At our meeting on 25 September Sofia Skevofylaka and Stewart Squire of DUSA gave a short presentation about what the Students’ Association does for students in general, including DL students. They have approximately 500 class representatives – there should be one for every class. Not all DUSA’s services are currently available to distance learners, but that is the future vision. DUSA is the best student union in Scotland and one of the best in the whole UK and the representation of students is key to that success. A group in DUSA – Distance Learner representation committee – has met with SPARQs with a focus on enhancing representation of distance learners. Sofia drew attention to the open comment box (‘Contact us’) on the website for anyone to bring questions for DUSA which is open to DL students.
Sofia and Stewart are keen to know from those involved in distance learning:
- How can representation of students learning at a distance be improved?
- What resources and development is needed?
- What are the appropriate models for DL students’ views to be heard? (This might not be the traditional student rep model – and some schools are already experimenting beyond that, for instance in School of Nursing and Health Sciences there is a student VP for Distance Learners).
- How can DUSA best support distance learners?
- How can distance learners feel part of the ‘buzz’ of being a student at University? (Suggestions from the DLF included: a live feed from DUSA events, possibly treating DL students almost like alumni, with occasional newsletters etc, so they feel part of a community; virtual freshers’ fair.)
There was a discussion about when and how often emails go to distance learners from DUSA, particularly in view of the rolling start for DL programmes, which might make that communication difficult. A suggestion was made that DUSA messages could be sent out to programme leads to disseminate when programmes begin.
A member of the DLF suggested having something specifically targeted at DL students on the University website, landing page – so that potential applicants as well as current DL students would see DL as being at the heart of the University community.
We would like to continue this conversation and would welcome comments here on the blog.