What best illustrates the excellent student experience you are offering?
The entire student journey – from lead to graduation – is tailored to the individual in our partnerships with Falmouth University, University of Southampton, University of London International Programmes and Queen Mary University of London where we create, produce, market and deliver a portfolio of blended learning postgraduate and CPD programmes. The application process is swift, simple and effective, with live chat available to assist applicants and a 48-hour target turnaround time between application and offer. Successful student outcomes and high levels of student satisfaction are fundamental to our partnerships.
All students receive access to a state-of-the-art learning management system through which they can gain high-quality interactive materials. They also participate in group discussion and interactive exercises moderated by an online tutor. Because student-tutor ratios are 1/20 they receive personalised teaching and coaching throughout their studies. Learning is mainly asynchronous, and weekly real-time webinars are held at varying times to accommodate different time zones. We offer optional face-to-face events nationally and internationally, providing students with the chance to interact with academics and with one another in person, recognising the value of blended learning as a key aspect of the delivery model.
For example, the Falmouth University MA Photography course, which has 12 different nationalities amongst its first cohort – including Hong Kong, Jamaica and Malta – ran its first face-to-face workshop at a Paris photography exhibition in November 2016 with the most recent workshop being in Krakow in May 2017. Each individual student is assigned a student adviser for pastoral care support and non-academic support ranging from how to access the orientation area of the platform to navigating university support services such as dyslexia support.
What recent developments best show your commitment to boosting student experience?
In May 2017 we introduced a ‘student hub’ which serves as a one-stop-shop for students to access additional support, institutional support services and instruction on how best to use the VLE. We have also recently introduced drop-in sessions with student advisers and we make the experience as interactive as possible, for example through weekly videos and also by interacting with students on our Facebook page. At the end of every module now students are asked to complete a satisfaction survey – giving us the opportunity to rapidly change or adapt materials to clear up any confusion being experienced by students – this all contributes to the student experience.
Are we doing enough to ensure that international students have the best possible experience? Are the potential effects of Brexit for our European students any clearer now?
The diversity of backgrounds of the online student body is remarkable – 12 different nationalities amongst a typical cohort of 20 on our programmes for Falmouth University which have been running for 12 months. UK and international students work together in a seamless, natural fashion. The personalised support offered by student advisers is critical for international students as is access to specialised services including English for academic services. Webinars are scheduled with different time zones in mind. Tutors are located all over the world – not just in the UK. Our support team is multicultural and we have team members fluent in 10 different languages. We are highly supportive of all students, and potential effects of Brexit are not really relevant to online students.
With tuition fees continuing to rise, how might students’ expectations change?
Student expectations will continue to rise – there is no doubt about that. We think universities will need to up their game in face to deliver the same personalised, premium experience we are already implementing in the online sphere. Importantly there is no difference in treatment between our UK, EU or international students.
Finally, how would you sum up the best student experience?
Terrific outcomes delivered via a highly personalised, interactive and stimulating experience with empathetic academic and pastoral support. There is growing demand for distance learning from UK and international students, particularly in emerging markets. More and more people are attracted by the reputation of a top UK institution but face barriers to relocation, including mature students, in-work professionals who want to upskill, those who can’t undertake the financial cost of a year abroad or those unable to obtain a visa. By focusing on a university’s core skills – delivering excellence in education, and working with CEG Digital in our specialist area co-designing and co-delivering new models of learning – we are addressing a growing student demand for flexibility.