NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting: … and progress begins in earnest



Held yesterday afternoon, the NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting saw six of us in the room joined by two other members contributing by phone. In doing so, we managed to cover quite a bit of ground, with the meeting concentrating, as anticipated, on two main tasks:

  1. considering what the Scottish case studies might offer us in the Irish context; and
  2. firming up the survey we wish to run involving student representatives and staff.

We also took the opportunity to start mapping out where the project is heading in the weeks and months ahead, including the tentative scheduling of an additional (even if only an informal, inquorate, etc.) meeting between now and next academic year, while also noting progress on and ideas regarding a couple of other outputs.

NStEP Project 1 - 3rd Team Meeting
NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting

One of the most substantial benefits of Project 1 – The Role and Recruitment of Class Representatives running in parallel with four other national projects is that we are learning from the advances made and stumbling-blocks encountered by our fellow NStEP project teams.

For instance, the two page document created by Project 5 – Staff Roles and Capacity Building regarding their work offers us a template for wider dissemination and promotion in relation to our own efforts. We might just have to have a go at creating something similar ourselves.

Project 5 - Staff Roles and Capacity Building
Project 5 – Staff Roles and Capacity Building

In sum, we’re learning by doing, as well as from others, but we also feel that we are progressing with the various tasks we’ve set ourselves. Stay tuned!

NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting: more preparatory work …


The NStEP Project 1 – 3rd Team Meeting is being held tomorrow afternoon and it looks like we’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time. Two of the main tasks ahead of us at this next meeting are:

  1. a consideration of case studies sourced by sparqs regarding class representative policies and practices in Scotland; and
  2. ahead of a survey we wish to run, we need to firm up what we wish to find out from interested parties regarding class rep mechanisms.

Unsurprisingly, in advance of this third meeting, we’ve asked project members to run their eyes over a couple of documents developed to support these discussions.

With regard to a set of “Case Studies of Scottish Class Rep Handbooks” provided by sparqs, we’re particularly interested in project members identifying their favourite materials/mechanisms, asking them to be able to explain why they appeal, what might work in their context, etc.; in essence, we’re asking project colleagues to identify effective practice when it comes to the support for, reward of, etc., class representatives.

In turn, with regard to the survey we’re looking to run regarding class representatives, a “Survey Discussion Document” has been developed by project members led by Cork Institute of Technology and the Union of Students in Ireland, so the next tasks are to consider it further, to amend where necessary, and to get it signed off by the project team. We were able to garner some feedback already from the second national network meeting in Letterkenny, but we now need to make some decisions.

So, plenty to keep us occupied tomorrow afternoon, but that is no bad thing!

“The Role and Recruitment of Class Reps” – LYIT update, 8 May 2018


Project 1 @ LYIT, 8 May 2018
Project 1 update given @ LYIT, 8 May 2018

Hosted by Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LVIT) on Tuesday, 8 May 2018, the 2nd National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) network meeting provided us with an ideal opportunity to update the wider NStEP community regarding the progress made thus far by Project 1: The Role and Recruitment of Class Reps and to ask both for their feedback on what has been done up to this and for their ideas regarding next steps.

The role and recruitment of class representatives are a central function of educational institutions and their students’ unions, embodying what partnership means and what student (and staff) engagement entails inside and outside of the classroom.

As the image taken from the NStEP tweet shows, the informal setting employed for this particular session allowed project members and those NStEP colleagues particularly interested in student representation to discuss a variety of aspects regarding class representation, including:

  1. definitions
  2. job descriptions (such as the variety of tasks and practices associated with the role)
  3. recruitment processes (e.g. elections)
  4. training (i.e. local and national, as well as task oriented)
  5. reward and recognition

Various themes emerged during this session including, but not restricted to, the need for appropriate institutional infrastructure to support class reps, the crucial role to be played by ongoing communication in all aspects of this vital work, as well as the challenges faced and potential remedies.

The challenges include the retention of class reps, creating opportunities for other students to come forward, and questions regarding sustainability, as well as the applicability of established class rep models for students who are not full time and undergraduate. Meanwhile, in terms of how to address these issues, the power of momentum, the possibility of multi-year plans, and the part to be played by good working relationships were among those items covered.

One of the outputs which this project is aiming to deliver are exemplars of effective practice in the whole area of class representation, with examples drawn from here in Ireland and further afield. Meanwhile, a survey of institutional practice primarily involving, but not necessarily limited to, Students’ Union officers and staff is being developed as part of this exploration. The project work continues apace.

Lightning strikes @ LYIT, 8 May 2018


One of the many distinctive features of National College of Ireland is that part time learners constitute a majority of the student headcount, such that the premises are busy from early morning to late at night during the week, and throughout the day at weekends. In turn, our online support for learners is invariably accessible 24/7 so that it fits with the various ways in which our students learn.

In delivering upon its mission, NCI plays an increasingly central role in the local business and residential communities, as well as further afield, seeking to enable people through education, lowering barriers to their individual and collective advancement, while making a unique contribution to the wider economy and society.

This narrative struck at the heart of our ‘Lightning Talk’ contribution given as part of the 2nd Meeting of the National Student Engagement Network (NStEP) held yesterday at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT). Allocated 10 minutes, this whirlwind tour built upon similar ‘lightning’ analyses offered by Hibernia College regarding the challenges faced by online students and LYIT in relation to placement students.

Lightning Talk
Lightning Talk

Further details regarding this NCI contribution to the 2nd national NStEP meeting are available in the PPT presentation available at NStEP Lightning Talk – Part Time Students, with the related NStEP tweet providing photographic evidence that we scrub up well!

The NStEP to Letterkenny, 8 May 2018


Letterkenny 8 May 2018
Letterkenny 8 May 2018

There is lots happening in the world of the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP), including the very welcome prospect of a second meeting of the network being held in Letterkenny on Tuesday, 8 May 2018.

The theme of the network meeting is “Overcoming Challenges to Student Engagement”. which provides us with the fantastic opportunity to learn from one another, while also energising us to confront some of the issues we are each facing.

NCI and NCISU have been invited to participate directly on a number of different levels, including providing a ‘lightning talk’ before lunch regarding the challenges facing part time students within the context of student engagement, while also hosting a national project session after lunch regarding progress on, and plans for, NStEP Project 1: The Role and Recruitment of Class Representatives. Indeed, the NStEP Project 1: 3rd Team Meeting is slated for Tuesday, 15 May 2018, one week after the second NStEP network meeting, so there is real momentum here.

The agenda for the second NStEP network meeting, which is being hosted by Letterkenny Institute of Technology, follows below:

Overcoming Challenges to Student Engagement
Overcoming Challenges to Student Engagement

It looks like a great day in prospect, with the perfect excuse of the preceding bank holiday weekend to do some exploring. Let the sun shine!

NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting: … that seemed to go quite well


Perhaps it was the Scottish shortbread which did the trick, but that really felt like it went quite well. Of course, we have yet to see the ‘To Do List’ which will emerge, and we have serious suspicions that the names coupled with actions, suggestions, etc., will not hide the fact that there is real work to be done in the weeks ahead, but it still felt like that second meeting went, err, quite well. Have we said that already?

With today’s turnout of nine people in the room supplemented by three more joining us as if by magic through a combination of Skype and speakerphone, it looks like we have quickly moved from forming to storming and just a little beyond.

As we mentioned previously in NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting: further preparatory work …, there is a lot of goodwill. But, that can only take you so far. Much more than that, we’re also now going to be able to gauge our progress in practical terms. This means that, for example, by the time we next meet, we will need to be upfront and honest about where we are with the aforementioned ‘To Do List’. That’s putting it up to us all as project members!

Coming down from the sugar high of the all butter toffee and pecan biscuits, coupled with their all butter chocolate siblings, reality is also suddenly dawning. Indeed, looking at the scribbles in front of us, dashed as they are across today’s agenda, as well as the hieroglyphics on the minutes from the last meeting, there is a growing suspicion that these could actually turn into outcomes because the goodwill is now also translating into people taking responsibility. Bully for us!

Our next project team meeting will be in mid-/late May, by which stage we’ll have real evidence to base the hope that this project is in danger of succeeding, as well it should and as it now must.

NStEP Project 1 - 2nd Team Meeting
NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting



NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting: further preparatory work …

Okay, this time we think that we may be slightly ahead of ourselves. But, that is only because we’re posting towards close of play on the Friday before the NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting being held next Tuesday afternoon. This makes a change from blogging on the morning of the meeting (see NStEP Project 1 – 1st Team Meeting: some preparatory work … by way of comparison). So, at the very least, that’s progress, even if only of a sort.

When we look at the initial follow-up to that first meeting (see NStEP Project 1 – 1st Team Meeting: … and early findings, thoughts and actions), and reflect on what we’ve been doing since, well then the verdict may still be out in some quarters, certainly in terms of substantial progress coming out any distance ahead of distracted cogitating!

The truth however is that, when it comes to NStEP, things are now happening thick and fast.

Indeed, the other four project teams have already met or are planning to meet very soon, which is why this NStEP Project 1 – 2nd Team Meeting is so timely. This also makes a progress report on our list of ‘To Dos’ both necessary and worrying. Where and how our efforts connect to the other four national projects and contribute to NStEP as a whole is being mapped out too (see the NStEP Projects Map). Lots happening, lots to do.

In addition, doubtlessly to help spur things along, the NStEP Project Chairs also met late last month with the support of QQI, the HEA, sparqs, and USI. They, in turn, put a plan in place to meet regularly from now on, with the second of these NStEP Project Chairs meetings scheduled for next Wednesday morning. Timing is everything.

So, how ready are we for next Tuesday afternoon and the second meeting of the project examining The Role and Recruitment of Class Representatives? Well, let’s see now:

  • Draft agenda circulated? Yes.
  • Minutes disseminated? Finally!
  • Progress made on ‘Actions’? Hmm … not so sure, if we’re to be honest.
  • Room(s) booked? Check.
  • Technology enabled? Perhaps!?!
  • Biscuits bought? Not yet.

There was clearly a lot of goodwill when we first met, so let’s see where our next meeting takes us, particularly in terms of measuring progress on the outputs we’re promising … yikes!!!

NStEP Projects Map
NStEP Projects Map