Partnership between staff and students in lockdown helped achieve success - Professor Lynn Kilbride

In March 2020, Robert Gordon University (RGU) like many other Higher Education Institutions, had to completely reconfigure the way that we delivered teaching. As a result, students had to adapt the way they engaged with their learning and interacted with staff and each other. Despite the disruption and challenge RGU showed that a close partnership between students and staff prior to and during the pandemic helped us achieve more successful outcomes for students.

Professor Lynn Kilbride, Vice Principal for Academic Development and Student Experience
Professor Lynn Kilbride, Vice Principal for Academic Development and Student Experience

As we recognise how vital partnership between staff and students is to enriching the student experience at RGU, it is deeply embedded in everything we do. Open and transparent dialogue ensures that students’ views are always considered in all aspects of decision-making whether they pertain to teaching and learning, assessment and feedback or extracurricular activities.

The benefits of co-creation are widely documented and students are generally appreciative of the approach. Instead of feeling something is being done to them, co-creation makes them feel change is being initiated with them. This process is not about university staff negating their responsibility, but combining our expertise and knowledge with students’ ideas and views as a recipe for success.

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During the pandemic, staff and students developed ways to deliver key events and activities such as induction and welcome weeks that are crucial for developing safe and productive relationships for collaborative learning. In addition, students who needed to isolate were provided with food, medicines and all essential forms of support. Recognising the importance of mental health, staff routinely stayed in touch with students and ensured they were aware of support services available to them.

Implementing the government’s Covid restrictions was of the highest priority to RGU in order to keep students, staff and the community safe. However, both staff and students agreed that punitive sanctions, such as termination and suspension of studies would not be helpful in disciplining students who breached Covid rules, particularly as they were lonely and isolated. Together we created alternative and innovative sanctions such as volunteering with StreetSport (our community outreach project that provides opportunities for disadvantaged children in the local area) and delivery of food parcels for isolating students.

Our close relationship with the student body is also reflected in the Partnership Agreement. Each year we agree on a set of objectives that allow us to explore different topics together and develop ideas to deliver enhancements for the student experience. Mindful of the impact of the pandemic and the energy created around challenging racism in society after the death of George Floyd, the partnership objectives over the last two years have been focused on better understanding expectations relating to Equality, Tolerance and Respect, our community’s wellbeing focussing upon mental, physical and social health, reflecting on RGU’s response to Covid-19 and emerging stronger from the pandemic.

Taken together, the last two years have demonstrated that despite enormous challenges posed to staff and students by the pandemic, the close partnership ways of working has endured and strengthened through the shared experience. This mutual understanding and commitment to ensuring students have a positive experience while studying at RGU has ensured that our students achieved success in the most challenging of times.

To crown this solid partnership and success, this week (April 4-8), RGU will see 1,796 graduates mark their achievements in a special celebration event at P&J Live for those who missed out on in-person ceremonies due to the pandemic. For the students that graduated during lockdown, who worked in partnership with the university to improve the student experience at a time when it was needed most, for working through the uncertainty and showing what can be done when we work together--this celebration is for you.

Professor Lynn Kilbride, Vice Principal for Academic Development and Student Experience, Robert Gordon University

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