In common with many other universities we worked with students over the summer to prepare for hybrid learning and teaching. LTW recruited and managed 44 student interns who migrated over 3000 courses from 20 schools into the institutional template in our VLE.
The Learn Foundations project team is experienced in employing student interns to support business requirements generated as a result of the implementation of the Learn Foundations approach. This year however, the number of interns working with the team and School colleagues was quadrupled and the students all had to work remotely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From the support provided by the student interns, the following was achieved:
- Over 3000 20/21 courses migrated onto the Learn Foundations template;
- Over 1000 of the above courses supported with content migration;
- Over 100 academics liaised with directly regarding content migration;
- Over 600 courses were mapped with over 80, 000 items reviewed to allow for an institutional baseline for Learn courses to begin to be created;
- Undertook over 16, 000 accessibility checks across circa 2000 19/20 Learn Courses to understand ‘how accessible’ content and courses are within Learn;
Careful thought went in to supporting the interns to bond as a team and structure their days with a mix of work, set breaks and social activities to keep them busy, motivated and refreshed. A daily briefing session was held to discuss tasks, review progress and allocate activities, this also provided the interns with an opportunity to come together as a team. These sessions have been positively evaluated by the students who valued the structure and sense of purpose they provided. They also enabled students to raise questions with team members about technical questions and other issues.
“Having a set time for a call each morning was great as it provided a structure and set out the tasks. It also allowed us to feel more a part of the team.”
In addition to the morning briefing, the team instigated a twice-weekly social hour for students to come together and have a bit of fun. These served to support team bonding and break up work flow. These were managed by the project manager and project administrator and were positively evaluated by the students.
“The social hours were great to allow us to bond as a team. It created a healthier atmosphere and made us more comfortable working with each other.”
With such a large number of interns working remotely there was a risk that the coordination of task allocation and delivery could become fragmented and messy. Microsoft Teams was used as a work platform with one central channel for all students and latterly, additional work specific channels were created for those students involved in certain tasks.
“I think working on Microsoft teams, having dedicated channels and a daily meeting worked well.”
There were challenges in managing workflow throughout the internship as a result of the large number of students involved and rapidly changing business requirements as a result of the speed with which School colleagues were adapting and adjusting to new ways of working. When there was a break in workflow, students were encouraged to use LinkedIn Learning as a tool for professional development.
Hardware, software and the internet
Students were offered hardware to ensure they were able to deliver their work from home. In previous years, computers and laptops would have been available from an office base. Some of the students experienced a delay in receiving hardware which had an impact on their ability to get started straight away with their work.
The students commented on the challenges of remote working. Some experienced periods of isolation and felt separated from their colleagues; most appreciated the effort that went in to building a team and keeping them involved and busy.
“It was tough doing this remotely as you couldn’t really get to know your colleagues. The social hours helped but I think it was often tough to organise fun activities with each other and people often backed out.”
“It was really nice that we were given so much social time, as it felt especially isolating working from home and not meeting other people.”
“It was challenging for a start to bond online however after a few weeks our team became quite close.”
The team was aware that technical and internet issues may impact on workflow and took positive steps to support the interns with hardware and software advice. These issues were taken account of in the work flow to ensure the students were not placed under pressure or disadvantaged as a result of these factors which were out of their control. This was appreciated by the students.
“The team was very understanding of technical or internet issues which was great because that could have been stressful.”
Despite the challenges of engaging with such a large number of student interns working from home, the experience of remote working seems to have been valued by them. They identified the challenges but most also commented on how beneficial the experience had been to them.
“It was a really developing experience because I think I learnt more about working in a team virtually than when working in the office! The number of emails and messages sent also made me much more comfortable with working online in a professional setting.”
“The opportunity to work remotely in a team has been a valuable experience. Because of this, I believe that my communication skills and confidence in working independently have improved.”
Investment and outcomes
Whilst the students have highly evaluated their internship experience, the investment required from the team to support such a large number of students and provide them with a high quality experience, was high, especially by the project manager and project administrator. It is estimated that between them, the project manager and project administrator, invested the equivalent of 4 months of work over the internship period to supporting the students with additional resource from Colleges for supporting students allocated to them. That said, the students delivered a collective equivalent of 21 months of work (based on the hours worked by each intern over the period). This represents a four-fold return on investment. The student interns effectively provided a focused resource boost, at scale, over the 5 months that they were employed.
Whilst this larger number of students has had to be carefully managed, the return has far outweighed the investment, although should this approach be adopted next year, consideration may need to be given to the appointment of an internship coordinator to ensure a continuing positive experience for the students and the ongoing quality of their work. Feedback gained from School colleagues has been unanimously positive about the work completed by the student interns.
Without the considerable impact of the student interns, the project would not have been able to ease the burden from Schools of taking on the Learn Foundations approach, especially at such a business critical time, nor would the project have been in a position to work at such a granular level to ensure courses were effectively migrated to Learn Foundations.
With the dedicated support of the Learn Foundations team, the student interns have become ambassadors for Learn Foundations, widening the positive impact of the approach and demonstrating the value of student as partners in the delivery of University-wide activities.
Thank you, All.