Academic Digital

Paul Brett, using students as e-ambassadors #iblc10

Students as Partners in ‘e’ blended learning: can they help us?

Dr Paul Brett, University of Wolverhampton


Strategic E/Blended Learning

Widening Participation: 22,000 students, most 1st generation, wide ethnic mix

VLE is widely used, and recently successful in the use of e-portfolio students, with 21,000 students with active engagement.


3 x 180 degree changes that need to make:

  • The e-side of the curriculum might better be done by students than staff

  • We might be better off using technologies that are free & not owning the technologies that we do stuff with

  • We need to stop providing kit for students and incentivise students to own & use their own kit.


We are never going to keep up with the developments in hardware/software, and the nature of the learning opportunities that those provide.


Not harnessing the possibilities fully – so work in partnership with students, rather than trying to OWN it.


Changed learning context? 97% children use internet and a majority of those were creating content…


When printing press was invented, had to stop orally relating stories, so no need to use those areas of our brain, so those parts of the brain shrunk. Neuroscience – functionality of the brain is changing.


Verbal activities & multitasking better, but jury out on critical, reflective faculties… Studies on cognitive processes.


Sir David Melville, CLEX – use students to help


Knowledge isn’t owned – available to all – possible to PERSONALISE!

If we started from scratch now we wouldn’t start from where we are.


Much of blended learning – implies a mode of transmission? Based on an old model?


Now – much is ‘shovelware’ – notes & resources – so how much of the power of the web is actually being used?


Potential barriers – lack of time, lack of staff knowledge, lack of money, institutional culture – for 8 years have been the same issues. Are we really making the radical differences that we could make? Despite staff/teacher development being funded like no other European country.


Students understand better than staff? Is putting a load of data into the VLE really an academic’s job? Work with the students to use the places that students understand with the ‘doing’ of the e-stuff, and what they NEED. Use them to e-support face-to-face options.


Flip Camera ? Photobucket, etc… Tried this on 3 modules. With student ‘E-Champions’ – had mini interviews with them. VLE, PebblePad – told them to do whatever they thought would help in the learning on the module for their peers. Overall – 2 were a success (the one in Performing Arts less successful)


Evaluation of the Project

  • They all set up Facebook groups for their students (focus for 7 types of peer-peer support)
  • Course materials (extra research & extra notes for topics on module where felt was a gap in the teaching, or misunderstandings from the students)
  • Pebble blogs (Place to gather student feedback about issues – going well/not understood; over semester use subsided and it all went into Facebook)
  • Video (but technical issues – largely to do with the video size)
  • Subject Q&A for students (Multiple choice questions on the content that the lecturer was providing).
  • Also functioned as liaison between academic staff/student cohort. Unexpected, but very useful.

Types of peer-peer support (note, “only” 80% of students on the Facebook group)

  • Content creating, extending & sharing
  • Finding new resources
  • Created Learning Activities
  • Filled in Gaps in subject understanding
  • Filled in Gaps in administration understandings
  • Asked colleagues for ideas/issues
  • Mediated between staff and the students on course issues.


Student e-Champions

  • Positive:
  • Role was validated – staff & students accepted it
  • Their motivation – to fill in ‘gaps’
  • Became learning leaders amongst their peers
  • Increased their own subject learning by immersion
  • Negative:
  • Engagement from some students = a degree of apathy (to anything)
  • Technical issues
  • More support & time



  • Far richer, deeper feedback, and far more than they would have been able to do on their own.
  • Improved the dialogue & interaction with the students (staff were members of the Facebook groups).
  • Gave resources, dialogue and a window into learning issues.
  • Had concern about the accuracy of data, but overall very positive about it all.


Rest of students

  • Very much in favour as extra support
  • A source of INSTANT help (not possible from the tutor)
  • Felt more able to voice concerns to peers than staff
  • Would have liked the videos.



  • E-Partnership concept works for STAFF and STUDENTS.
  • Need careful selection of e-champions – fulfilled slightly different roles
  • Was no issue with Facebook
  • Students didn’t really need pedagogic direction & tech support.
  • Students learnt more and staff felt communication channels are opened.


Questions – should we be using Moodle or Facebook? Wrong question? Are there great free tools that we should actually be using? Let the students lead the enterprise – maximise Web 2.0 opps, save staff loads, save institutional costs for hardware? Should the role be a credit-bearing one?


  • Longer lead in/selection process
  • Pre-module planning, meet e-champions/staff to map out the e-side.
  • Give the students full support – meetings, etc.



  • Students paid £75 each in e-tokens. Not all have collected. No stipulation as to what needed to be done. Largely those who were self-motivated.
  • Do you monitor the content? Staff didn’t (as they don’t have time to monitor Wikipedia – which students will go to first!) – don’t have time.
  • Exeter, Students as Change Agents (about to implement e-champions). Ethics of payment, what about those who do better? Credit as a mentoring role, etc.
  • Students probably doing around 4 hours a week…
  • What would you say if students all put the WRONG answer in an exam which is on Facebook? But aside from a ‘health warning’, similar to Wikipedia. Get the students in literate in using web information – evaluate sources as with everything else.
  • Around 50-85 students per module.
  • Did staff NOT use the VLE then? Yes – they gave PPT to the students to do what they want to do with as they like. Students had admin rights for VLE modules – could use if wanted (which they didn’t) – and also a lot of legacy material on there.
  • Take advantage of material that’s already in students technology… Institutions work on a robust wireless network, rather than hardware infrastructure…
  • For Widening Participation – probably cost-neutral, as provide materials for bursary students…  

By Digital Fingerprint

Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture  in the third sector (especially faith). Author of 'Raising Children in a Digital Age', regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

One reply on “Paul Brett, using students as e-ambassadors #iblc10”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.