How to offer students a rewarding university experience online

Successfully teaching online is just one part of the battle to serve students remotely. Here David Woolley talks about what universities can do outside the digital classroom to give students a fulfilling experience when they cannot attend in person

David Woolley's avatar
Nottingham Trent University
15 Feb 2021
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Key Details

This video will cover:

00:28 Empowering students with modules focused on building useful characteristics

01:05 Using learning analytics to support students

01:51 Reconnecting students who are disengaging with the university


Hello, my name is David Woolley, and I’m the director of student and community engagement at Nottingham Trent University. I’m going to say a few words about the work we are doing to offer our students a rewarding university experience even if they cannot attend in person,  and in doing so helping us to protect their well-being.

We take a two-pronged approach to this. Firstly, we empower our students. We start with a range of online and physical pre-entry induction modules which focus on a range of issues which are important to us at NTU.

Issues such as citizenship and, this year, effective online learning. We have a university-wide programme which develops characteristics which we believe facilitate success. Characteristics such as a growth mindset, resilience and agency.

We run these in partnership with a charity called Grit Breakthrough Programs, and this year we’ve delivered them successfully online.

We have an advanced learning analytics system. This enables students to measure their engagement with their course and compare it with their peers.

Students having access to this data makes them a partner in the learning journey, an agent of their own change. We run this service in partnership with a company called Solution Path.

Second approach involves being proactive and inclusive by design.

Active collaborative learning is very important to us at NTU. The majority of our courses, the majority of our students experience some learning in this way; we have found it to be particularly effective with target students.

We too use the learning analytics system. If we can see that a student isn’t engaging with their course, we proactively contact them. And knowing of the correlation between participation in extracurricular activities and success, we have a full programme of extra and co-curricular activities, and we proactively secure the engagement of target students in these activities.

We also have a peer mentoring system: students encouraging their peers to attend all of the aforementioned provision. And more finally, both these approaches are underpinned by our excellent relationship with the students’ union. They are true partners in our work.

If the provision works for the students, it is because the students work on the provision.

So if you want to offer your students a rewarding experience, even in these trying times. I would advise empowering the students, being proactive and inclusive by design, and working with the students’ union. Good luck.

This video was produced by David Woolley, director of student and community engagement at Nottingham Trent University.

The Centre for Student and Community Engagement at Nottingham Trent University.

Find out more about Grit and its work


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