Yesterday, I did a round trip to Exeter to take part in the “Supporting Academic Practice in a Digital Age” symposium at the University of Exeter. This provided an opportunity to showcase some of the work we’ve been doing with students here, with an audience of skills developers, academic support staff and researchers. The event opened with a very thoughtful talk by Dilly Fung, followed by Helen Beetham and I as a double-act.
Without much in the way of planning, the talks coordinated really well. Dilly, for example, raised questions about the purpose of Higher Education, advocated student agency and described her “Telling Tales” project, which involved students talking about their experiences of study. Helen followed this up by showing the work that had led to JISC’s programme being put together, and then moved on to talk about specific areas of work in the CASCADE project, including really interesting developments around students as expert technology users and about writing development. Finally, I looked at some of the themes emerging from our baseline work, mainly focusing on the focus group analysis, but also including some early points from the ethnographic journalling work. This was all followed by a lively panel session, which drew in other participants, including two students.
There were lots of little moments – such as Dilly’s account of the spatiality of her knowledge when a student, in terms of library shelves – that had real resonance with some of the experiences our students are reporting, such as the way in which study colonises their homes, or the way in which they take over corners of libraries for their studies. The idea of establishing, maintaining or breaking down the boundaries between study, personal lives, professional work and so on kept coming back; it was also something that was picked up by several of the people who raised questions at the end of the presentations. The discussions led to some interesting connections between Helen’s work around building repertoires of practice and ideas of students’ ‘resilience’ (in terms of being able to cope with bits of their sociomaterial practice failing).
Sessions were video recorded, so I’ll link to these once they’re available.