Student Champions are great! In the resource-constrained and time-limited world of the university, having an extra-eager student with spare energy, time and knowledge to give is a wonderful thing. To see such students snap up and run with opportunities, growing in capability and competence, and eventually using their abilities post-graduation – that is always rewarding. Students can bring fresh eyes and unexpected knowledge and capabilities to bear on problems and ambitions, and such teacher-student partnerships have on many occasions refreshed a teacher’s interest in teaching. Many of Warwick’s award-winning teachers have been inspired by their Student Champions.
Over many years at the University of Warwick they have, on a small scale, exploited these effects and characteristics in the name of enhancing learning, teaching and the student experience (LTSE) – especially with regards to enhancing LTSE through new technologies. The Arts E-Squad (2007-2010) project started with a small group (six) of Arts Faculty undergraduate students and grew into a larger self-sustaining network spanning the whole university. By successfully attracting funding, it acquired its own equipment and a room used as a base for technical work and for networking. Some of the students used this as a springboard into more independent work and careers beyond the university. One student started a company while at Warwick, developed out of her E-Squad work, and then a further two companies after graduation (in Birmingham and London). And all the time this had a positive effect upon LTSE enhancement within the university. For the E-Squad, their biggest achievement was to establish video making and the use of videos as a more normal practice, leading into the adoption of techniques like digital storytelling in the formal undergraduate curriculum. Similar teams of students were established in other faculties – the FLAG Team in Social Sciences, and more recently the Digichamps in Life Sciences. Further Student Champion-like work is acknowledged to take place in many other contexts, including Careers and Skills, the Library (especially the Learning Grid study facility), the Students’ Union, and for extending our work on Widening Participation through outreach.
All of these experiences have fed into this report. But most importantly, reflecting with Student Champions on the limitations of the projects has motivated the University to undertake this investigation.