Flexible Learning - partnering with students
28 Jul 2023
Nainika Sahye, a student partner working as part of the Flexible Learning Team, shares her experience helping staff to design accessible and inclusive assessment
"One of the key things that excited me about becoming a student partner was the opportunity to be the student voice in innovative teaching and learning projects that will benefit students," says Nainika Sahye.
Nainika, a third-year Mechatronic Engineering student, works in partnership with the University's Flexible Learning team, alongside other student partners. The Flexible Learning Programme aims to create lifelong learning that is inclusive, accessible, and international - preparing our graduates for an increasingly digital world that demands agility, creativity, and digital proficiency.
Lifelong and flexible learning is one of five core priority areas for Teaching, Learning and Students within the Our Future 2021-25 strategy. Flexible Learning is the programme that was established to reach this goal and was therefore one of the key initiatives featured in our recent Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) submission.
Since launching the Flexible Learning strategy in late 2022, there has been a huge amount of activity across six programme workstreams. One of these workstreams is focussed on ensuring that assessment supports our vision for lifelong and flexible learning and caters to diverse student needs.
"Assessment is the part of any course that students struggle with the most and I think that the experience of the pandemic challenged traditional models of assessment," Nainika says. "I feel that by supporting this workstream, I am working towards real practical changes that will enhance this part of our university experience as students."
The assessment workstream is led by Dr Miriam Firth, Senior Lecturer in Education Management and Leadership in the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE) and explores opportunities for increased flexibility in assessment. This includes identifying how we can give students more choice over how to be assessed, but also how we can offer teaching staff more support in designing assessment that works for learners with diverse needs.
Nainika’s role has included facilitating student workshops on the assessment toolkit, a new supportive resource for staff and students that will be introduced later this year. "Make sure to explore the toolkit when it launches," Nainika adds, "it will include lots of useful resources that I am helping to design."
Nainika has also helped to run workshop sessions with flexible learners to find out what might be seen as distinctive in their assessment, to better support their experience. "There's so much to consider if we want to design assessment that can truly accommodate students from diverse backgrounds. Participants mentioned everything from flexible deadlines to greater choice over the type of assessment (for example group dissertations, recorded presentations, or blog posts) and more interactive ways to discuss questions with peers and teaching staff.
“This insight will be shared as part of the assessment toolkit to help staff design accessible and inclusive assessment.”
Working in partnership with students and colleagues has been a core principle of Flexible Learning from the start, with a dedicated group of student partners supporting the programme.
"By bringing the student perspective into these projects and communicating their views to the assessment workstream, I feel that I make a real contribution in ensuring that students are at the heart of all the changes being discussed," Nainika says.
"I genuinely feel valued by the team which makes my work feel rewarding. The Flexible Learning team has been a constant support in my student partner internship journey. From the start, Miri treated me like a colleague and her enthusiasm, positivity and passion for her work is contagious! Personally, I feel like my confidence, team spirit, leadership, time management and communication skills have all developed through my work as a student partner."
"I will continue to support the assessment workstream during the final year of my degree and look forward to exploring my potential further. For example, I want to create more social media content to make the work of the assessment workstream known across the University.”