Speak Week 2020: What you told us
It’s that time of year again. No, not just dreich weather and broken New Year resolutions, but Speak Week results! In this blog we’re going to give you a quick overview of how Speak Week took place this year (spoilers: it’s a bit different), and some headline results from our digital respondents.
📣 How Speak Week 20/21 was different
Each year SRUCSA conducts a qualitative survey of current students centred around key areas of the learning experience. Normally this is carried out on campuses. Where we stand in corridors and ask you to fill out feedback cards for one week only. This year we had to rethink this approach to provide a COVID-safe Speak Week. An online survey was an obvious choice, but in the age of online learning and Zoom-fatigue we added a postal option as well.
Our online survey collected responses from 90 students, giving us around 2.5% response rate. Our postal survey provider collated a Speak Week response card, freepost return envelope and delivered them to all registered students. Returned cards were received by the company, who then held them in quarantine before returning them to us.
Unfortunately, due to the quarantine delay and the postal delays experienced across the country, we did not receive postal responses until mid-January. We are now adding these responses into the overall data, and these will form part of the final report that will be released ~shortly~. In the meantime, we can report on initial figures from the analysis of the digital results.
⛳ What you told us about your courses
This year the most commented on areas were course related, and this is perhaps unsurprising when students have spent little time on campus. 23% of students who responded had something positive to say about their course content. We were expecting to hear a lot from students about online learning. The responses were balanced, 14.5% of students reported a positive experience:
“Classes can be accessed at any time to look back over, it means the teaching is really flexible and they always put up so much extra – relevant videos and articles that are great.”
However, 12% said they have had a negative experience with online learning, for example:
“Give more notice for pre-learning. We sometimes had 2 classes on a Tuesday and only found out about the pre-learning on the Monday”
🦠 How Covid-19 impacted your learning
Around 20% of students mentioned COVID-19 or the pandemic explicitly, which was lower than we had expected. Of those 68% made either a positive or neutral comment (we defined neutral as showing ‘acceptance’ of the situation without being particularly positive or negative), and 32% made a negative comment. There were a number of heartening comments here that show students understand and appreciate the measures that have been put in place:
“They are taking COVID seriously and have put into place good hygiene practices to keep everyone safe”
“It leads by example. During COVID SRUC has been innovative and forward thinking to avoid unnecessary stress to students. SRUC is way ahead of other Colleges and Universities and they would benefit from following SRUCs example”
The negative comments tended to criticise the lack of in-person classes. Although it is currently not possible to return to classes on campus, comments such as these remind us how difficult this period is for some students:
“More options for in person teaching/trips out. I am very aware we are in the middle of a pandemic […] I can feel myself losing motivation near the end of term and I think if we had a couple more in person sessions then that would boost morale and motivation a lot”
🌲 What it’s like to be an SRUC Student
Around 1/3 of respondents spoke to different areas of the student experience (outwith teaching). These comments were a bit of a mixed bag, containing a number of different student worries. Comments in this section spoke of feeling isolated, lonely, and lacking peer contact. Students showed an awareness of the need for inclusivity, with comments varying widely from
“[SRUC] is totally inclusive for all students, no matter their educational background” to “increase awareness of invisible disabilities” and:
“I have severe anxiety and have reached out to lecturers about not understanding things and was met with rude replies that made me not want to reach out again”.
10% of comments spoke of a positive student experience, and 10% of respondents also spoke positively of the formal support they had received through SRUC.
👩🏫 What you told us about your lecturers
Teaching staff is an area that is frequently commented on each year in Speak Week, and this time was no exception. A large majority of comments were positive (76%), with students showing strong appreciation for the efforts staff have put into new systems of teaching this year. There was some overlap here with online learning, with students reflecting that they feel supported by their teaching teams in the online realm:
“The lecturers are passionate about what they teach”
“The lectures really try to understand every individual’s needs and they are very helpful”
“[I <3 SRUC because] of the way they put their heart and soul in to their teachings”
The small number of negative comments indicated frustration with staff-student communication, organisation, or structural issues as in this comment:
“I’ve seen a reduction in staff with lecturers being forced to cover multiple subjects”
Usually we would see a lot of Speak Week responses praising non-teaching staff that students regularly interact with. Unfortunately this time those comments were very rare, we think this is simply due to the fact that students aren’t out and about on campuses, and therefore aren’t interacting with non-teaching staff as much as usual.
💚 What you think about SRUC
While picking through the data, an unexpected theme took form. We’ve called this ‘values’ as we think it speaks to the things that SRUC seeks to embody, such as expertise, innovation, and caring for the environment and others. A number of students spoke about how their studies are supporting their dreams and aspirations. It inspired us to read these comments, so we’ll leave you with a few:
“They care about their students”
“Access to experts in the field”
“It’s given me the confidence to believe I can study as a mature student and strive for a better future”
“SRUC has given me the opportunity to restart my life and take it in a direction I am happy with. This course has allowed me to start actively working towards my goals again, in an environment where I can give it my all. Thank you”
We’re happy to have been able to run a successful Speak Week again this year, despite the differences in all our ways of working and studying. Just a reminder that the areas we’ve discussed here come from the digital survey, so some of the numbers you see might change in the final report. We’re working on the postal survey data right now, and look forward to revealing the full results soon™. Look out for our next blog post.