This blog was provided by The Open University in Scotland as part of OU Student Voice Week 2021.
Viki Soper is an Access, Participation & Success Officer at The Open University in Scotland. In this blog she shares what student voice means to her and how it informs her work.
I did my degree at a university in London, studying full-time across a couple of campuses. Whilst this allowed me to know the student experience as it relates to assignment deadlines, exams and developing my academic abilities, it meant that when I started work at The Open University (OU), I didn’t have much of an insight into the experience of our students, or an understanding of what part-time distance learning truly meant in practice.
I started work at The Open University as an Advisor in Student Recruitment and Support Scotland, a little over six years ago. This role allowed me to really see the importance of the student voice as listening to people’s experiences, hearing their challenges and their successes really opened my eyes to what it was really like to be a part-time distance learner.
I heard first-hand the stories of our students and from call and email interactions with them, I learned about their resilience, their tenacity, and their overwhelming determination to succeed, sometimes in incredibly challenging circumstances. After a year in my role, my understanding of the focus and resolve needed for distance learning had evolved to a sincere respect for every single student that studies with us.
For the last year I have been working in our Access, Participation and Success team and one of the guiding principles that underpins our work is to ensure the student voice underpins all of our activity. For me, this is more than just listening and understanding the student experience but involves actively engaging in dialogue with our students to ensure that they play a key role in shaping the direction of travel of the University.
My team has run student consultation events, engagement groups, Student Voice Week events, reference groups and other events activities over the course of the year. These activities have all provided us with the opportunity to hear from our students and get their invaluable insight about what they want to see from their university and how we can best meet their needs.
For me, and for all Open University staff, the annual OU Student Voice Week is an opportunity. Not just an opportunity for students to talk to us, but an opportunity for us to really listen. Our students are an outstanding group of individuals who bring with them ideas, experiences, and personalities that we are privileged to work with. It is vital that we work in partnership and collaborate with our students, to ensure they have the opportunity to have a say in the changes we make in future.
Nobody understands the student experience better than our students, and we are committed to reach more students with life-changing learning experiences.
This OU Student Voice Week (13-21 November 2021) we have published blogs by students Allan Kavuma, Joe Turner-Law and a student in a secure environment. We also hosted three events of specific interest to OU student in Scotland and an OU student took over our Twitter feed for a morning. This is just the start, as we intend to ensure the student voice is heard throughout the year. We want to shine a light on the experiences of the amazing people that study with us, sharing stories to inspire others.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the students that have got involved with OU Student Voice Week 2021, whether they designed, developed, presented or participated in an activity or wrote a blog. I found each story moving, motivating, and engaging and they each reinforced my view that our students truly are inspirational.
Our students make Student Voice Week, just as they make The Open University, and I am proud to work in partnership with them to deliver our mission to reach more students with life-changing learning experiences.