Not tracked does not equate to not engaged!

Authors Professor Debbie Holley and Dr David Biggins provide an overview of their research published in issue 27 of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Their paper is titled: Designing for student wellbeing: challenging assumptions about where our students learn.

Our work started with students reporting ‘technostress’ during the pandemic (and yes staff experienced this as well) and reporting that they turned to family and friends to seek support, with only 18% turning to the excellent online materials and signposting Universities offered in lockdown. Digital equity remains an issue across the board, and intersectionality of class, race and disability and disadvantage remain in play. Helsper has taken the digital exclusion agenda forward, reframing as wider socio-digital inequalities. Institutions have responded with strategies to track, monitor and enhance the student experience through learner analytic programmes and it is here that our work has a contribution to make.

Interior Of Busy University Campus Building With Students

The students in our survey are taking their learning to what we term ‘hidden’ learning spaces, where our packages with sophisticated algorithms are unable to track and thus, we argue, misconstrued assumptions are made. Students are choosing not to avail themselves of institutional packages such as Virtual learning Environments, but instead seek to collaborate and engage with their peers in a huge variety of different online spaces. And as we design, we need to consider wider agendas – bite size learning that can be accessed vis mobile phones, podcasts that can be listened to as students juggle their complex lives, reading lists that are more than a knowledge dump of books – embed the fun, creative and innovative.

The paper suggests some ways forward for learning developers, academics and learning designers that puts student wellbeing first; calls for starting our digital conversations with students where the student is, and with the tools they use, and to have the confidence blend learning based on pedagogy, which may mean no technology as well as lots of technology!

Read the full paper, and we would love to hear from you.

Holley, D. and Biggins, D. (2023) “Designing for student wellbeing: challenging assumptions about where our students learn ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi27.938.

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