What do Student-led Teaching Awards (SLTA) tell us about student views of technology-enhanced learning (TEL)? We took a deep dive to explore students’ perceptions of good practice and what they consider to be award winning or nomination-worthy practice.
Where did Student-led Teaching Awards begin and what do they cover?
SLTAs have become popular over the last decade as a way for Scottish higher education institutions and students’ associations/unions to gather student feedback. In 2008-09, Edinburgh University Students’ Association and Heriot-Watt Students’ Union introduced SLTA schemes. Six additional schemes were introduced by students’ associations/unions across Scotland in 2009 and by 2020, 15 of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions ran SLTAs.
In 2018, as part of our work on Focus On: Feedback from Assessment, QAA Scotland published a report on students’ perspectives of feedback from assessment, as demonstrated in SLTA schemes. The report emphasised the value of SLTAs as an opportunity for students to express their understanding of good practice in different aspects of learning and teaching. As TEL becomes an increasingly central part of the student learning experience, both in physical and digital learning spaces, students’ associations/unions have begun to introduce award categories that reflect the importance of TEL. In 2019-20, seven SLTA schemes included categories referencing the innovative use of TEL.
SLTA categories for technology-enhanced learning
|Students’ Union||Award Category Title|
|Dundee University Students’ Association||Best Distance Learning Tutor/Adviser|
|Glasgow Students’ Representative Council||Best Use of Technology|
|Highlands and Islands Students’ Association||Most Engaging Online Tutor|
|Highlands and Islands Students’ Association||Most Engaging VC Tutor|
|RGU Students’ Union||Innovative Lecturer of the Year|
|University of Stirling Students’ Union||Innovation in Online Module Content|
|University of St Andrews Students’ Association||Innovative Teaching|
|University of Strathclyde Students’ Association||Most Innovative|
This inclusion of topics outwith SLTAs’ historic focus on feedback, assessment and student support provided by staff recognises the increasing importance of TEL to the student experience.
In this project, we explored student perceptions of good practice in TEL, by talking to academic colleagues across Scotland who had won or been shortlisted for one of these awards. We also asked student representatives who run award schemes with TEL award categories to share their thoughts.
Amy Smith, Union President, University of Stirling Students’ Union, (2021)
From our award category - Innovation in Online Module Content - we have found that students see a lot of value in the accessibility and flexibility of online learning. Students very much enjoy being able to access tutorials and learning materials on their computers and phones anytime, which they found saved time and made it easier to balance other responsibilities with their coursework. It was also highly valued when teachers used interactive programmes for discussions as it helped capture the students’ attention and made the lectures more enjoyable. This was great to hear because, as we know, students who are enjoying their learning experience will learn the content better and go further in reaching their potential.
In addition, students appreciated use of video guidelines, podcasts and innovative ways of using the VLE for sharing video tutorials and even songs in some cases! Students appreciated using newer technologies as they felt it enhanced their practical skills and prepared them for the workplace. However, it was acknowledged that often more support will be needed from students in learning to use new technology and they require clear guidance on where to go for different types of content and how they can engage with it. Staff who provided this support throughout their modules were often nominated for this very reason. This demonstrates why it is so important to keep adapting our Student-led Teaching Awards to include relevant and interesting categories for nomination because it allows us to learn more about what students value in their learning experience, and what excellent teaching looks like to our student populous.
Overall, students appreciated use of new technologies and new media as it kept them up to date with new possibilities and made teaching accessible for all, enabling students to be more flexible with their learning and have fun while doing so.
Student engagement and inclusion
The use of TEL to support greater student engagement with learning and teaching was a common theme throughout the practice shared by academic staff. Using websites and apps to encourage engagement, anonymous or otherwise, in large lectures, is one way that teachers can support the inclusion of all students.
Dr Megan Dee, Lecturer in International Politics (University of Stirling)
Runner Up, 2018-19 Innovation in Online Module Content
Tracy Kennedy, Humanities Lecturer and HE PAT (Inverness College, UHI)
Highly Commended, 2019-20 Most Engaging VC Tutor
I break the class down into 10 or 15-minute segments so students’ attention does not wander. For example, we start with a short lecture, then we have a discussion or watch a short video. As I teach history, I try to use videos such as Epic Rap Battles of History, Horrible Histories or History Bombs. I also try to use music in general as much as possible and have been known to ask the students to create a rap battle of their own! We also use Kahoot (it’s amazing to see the competitive side of the quietest student come out!) and sometimes I arrange for the students to pick a slide from the PowerPoint, research the information on that slide, then the students do the teaching. Everything the students need is available on the VLE and students are encouraged to look at the work before the class. Students are encouraged to ask questions at any point verbally, on the group text chat, or via email. This means that the student can ask a question in a way that is comfortable for them. We also complete lots of group activity, ensuring that the students understand why group activity is so important when it comes to employability skills.
Community building and sharing ideas
Whether students are able to gather in a physical or a digital learning space, SLTAs highlight the benefit of using technology to support building cohort identity and community to encourage sharing ideas and experience.
Case Study: Suzanne Faulkner, Teaching Fellow in Biomedical Engineering (University of Strathclyde)
Shortlisted, 2018-19 Most Innovative Teacher
At the University of Strathclyde, Suzanne Faulkner uses Snapchat as a tutorial tool with her Prosthetics and Orthotics students. Prior to the 2019-20 academic year, the group chat function was primarily used by students in the lead up to tests and exams, enabling Suzanne to clarify any areas of her modules that students may have been struggling to understand. During the institution’s shift to emergency remote teaching, her students shared their appreciation for the group chat, describing it as a lifesaver during this uncertain period.
Caroline Boyle, PGDE Tutor (UHI, Argyll College)
Highly Commended, 2019-20 Most Engaging Online Tutor
Openness and connection
The ability for staff and students to be open with each other and connect in an authentic, professional and constructive way is a central feature of the good practice shared by academic colleagues. Fostering openness and connection in a learning community, particularly one in a digital space, promotes discussion, debate and engagement with complex themes. Ultimately, good practice in the use of TEL is not just about using these technologies, but that its use promotes community building, connection and inclusion.
Kylie Bradfield, Lecturer in Initial Teacher Education (University of Stirling)
Winner, 2018-19 Innovation in Online Module Content
Case Study: Heather Morgan, Lecturer in Applied Health Sciences (University of Aberdeen)
Winner, 2018-19 Most Accessible Lecturer Award
Heather Morgan shared that the student comments she received, when she was awarded the 2018-19 Most Accessible Lecturer Award in Aberdeen University Students’ Association and University of Aberdeen’s Excellence in Teaching Awards, emphasised her approachability, the support that she provides and the interest she takes in her students’ plans for the future. Heather’s use of technology and social media to foster connections with her students is key to her teaching. She shares a willingness to connect with students and answer their questions across multiple platforms, including her Apple Watch, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and WordPress. These opportunities for connection are shared as part of her email signature, providing students with the information in an accessible and easily digestible manner.