From education to employment

Could your students have the next big idea in education?

Paul Bailey is a senior co-design manager at Jisc

The question that we’re constantly asking ourselves in further education (FE) is: “How can we use technology innovatively to support exceptional student experiences?”.

For college principals and teachers, trying to come up with new solutions to enhance learning is clearly a big ask. Yet, technological developments should not only be made from the top down. Think for a moment just how powerful it would be to ask the students themselves how digital technologies could support them in their studies. It sounds simple, but inviting their opinion and involving them in the development means that you’re actually getting what students want and need.

Summer of Student Innovation

At Jisc, we’ve been doing just that with Summer of Student Innovation, our annual competition that asks learners to come up with solutions to improve learning, teaching and research through technology. The competition invites students to put forward new and novel ideas on technology that could transform education for them, with the best ones then selected to receive funding and support from Jisc for development.

Having grown-up with technology, students tend to be highly capable, confident and well-placed to comment on where it could play a transformative role, and I’m always hugely impressed by the calibre of entries we receive. In the past we’ve seen everything from tools to improve feedback between staff and students, to a ‘murder mystery’ game on a university campus that students make the transition from further to higher education (HE).

Success at Sussex Downs

One of the most promising ideas from last year’s cohort came from Lukas and Kamil Ondrej, brothers from Sussex Downs College in East Sussex. Their winning idea was Lingoflow, a language-learning app design to allow learners to create their own collections of vocabulary, score them on their recollection, and then encourage repetition of the less well-known terms and phrases.

As Lingoflow was developed over a series of summer workshops, we quite quickly realised it could have real benefit to anyone trying to get to grips with a new language. When the initial Summer of Student Innovation run came to an end in the autumn we decided to offer further development support and extra funding to help turn it into a fully functioning product. A few months down the line I’m pleased to say that Lukas and Kamil are close to launching a new and improved Lingoflow app and website, including brand new features.

Ideas in FE

As Lukas and Kamil’s case demonstrates, learners in FE are very capable of coming up with ideas, but it can be difficult for young people who don’t always have the technical know-how to get their ideas off the ground.

With Summer of Student Innovation now in its third year, we want to make sure that learners in FE get a chance to express their ideas. For the first time there is a competition strand specifically for learner led projects in FE or work-based learning. We’re not expecting these students to come to us with a fully-functioning solution. Instead, it is meant to encourage students to join up with their college or work-based learning provider, come up with ideas and work together to develop them, all with Jisc support.

Getting involved in Summer of Student Innovation is hugely beneficial for everyone. Students get the opportunity to gain important design, entrepreneurial and project management skills as they work up their ideas, while for the staff and participating organisation it ensures they stay at the forefront of new technology developments.

To help get people started we’ll be hosting a webinar to offer guidance, and ideas generation workshops in Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle. We have also pulled together some written guidance on how to create an idea. Entry is then made via a short video pitch, summary and 500 word description of your idea on the Jisc Elevator website detailing the benefits and how it will impact upon research and education. Applications are open until 18 May – good luck!

Paul Bailey is a senior co-design manager at Jisc, which provides digital solutions for UK education and research

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