow gradually covering the map was Vikings taking over the islands, and accidentally allowed them to take over mine, meaning it was game over
  • It is £3.49

I really enjoyed this game. It is different to the puzzle games I normally play, and requires different skills. However, it was really simple to understand the basics, although some elements required trial and error to get right.

I really enjoy the look and feel of the game; it has a minimalist feel which is effective and feels modern. It appears to be a rather simple strategy game that looks easy, but does require you to plan ahead and can be challenging. Like any good game though, you get better every time you play. The little troops are fun and easy to move around, and it’s easy to gather coins to upgrade them as the game goes on.

You’ll need to be good at planning and strategizing, thinking ahead and multitasking!

After beginning on the “normal” mode, I’d probably recommend starting on “easy”, unless you’re accustomed to games like this!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Stumble Guys

Stumble Guys app icon Stumble Guys is a knockout game where players can use different methods on different maps to pass levels. This game consists of 32 players competing against each other on random maps, either individually or in teams until a champion is determined. During this process, players need to pay attention to the traps in the level. If you accidentally drop a trap of the level, you will probably be left behind by other players. Each time has three levels and only one player can win the final game. This game is very similar to the current popular game Fall Guys, no matter the game name or the game design, but this is the version of the mobile game, so players can play the game anytime, anywhere. This game is very interesting and challenging, and players need to try repeatedly to get a certain level of winning skills.

Pros

  • Players can get skins, gems, and tokens by watching advertisements
  • This game is very simple and suitable for all game players
  • You can team up with friends to play this game and compete together for the championship
  • Each game is short and doesn’t take a lot of time.
  • This game takes up a relatively small amount of phone memory, only 512MB

Cons

  • The maps will not be updated regularly, so players may get tired of playing a map quickly, resulting in low game stickiness.
  • Players are often paired with robots in order to quickly fill rooms or levels
  • The lack of changes and new features in this game compared to the Fall Guys has raised questions about plagiarism.

This game was very challenging for me, I played for half a month and only got the final victory once. I need to play a map many times before I get used to the tricks. This game is friendly to Apple users. Fall Guys is a platform battle royal game, available on Steam and can only be downloaded by Windows users. Stumble Guys can be downloaded by both Android and Apple users, so this game satisfies my curiosity about Fall Guys to some extent. However, I’m not very satisfied that you need to watch ads to get extra skins. Players have four chances to watch advertisements for lottery draws every day, but these advertisements take a long time, which worsens my overall impression of the game. In addition, this game will not unlock new maps (like they do in Brawl Stars). I always play the same scene over and over again, which makes me less eager to keep playing.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Elevate

elevate app iconElevate is a brain training program designed to help you speak more articulately and concisely, improve your writing abilities, increase your reading speed, process written information more quickly, improve your focus while reading and listening, perform day-to-day math equations, and more.

Elevate’s games are supported by research and designed in collaboration with experts. Each day, you are provided with a personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximise your brain training results. Upon completion, you are able to measure your performance on these exercises and compare them across the skill groups.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Enjoyable and fun minigames
  • Weekly performance reports and content reviews available on free version

Cons

  • Need to upgrade to Elevate membership to access all features
  • Game play instructions quite vague

Similarly to Lumosity, I really enjoyed my daily workout, as I was able to play a variety of different minigames which were both fun and mentally stimulating. The app was easy to navigate and being able to my own detailed performance report which tracked my progress did motivate me to keep playing each day. The app was very easy to navigate but occasionally game instructions, and games themselves, were a bit vague. Again, like Lumosity, with the free version I was limited to what I could achieve on the app. Despite this however, I will definitely keep using the app as I did find the games challenging and motivating. I would recommend it to anyone looking for subtle ways to improve their reading and writing skills.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Utility

Student experiences of online assessment

Written by Olivia Muggleton, Student Digital Champion.

Olivia Muggleton

Olivia recently presented at one of BILT’s Show and Tell events on Student Experiences of Online Assessment. It was a great event and we thought we should share it with the student community too.

Student Experiences of Online Assessment

Last week I was tasked with presenting a few of my thoughts to university staff as part of the Bristol Institute for Learning (BILT) Show, Tell and Talk webinar event. This webinar focused on the topic of online assessments and included talks from university staff and BILT Student Fellows on the behind the scenes of online assessment and their feedback on its success so far – including the wellbeing and accessibility aspects of this new mode of learning. I was fortunate enough to be able to use my role as Student Digital Champion to represent the student experience and offer some feedback from the people who are impacted most by the move to online assessments – Us!

In my presentation I focused on the experience of preparing for online assessments and how this has changed quite significantly over the past couple of years. So firstly, how can you prepare? Beyond revision of the unit’s course content, online assessments carry with them a whole load of technical challenges, whether they’re timed open-book over a number of hours or days, or whether they require hand written text or diagrams to be scanned and submitted: and if you get that far, the next challenge is saving with the correct file names and formats and submitting into the right submission port – and as with any other online activity, accessibility is also an incredibly important factor. So in acknowledging these additional requirements, lets discuss some of the online assessment preparation resources that are available to us as students.

Digitally Ready ‘Digitally Ready for Assessment’

Digitally Ready on Blackboard

Digitally Ready provides students with resources and advice with respect to online learning. Under this specific subheading of the ‘digital induction’ links can be found to all relevant pages such as student services, wellbeing support, the university assessment and exam arrangement pages, as well as the Study Skills resources on Exams and Wellbeing.

As well as signposting, Digitally Ready provides a virtual walkthrough of the Assessment, Submission and Feedback (ASF) areas in Blackboard and a step by step checklist to go through as soon as we know about a timed online exam, including what to do in the event that something goes wrong – overall, a really extensive and helpful resource. The SDCs are also currently working with the Strategic programmes and projects team to provide feedback to improve the ASF area for students.

I’m particularly fond of the Padlet that sits in this section which allows students to view and input their own preparation advice. This provides helpful, practical advice, tried and tested by people in the same situation, but it also builds a sense of community among peers, which has perhaps felt a bit lacking owing to the transition to online learning.

Study Skills ‘Exams and Wellbeing’ and ‘Online open-book exams’ resources.

The Study Skills service create a wealth of resources for students which cover just about anything you could need advice or guidance with. Especially relevant for our purposes are the ‘Exams and Wellbeing’ page and the ‘Online open-book exams’ page. The first of these is a well organised and structured resource which particularly focuses on the stresses that students might feel in the run up to exams. Rather than focusing on the technicalities and revision as such, it provides students with a refreshing insight into recognising unhealthy stress and advice on how to avoid it by better organising yourself and maintaining perspective. The ‘Online open-book exams’ resource delves deeper into the specific requirements of this mode of online assessment and provides some insightful advice regarding certain myths which surround online open-book assessments and some tips on preparing and revising for different assessment formats – for instance unseen, short-term seen and long term seen questions. This resource does tend to be most helpful in terms of aiding an approach to revision, but it nicely caters this to the relatively new format of online assessments. What I like most about this resource is its interactivity and varying format which really encourages engagement – and combined with the possibility of catering it to your own assessment format I think it’s a really appealing and useful page.

Study skills

DEO ‘preparing your submission’

This is a resource that we as SDCs have been quite involved with, we worked with the DEO to give some detailed student informed feedback on the layout and content of this resource and its practical ease for us to follow. This resource really delves into the technicalities and thoroughly explains each and every step involved in preparing to submit an online assessment in multiple formats, on Blackboard or Turnitin.

While it is predominantly focused on the technical side of preparation, I feel that this, alongside the ‘Submitting assignments in Blackboard or Turnitin’ guidance, are really invaluable resources, especially to students in first year who are likely to be entirely unfamiliar with this form of assessment via these platforms. More generally, I feel the DEO’s resources are really helpful as they provide an interactive (and thoroughly detailed) resource for students to click through and follow.

Preparing your submission

What are your thoughts?

Do you have any thoughts on these resources or on online assessments in general? We SDCs are here to champion the student perspective and experience so if you feel that there’s something we should know, please reach out so that we can be even more representative of your voice! We are also always working on giving feedback on university resources and areas of the online learning environment including but not limited to assessments, so subscribe to DigiTalk to keep up to date on our latest developments.

Further resources

 

Posters and Presentations

Written by Amy Preston, Student Digital Champion and MRes Student in Physiology and Pharmacology

Amy Preston

Introduction to Posters and Presentations 

Presenting your research, whether part of your undergraduate dissertation or postgraduate research degree, is a huge part of academia. However, it’s often difficult to know where to start when making posters or presentations. There are a few different ways that you can approach them, so hopefully this post will give you some ideas!

Posters

The main thing to keep in mind for a poster is that it needs to be clear and rely on visual representation of your research. There are multiple tools you can use to make a poster. PowerPoint is useful, especially for posters in landscape orientation. You can also use Microsoft Word or Publisher, but these can be a bit trickier to use. Sometimes research groups will pay to use Adobe Illustrator which allows for figure-making as well. But it is up to you, and you don’t need to pay for expensive software if you don’t have the means to do so. 

The majority of the poster should be focused on your methods and results, so make sure to keep the introduction concise and have a few short conclusions and future directions at the end to summarise. Depending on your course or the conference you are presenting at, you will likely have a specific format to follow – including orientation and size. Usually, posters are A0 size and portrait orientation, so make sure you adjust your font size to accommodate this – a good rule of thumb is 24pt font for main body text and at least twice this size for your heading if your poster is A0. If your poster format is portrait, it can be helpful to split the poster into two columns if you have quite dense figures, but this isn’t essential if your data doesn’t fit this way. 

Poster presentation example
An example of a portrait orientation poster with a two-column format. The science isn’t accurate, but the method of presenting research findings is clear and easy to follow.

Presentations

Many of the same principles from posters apply to presentations and talks. Aim to make them clear, easy to follow and visually appealing. One way to help the audience follow along is to introduce each aim separately followed by its related methods and results (this is shown below). Or, depending on your data and how it fits together, you can introduce the aims all at once, then go through methods and results that follow on from each other. For example, if you found an unexpected result, what methods did you try next to further understand it and what did you find? Try to tell a story through your presentation.

Clear presentation layout
An example of a clear presentation layout, where each aim is followed by its methods and results. Again, the science is questionable, but you get the idea!

Making good quality figures

An effective figure should be clear and not too busy. It can be really helpful to demonstrate your methods with figures, especially in posters to save words, or for presentations where the audience may not have the same specialist background as you. You can create simple methods figures using tools like Microsoft PowerPoint and Visio (which are available in the Microsoft Office package with the university) or use free tools with pre-made components and better freedom for drawing figures like BioRender and Inkscape. Think about how you can break down complex concepts in to easier-to-manage chunks, to help your reader see the big picture.

A simple methods figure
An example of a simple methods figure – this can save words by representing data collection and analysis without having to describe what is quite a complicated piece of technology! This was created in BioRender for free with some data added in.

BioRender website

General tips to remember

  • More visual cues, less words
  • The main bulk of a presentation should be your methods and results – don’t take up too much space with the introduction, focus on your project
  • Unless asked to, don’t put your abstract in your presentation – you will be wasting valuable words by repeating yourself
  • Make your aims stand out – it really helps the understanding of the reader if they can refer back to them
  • Keep the font big, and save words by using bullet points
  • For each slide or poster section, use descriptive titles to help the reader follow along
  • Don’t assume knowledge of your subject area – although there will be physicists at a physics conference, their area of research may be very different to yours!

Useful resources

Hopefully you feel more confident presenting your own work, but above are some useful resources that help me when starting a new poster or presentation – good luck!

A student reflection on communication and social media

Written by Bobby Joynes, Student Digital Champion studying Theatre and Film.

Bobby Joynes

During my time as a Student digital champion, I’ve been quite interested in the relationship between the student body and the university through the use of social media. Students use their phones on a regular basis. Combining both social interactions with workflow as they use popular apps such as Instagram, snapchat and Outlook. I began work with the DEO to utilise this and to merge the connection between the two parties closer together. In doing so, we would be able to relay information efficiently and effectively, while also allowing students to take the initiative to begin their own explorations into their digital activity and to boost their knowledge of how things worked in the world of work.

Yes, it sounds like a tall order. However, I felt that if we were able to bridge the gap, it would be one step closer to securing a stronger connection between the student body and the university itself. I spearheaded a project, that is currently ongoing, to create more online awareness from the DEO to the body, with things like Instagram takeovers with the SU and other societies being the first step, and the project finally concluding with the full integration of an Instagram page run solely by the DEO and supported by the uni. The page would be a direct way of sending out regular tips and updates about ongoing events in order to keep students in the loop and much more aware.

Person holding phone showing Instagram logo
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

As I said, the project is currently ongoing, and the DEO is working hard to try and achieve the goals that I originally stated. On top of this, I wanted to also make a comment about my own perspective surrounding my digital usage every day. As a theatre and film joint honours student, my interactions with technology come in irregular amounts, with the majority being used to support physical performance or film creation. Online learning is something that has generally been kept to a bare minimum because of how little of the course can be completed online. However, the communication that the staff have with the students is something that I truly appreciate. Regular forms and email lines of communication are sent out as a way of checking up on what we think works well and what doesn’t work so well within the department. At the end of the day, communication is the fundamental element that keeps any healthy relationship alive, whether it be between students or students and staff. Without that line of contact, unhappiness and anger can be allowed to build up, resulting in students not wanting to interact and even attend classes.

People working together
Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

I’ve personally found that this communication has been great at allowing me and my peers to express our thoughts which have then actually been publicly addressed, opposed to other empty promises and dead-ended emails sent by other departments which don’t foster any kind of interaction between themselves and students.

Yellow telephone
Photo by Mike Meyers on Unsplash

I want to finish by just saying how important it is for students to communicate with their staffing bodies. It may be tough and challenging, but if they don’t know, then how can they help you? And your opinion matters. It may not feel like it but raising issues with staff via emails or digital forms etc. can make the world of difference to how this university is run.

Find out more about the Student Digital Champions.

Student Digital Champions: Summer 2021 Update

Suzanne Collins

Digital Education Office


Since November 2020, we’ve been lucky enough to have worked with a team of Student Digital Champions from across all six faculties in the Uni. They’ve been out and about, talking to students and course reps to tell us what’s important to students in their digital learning experiences.

This summer, we have had a new team with us, who are helping us with key work we’re now doing to prepare for the new academic year ahead. They’ve been looking at assessment guidance, hybrid learning, support for students using MS Teams for learning, improving our digital skills courses Digitally Ready and Digitally Ready: Reflect and Reboot (which you can find from our Student Support page), and more. We also have a dedicated team of Student Digital Accessibility Champions, as accessibility and inclusion is going to be a real focus for all our work over the next year.

This summer, we’ve been working with:

Arts:

Annie Walsh (UG) and Hollie Smith (UG)

Engineering:

Deepthi Nanduri (UG) and Gloria Bosi (UG)

Health Sciences:

Jessica Mounty (UG) and Emma Ford (UG)

Life Sciences:

Leah Parker (UG) and Helena Thornton (UG)

Science:

Hamzah Teladia (PGT) and Estefania (Nia) Deniz Fuentes (UG)

Social Sciences and Law

Olivia Muggleton (UG) and Alex Maskell (PGT)

Our Student Digital Accessibility Champions are:

Freya Selman – Social Sciences and Law UG
Elizabeth Hodge – Life Sciences UG
Georgie Pitts – Social Sciences and Law UG
Isabella Coombs – Engineering UG

Reflecting on the Student Digital Champions in 2021

At the end of our first group of students, we made with them a short video reflecting on our experiences, which you can watch here.

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/. 

Digital Skills: What are they and what’s the point?

Written by Hamzah Teladia, Student Digital Champion.

We live in a digital age, and more of our lives will become digitised – therefore we must embrace technology. But where does University fit in? We all come to university for one primary goal – to get some kind of employment afterwards. For the vast majority of us, we will join an organisation that operates on digital platforms, and if you are in an ‘office job’ your whole job will likely be done via a laptop or computer.

Laptops on a table
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

University develops you as a person, giving you increased confidence and allowing you to develop your basic skills. These include organisation and communication skills, as well as increasing your knowledge in your chosen subject area or in whatever else you chose to be involved in. Underpinning all of this are your digital skills and competencies. For those of us who are getting through the Covid era, this has been more so the case than ever before. Before, as a basic, most of the material we accessed was via virtual learning platforms such as Blackboard, and we communicated with the University via email when we needed to. Now, we do this much more and have to rely on videoconferencing to interact with the absence of in person contact.

This means that these skills are more valuable than ever before. The workplace is changing, with employers who were not so receptive to remote working beforehand now embracing it. Those who already were have taken it further, therefore the culture of the workplace is changing, and we as the generation growing up with this change are equipped for it.

So, what are digital skills?

Simply, even checking emails and responding in a professional manner where necessary constitutes the basic of digital and professional skills. Employers look for and expect this as a precursor, and this impacts on the way you portray yourself during application processes.

Picture of a laptop keyboard
Photo by Chris J. Davis on Unsplash

Or, digital skills can be as complex as being versed in coding, data processing and visualisation technologies, if you have the opportunity to be exposed to these – likely those in computer science related fields or just a keenness to digitally upskill. If so, you are equipped for the data explosion the world is currently undergoing, and which underpins most of our institutions already – it is also experiencing more demand than supply.

Digital skills are therefore everything in between, but we can start with the small, basic steps. Check your emails regularly, as emails are part of professional life. Manage and use a digital calendar to schedule your time and meetings as a minimum. Think about netiquette and your wellbeing online. Exploit the access to various platforms on offer, such as the Microsoft Office suite. Cloud based platforms, such as Office 365 are all the rage and another additional to your digital toolkit, allowing you to collaborate effectively.

Digital skills matter more than you think, even the simple ones, and even realising this unnoticeable skillset will enable you to actualise the foundation for your future career.

Bringing the cohort together: Student solutions to the problems of online isolation

It’s no surprise to anyone that a lack of social interaction has been really difficult for many of us this past year. In our context of university life, this has shone a light into what a social experience learning really is for a lot of us, and what a huge loss there is when suddenly you’re studying alone. Learning together adds motivation, a sense of belonging, a sense that others are in it with you, a way to sense check your own ideas. It’s that intangible magic of feeling like you’re ‘at university’ which is easy to lose online. How can we possibly foster that feeling when we’re all in our own four walls and without the atmosphere of a lecture theatre, library or seminar room? 

This year, the DEO have been working with a team of Student Digital Champions, spread across all faculties in the university, to try and find out. They were tasked to listen to students, hear their concerns and bring them to us so that we could foreground that student voice in our work. They didn’t stop there though, once they identified common issues arising in the student experiences of online learning, they wanted to do something about it. 

One thing they head from students is just this problem of isolation: students were finding the experience of online learning lonely, and felt that they are missing out on the social aspects of university study. We know that a lot of work has already gone into solutions for this problem across the universityThe brilliant Study Skills team ran ‘Study Lounges’ as early as last summer, and we at the DEO worked with them to make a toolkit for these sessions, so that anyone could run them with their students too.  

The Student Digital Champions decided they too wanted to do something practical, and worked with staff and students in their schools to develop and pilot a series of toolkits and case studies for different kinds of events and activities aimed to bring students together online. The idea is that staff or students can use these as inspiration and practical help to run a session like these in their own contexts. 

All of our Student Digital Champion case studies can be found from the DEO Case Studies pageHere are a few examples which are all focused on increasing a sense of belonging and overcoming student isolation when studying fully online, whether that’s within an online session, at a school level, or as a networking or social event. 

Working with the students in this way this year has been incredible for us in the DEO. They’ve been coming up with ideas and suggestions for how to make positive changes, and we’ve been co-creating solutions which are already impacting the current cohort of students. It’s not always been easy, and these aren’t magic bullets, but maybe they’re a step in the right direction? 

If you want to try out any of these ideas, why not find a few likeminded people in your school and give it a go. Don’t forgot to let the DEO know how you get on, we’re really interested in hearing from students and staff about whether these suggestions are helping to make a difference.