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Student learning experience

The student learning experience is a concept developed by sparqs, a Scottish national student engagement development agency, to help you understand the different parts that make up a student’s time whilst studying.

What do we mean by learning experience? It is everything related to how you learn and the way you are taught. We have broken down the learning experience into seven different elements which you can see in the diagram below.

Each of the elements of the student learning experience can be explored by asking the following questions:

Curriculum: the content of your course and how it is structured.
Do you feel your course is making you more employable?
How is the course organised?
How clear is the timetable?
Is there a curriculum outline provided?
Are the classes useful?
Does the curriculum taught match your expectations from the prospectus?
Were learning expectations clearly outlined?
Did the learning outcomes actually correspond to what you learnt?
Were you satisfied with the module choices that were offered?
How are the modules structured?
Was the course challenging?

Learning resources: all the resources and materials you need in order to learn as well as the physical environment you learn in.
Are there adequate library and computing facilities?
Do you have access to materials you need (for example books, lab equipment and art qqmaterials)?
Did the departmental facilities meet your expectations?
Was the lecture material easily accessible?
Were resources adequately available?
If you are studying a practical course, do you have access to the right resources?
Are you aware of/do you know how to use the resources available to you?
Learning and teaching process: where the students learn and how the staff teaches.
Were you consistently/sufficiently guided to practise your skills throughout your course?
Are you able to learn in a way that suits you?
How would you rate the teaching?
Are there any forms of learning you would like in addition to lectures and tutorials?
Do you find the lectures a satisfactory method of imparting information?
Did you find the size of your tutorials conducive to further learning?
Did you feel your department/course prepared you sufficiently for your assessments?
Is the teaching material up-to-date?
Do you understand lecture contents?

Assessment and feedback: assessment is not just a measure of how much you learn but should aid the learning process and that requires good feedback.
Does the assessment adequately and fairly represent the content of the course?qq
Was the course fairly marked?
Do all the lecturers grade to the same standard?
Do you receive adequate feedback from your assessments?
Was the feedback received useful and appropriate after assessments or coursework?
Are there too many exams or assessments?
What is the frequency of course work and assessments in each module?
Is the assessment criteria clear to you?
Are you given enough time to prepare for assessments?
Is the style of assessment appropriate?
Is there too little or too much continuous assessment?

Student progression and achievement: the effectiveness of a course is in preparing students for their chosen career and how they progress through it, be that class to class or year to year.
Do you feel you have improved by completing this course?
Would you like to progress to the next level?
Can you measure your own personal progress through your course?
Has your course made you more employable?
Are you able to move from one module to the next?
What are you getting out of studying this course?

Guidance and learner support: the educational support an institution provides to students struggling with the course or learning.
How much support are you getting with your work?
How much support are you getting from staff?
Was academic support readily available?
Is there a place/person you can get help from if you’re struggling with the subjects?
Are staff and students aware of the channels for dealing with issues?
Is your advisor of studies helpful?
How is the career centre?
Do you get relevant careers advice?

Quality enhancement & assurance: the steps institutions take to ensure courses meet the standards and how it looks to continuously improve the student learning experience.
How do you feel your institution compares with others?
How many of your lecturers would you give a good mark?
Do you feel that your department is receptive to concerns?
Do you feel that your opinions are listened to and taken seriously?
What improvements have been made to your course?
Do you feel your course is an acceptable standard?

Training Exercise

You can use this exercise with a group of students or student representatives to help them think about the quality of their learning experiences.

You will need:
  • Flipchart paper.
  • Flipchart pens.
  • Post-it notes.
  • Each of the elements of the student learning experience printed on separate pieces of card.
  • Handouts with the questions related to each element of the student learning experience.

Put the students into pairs or small groups.

Start by asking the students what they like most about their course and what they would like to change. Ask the students to provide feedback on the answers and write them up on a flipchart or whiteboard.

Spread the student learning experience cards around the room. Also give the students handouts with the questions related to each element of the student learning experience. Give the students post-it notes and ask them to write responses to each element of the student learning experience for their course and stick them onto the corresponding piece of card.

You can now discuss with the students the range of things they are able to comment on. There will be a big difference already in the quality of their answers from the first part of the exercise to when you start discussing their views in relation to the student learning experience. Point out to them that they have a lot to say about their course and they are indeed ‘experts’. What is important is that they enrich what they think about their course by asking other students and forming a representative view. What is also important is that they do something with these views, whether they are positive or negative, to help shape the nature of the student learning experience for themselves and for the future students. They should engage in shaping the quality of the experience in their institution.