Conference Presentation

Our Journey: Designing and utilising a tool to support students to represent their study journeys

INTED 2019: 13th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference | Valencia, Spain | 11th March 2019

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It is increasingly common for educational institutions to develop representations of the student journey. These representations tend to assume a common series of events that all students will experience in a particular order. These representations may become a key informational object for staff and students, but they appear limited. They rarely attempt to account for individual variation in these journeys, or to encompass the full range of issues and life events that can impact on the student. Instead, they represent an idealised institutional view of what should happen. 

Students have diverse circumstances and goals. Their experiences of education include challenges and achievements that are often invisible to the educators and staff working to support them at any given time. The impacts of important events on each student, and the ways in which they, as a person, change over time, are critical yet poorly understood in educational research and practice.

A participatory research activity with our Disabled Students Group prompted us to explore the possibility to support all students to be able to represent their own study journeys. Our aim was for this to be both as a means to empower students to communicate and reflect on their experiences, and to support educators and educational institutions to better understand these experiences.

We describe our process and findings as we engaged with a range of stakeholders to understand how the tool should be designed, and how it can be utilised. This includes the initial development of a paper-based version for face-to-face use, which then informed the development of a fully-functional online interactive tool. We will demonstrate/describe the features of the online tool along with findings from our uses of the tool with students and staff.

The basis of interaction with Our Journey is for students to add events cards to their journey board. Students choose an event type from a wide range of options including administrative tasks like “registering” or “finding information”, life events such as “employment” or “finances”, or study-related events such as “assessments” or “peer support”. They provide a short description of the event and also their emotion at the time, from a range of options. Finally, an optional text note can be added to any card to express additional reflections. Although it is not a competitive activity, Our Journey has a game-like aesthetic and journeys are visually engaging to motivate creation and sharing. Accessibility has been a consistent priority in the design.

We have found that Our Journey has the potential to support students and educators in a variety of ways. It can provide a vehicle for personal development where students create a representation of their journey to date and reflect on it. Because the journey representation provides insight into the student and their support needs, it can facilitate effective support and dialogue with staff. In a research capacity, the creation of a journey can be used to structure narrative and support interviews that discuss aspects of the student experience. As an online tool that produces structured output, Our Journey can provide feedback on student experiences at scale. This can identify common issues and procedural patterns, for example the types of events that students find stressful, or sequences of events that lead to a problem. We are exploring all of these possibilities through engagement with stakeholders and students.

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