Students and staff gathered at the Gulbenkian on Tuesday night for the ‘Have Your Say’ talk with Vice Chancellor Karen Cox and Deputy Vice Chancellor April McMahon. The two were all smiles, mingling with the crowd of students taking advantage of the free pizza before the talk began.

Cox and McMahon were joined by Ruth Wilkinson, President of the Student Union. The audience were sent round to four separate stations: graduate prospects, academic experience, co-curricular opportunities and space; for each station they were asked to write down the questions they wanted addressed in the talk.

The talk was interactive, with the audience encouraged to speak up and elaborate on issues raised, while Cox and McMahon listened and then responded. Students had a lot to say on the issue of course assessments on feedback: “I think what people are complaining about is that they have no clear idea of where they are losing their markseven though they’re getting feedback they’re not told how much they get for each part of their essay.”

McMahon responded:  “[feedback on assessments have been] a big theme for [the university] last yearthere are some [new] things that should be in place in your school now, and if they’re not in place we really need to know about it.

There were a series of events on the different Kent campuses to help improve assessment feedback and there is currently an opportunity for students to change the way their courses are assessed.

McMahon explained: we’re having a kind of amnesty for assessments in the next three monthsIf schools tell us by the end of January that they want to make changes to the assessment for their module, we’ll make that happen. 

Both Cox and McMahon encouraged students to take advantage of this opportunity by getting in touch with their student reps to tell them what changes they would like to see.

When the issue of lecture capture (KentPlayer) was raised, Cox directed the question back at the audience, asking: “What are you actually using it for?”.

It seems the issue among staff, with regard to lecture capture, is the assumption that students will not show up to their lectures if they know they will be available to listen to later. Many members of the audience proved themselves to be evidence of the contrary, with one student saying: “If I’m doing an essay I’ll go to that particular lecture and revise it again… (replaying lectures can also be useful for revision) because the lecturers elaborate on a particular point that you probably don’t remember, especially if your exams are always in June”.

Many other students agreed that the recordings are useful for revision as well as recapping parts of lecture you may not have fully taken in or understood. One member of the audience who has dyslexia said they were useful for him in going back and making notes.

The downfall of lecture capture, is the sound quality. One audience member said that although he finds lecture capture useful, the sound quality can make it hard to hear and sometimes render the recording useless. Currently, lectures are recorded by camera only, however, McMahon revealed that the University is looking into introducing lapel mics: “Some of our academic colleagues are concerned that their style is that they really like to pace around and move in and out of the audience.”

The introduction of lapel mics could potentially be the solution to lecturers’ aversion to lecture capture as well as the issue of sound quality.

One student commented that although students are encouraged to assess and give feedback on their modules, we never see where that feedback goes. He added that comments from previous students could be very helpful to future students when choosing which modules to take. A student rep in the audience stated:[reps] still don’t have access to module feedback… [even though] giving student reps the ability to see what’s been said about modules would give students more power to change them”.

Cox agreed, saying: “I think that whole thing around closing the feedback loop is really important, if we ask you for your feedback you should be able to see that”.

She and McMahon stressed that the feedback would not reveal comments from specific individuals, but that the information could definitely be collated to give all students an idea of what was expected of them.

Due to lack of time, some of the questions raised by the audience were not addressed in as much detail. Other issues included the lack of internships available to students at the Medway campus and students finishing their postgraduate degrees over summer. The topic of college affiliation had the audience divided; some felt they had a very strong connection with their college while others were not even aware which college they belonged to. One of the final subjects discussed was well-being and pastoral care. Students agreed that on the whole the services available are generally very good. However, many felt that the University needs to do more in order to reach out to students that appear to be in need of help but are not seeking it out, often because they simply do not know the help exists or are unaware of how to access it.

The ‘Have Your Say’ event allowed Cox and McMahon to get an insight into issues faced by students, which they may have otherwise been unaware of. It opened up a discussion between students and the chancellors, allowing both parties to take feedback on-board and to work to address issues raised in the future.