Monday, November 10, 2008

How many students does it take to change a lightbulb?

TechDis and other insights into the student mind...

Last week we kicked off our TechDis HEAT3 project (Ooh, shiny) using the Twitter student backchannel we have built this term to try to get a snapshot of the UoL student experience. Reading the resulting stream of consciousness is fascinating:
  • doing metabolism questions over msn, testing each other is a fab way to learn! If only I knew any answers.
  • is tired.... but must work!
  • has the words 'russian bride' written on his hand, and can't remember much of last night.... Now for chemistry revision.
  • is rather worried about the assessment tomorrow and is preparing herself for failure.
  • feels like I've never been away from home! But my bedroom is no longer my own :(
  • is working hard on biological molecules but can see the iTouch winking at him from across the room.
  • I'm actually bit disappointed the biochem lectures have finished. Will start the essay as soon as I stop this distracting me.
But beyond voyeurism, what have we learned so far?
  • That students will use any technology given to them in unexpected ways, and any attempts to lock down control results in a stilted, unfulfilling, superficial experience.
  • Unsurprisingly, the domestic looms large in the transition to higher education. Diets (good and bad) feature prominently in tweets.
  • That novelty results in engagement, but presumably will fade.
The problem with student experience projects such as this is that they are opt-in, and so reflect a skewed picture generated by the committed minority. There is no ethnic or religious diversity in our sample. On the plus side, this means that to date, even though we haven't given them any specific instructions about online identities, they seem to be quite switched on with respect to self-editing and have not (yet) posted any content they may regret later. Of course, we don't know what private messages are flying backwards and forwards...