What Students want – Impressions of the Student Panel (eduhub days 2014)

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On February 18th and 19th the eduhub days took place in Genève. The eduhub days are a yearly conference for e-learning experts in higher education from all over Switzerland. Since few years the Student Panel is one of the highlights of this conference. This year 8 students discussed questions that dealt with didactics in general and the use of media in teaching in higher education in particular.  The most important topics were: How can students convince professors to use new technologies and methods? How can professors convince students to dare to participate in new didactic ways? Why should students use e-portfolios? Is collaborative work in virtual worlds merely a trend or the way of the future?

Since two years the SIG Student Voice is responsible for the organisation of the student panel. The aim of the panel is to involve students in recent development and to learn more from how they experience academic learning. This years moderators were Stefan van der Vlies (team Fachstelle) and Willi Bernhard (FFHS). Our 8 students were Michael Imhof (FHNW), Seamus Forde (FHNW), Alexander Dietmüller (ETHZ), Alen Mujkanovic (ETHZ), Hermann Blum (ETHZ), Beat Hörmann  (ETHZ), Immanuel Mueller (UniL) and Alice Genoud (UniL). Compared to other years, this year’s panel was improved tremendously: each student was assigned to a mentor, who introduced him/her not only to the conference schedule and topics but furthermore to the whole community. This allowed a more in-depth exchange between experts and students.

The Student Panel itself revolved around interaction between the students and the audience. This was aided by the use of an edupad: a collaborative writing tool that allowed all participants to ask and answer questions in real time. The most important/crucial topics of this interactive text were answered by the panel and people in the audience could also ask their questions in person to the panel. The discussion therefore was both, online and offline.

Although many topics were discussed, three questions grabbed our attention in particular. In the following paragraphs we will give a short overview of these questions and the answers. The first question is a double questions “How can we (the students) convince professors to use new technologies and methods?” and “How can professors convince students to dare to participate in new didactic ways?” Several people who were in attendance came with solutions. There were solutions that said that students and professors should be in dialogue about these topics (“keep discussing!”) but it was also encouraged that the students tell professors concrete examples of which new technologies and methods they would like. Another kind of answer people offered, was to keep new technologies fun and encourage good experiences for the earlier adopters. The last group of answers to this topic is to educate them. “Them” in this case could apply to both the students and the professors.

The second topic that caught our attention was why students should use e-portfolios. One of the students provoked the e-learning experts a bit by saying that it looks like more work and in the end all that is expected from students is that they get their diploma. Also here plenty of e-learning experts chimed in. They answered the student that e-portfolios are a way to present your best work and working with an e-portfolio is therefore a way to stick out (in a good way). An e-portfolio also encourages reflection that helps people during the process of learning but also will help during job applications and interviews.

The last topic that we would like to highlight in this article is the question from one of the students if collaborative work in virtual worlds merely a trend is or the way of the future. Here the answer was clear: It is way of the future (and even the present). Collaborative online work will take to be adopted by everyone in his or her daily life but according to some e-learning experts it is the way to success.

The student panel was the most successful part of the eduhub days 2014 in the view of the participants.

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