sparqs conference, 23 March 2017



In seeking to become one of the pilot institutions involved in NStEP this past academic year, we agreed to support NCISU student representative and NCI staff attendance at the sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland) conference held on 23 March 2017 at Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh. Entitled Celebrating the impact of the student voice on quality enhancement, this event featured a number of keynote talks, presentations and workshops, a QA report on which is available here.

There were a number of interesting take-homes from the conference, but the most effective practice identified is that, working together, students and staff (incl. class representatives, SU executive members, academics, administrative/support staff, senior management, etc.) can have a real impact both on the student experience and upon institutional culture.

One of the themes most in evidence is the increasing willingness of institutions to involve staff and students in self-evaluations aimed at enshrining and/or introducing more transparency, increasing collegiality and parity of esteem, as well as more openness in dealing with the practicalities, and celebrating the role, of the student as partner in their own education and at their place of learning.

One of the concrete possibilities raised is the development and implementation of Student Partnership Agreements, not unlike NCI’s own Learners’ Charter, though perhaps taking it a step or two further. Another is the enhancement of student representative systems, which itself has been a piece of work identified through NCI’s participation in NStEP. Let’s see where this all takes us.

Cafe 1505
Pre-conference preparations at Café 1505, Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh


Staff Feedback Forum

Feedback from staff

As part of its QA Review, as well as further evidence of our ongoing NStEP activities, it is worth recording here that NCI held a Staff Feedback Forum on March 22nd, 2017, thereby in effect running a staff session in parallel with the student event held a fortnight previously (see the related Student Feedback Forum post for more details).

Attended by a dozen NCI colleagues in total, including both academic and administrative staff, as well as the QASS facilitators, this meeting offered a focus for staff to get even more directly involved in the learner feedback discussions that are taking place, dialogues which now encompass a number of stakeholders including the aforementioned students themselves. Taken together, these discussions are helping to inform the QA Review with regard to, but by no means restricted to, feedback from students.

As with the student session, a set of introductory PPT slides were again used to help frame the conversations which then followed (click on Staff Feedback Forum), but the forum itself centred on a staff discussion regarding who, from their perspective, students should be giving feedback to and regarding what, as well as how they might do it and, in turn, what needs to happen as a result.

This Staff Feedback Forum thus builds on a conversation that is already taking place across NCI, while also offering a steer regarding how learner feedback processes might operate into the future. Further staff and student feedback and reflection upon these processes will continue to be sought ahead of revised QA procedures and guidelines being introduced next academic year.


Staff Feedback Forum
Staff Feedback Forum


Learner feedback – module evaluations

Learner feedback

From the lack of QA@NCI postings over the past month, it may look like it has been a quiet period since mid-March … rather the opposite is the truth. With any luck, there will be some catching up in the weeks ahead regarding processes undertaken, projects advanced, etc., in this intervening period. But, for now, some reflection upon a quality assurance perennial, i.e. module feedback.

Currently, one of the significant pieces of work being undertaken within the context of learner feedback is a series of module evaluations from Semester 2, 2016-17. According to the Quality Assurance Handbook, which itself is up for review at this time, these questionnaires are typically completed by NCI students just over half-way through the semester. This formal feedback is then reflected upon by the lecturers directly concerned, as well as colleagues more widely, and used to help inform on-going and future learning and teaching developments. In turn, the students also need to be involved in this process in an effort to close the feedback loop (i.e. to provide them with feedback regarding their, err, feedback).

The answers given in these surveys are anonymous and the main purpose is to offer and receive learner views regarding each module experience. In essence, each student is asked to present feedback on each module they undertake using a six-point Likert scale for 25 quantitative questions covering issues ranging from their own learning to the module’s organisation, from their own participation to the presentation style employed by the lecturer(s), from the module content to their experience of it. In turn, two qualitative questions ask ‘What was especially good about this module?’ and ‘How could this module be improved?’ and here the students are invited to present constructive and free-flowing comment.

Once the survey window closes – two weeks is the normal timescale offered to students – reports based upon the aggregated and anonymised feedback are sent directly to the module convenors concerned, and primarily (though not necessarily only) for their use. It doesn’t stop there, but that is the essence of the process. In future posts, this Q&A blog will explore how this particular learner feedback process has been established, how it has evolved, and where it might be heading into the future. But, for now, it’s just nice to be back blogging!


ISSE 2017 prizewinners

ISSE 2017

This year, as part of NCI’s promotion of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement, we said that: “As a thank you for your participation, we are offering a pair of tickets to the Clubs & Societies Awards Ball on 6th April 2017 to one participant, as well as printer vouchers worth €10 each to twenty other students who take part in this survey”.

The organisers of the survey have conducted the draw and supplied us with the names of the 21 prizewinners. It might be noted that this draw is not linked to the answers supplied in the survey, indeed NCI will not receive its ISSE 2017 data until later this academic year; when we do receive it, all of the learner feedback is anonymised and aggregated.

The list of NCI’s ISSE 2017 prizewinners follows below:

  Name Student ID Prize
1 Kate *******3 two Clubs & Socs Ball tickets
2 Kelly *******6 printer vouchers worth €10
3 Aoife *******8 printer vouchers worth €10
4 Nirmal *******3 printer vouchers worth €10
5 Tammy *******8 printer vouchers worth €10
6 Sonali *******1 printer vouchers worth €10
7 Ayan *******6 printer vouchers worth €10
8 Nicolas *******0 printer vouchers worth €10
9 Sarah *******3 printer vouchers worth €10
10 Orla *******9 printer vouchers worth €10
11 Maria *******4 printer vouchers worth €10
12 Andrea *******1 printer vouchers worth €10
13 Arkadijs *******2 printer vouchers worth €10
14 Vincenzo *******1 printer vouchers worth €10
15 Ash *******7 printer vouchers worth €10
16 Simon *******4 printer vouchers worth €10
17 Ali *******8 printer vouchers worth €10
18 Aisha *******6 printer vouchers worth €10
19 Brendan *******2 printer vouchers worth €10
20 David *******5 printer vouchers worth €10
21 Charlotte *******2 printer vouchers worth €10

Congratulations to Kate on winning the pair of Clubs and Societies Awards Ball tickets for Thursday, April 6th, and to the other twenty students who will have printer vouchers worth €10 each credited to their respective accounts.

Finally, for now, we’d again like to thank all 663 NCI students who supplied feedback through ISSE 2017; we look forward to putting it to good use once we receive it later this year.

Clubs & Socs Awards Ball 2017
NCI’s Clubs & Socs Ball, 6 April 2017

Student Feedback Forum

Feedback from students

As part of its Quality Assurance Review, and in line with its participation in the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP), NCI held a Student Feedback Forum yesterday afternoon, March 8th, 2017, hopefully the first of many such pizza’n’policy meetings.

Attended by 20 students from a range of academic programmes, this meeting was facilitated by colleagues from both NCISU and NCI. The call to students to get involved, to have their say, and to make a difference clearly resonated with those present and the feedback received will obviously help to inform the Quality Assurance Review with regard to, but by no means restricted to, feedback from students.

Opening with some introductory PPT slides to help frame the conversations that followed (click on Student Feedback Forum), the forum centred on two exercises which saw students (1) reflecting upon how they have given feedback in the past (e.g. to teaching staff, through class representatives, etc.) before (2) considering what they want to give feedback upon into the future (incl. frequency, means, etc.).

This forum is the continuation of a conversation that has already been taking place across NCI, but yesterday’s session offered an ideal opportunity to lend more focus and purpose to learner feedback processes, at the same time as embodying the concept of students as partners and as co-creators. More reflection on these matters will follow in the weeks ahead, as well as creating opportunities for more students and staff to get very directly involved.

Student Feedback Forum (updated PPT slides)
Student Feedback Forum (updated PPT slides)



ISSE 2017 comes to an end … for now

ISSE 2017

NCI’s participation in the collection phase of ISSE 2017 has now come to a conclusion. The final figure for this year stands at 663 student responses, constituting a response rate of more than 23%, with a fairly even split between full time and part time respondents.

The results will not become available until later this spring/early summer, at which point we will undertake some close analysis, as well as the sharing of raw data, before disseminating our findings. The national report will be published before the calendar year is out, which will also allow for further consideration of the information we are receiving, as well as action in the light of it.

At this point in the ISSE 2017 cycle, we would especially like to thank all those NCI students who have taken part, not forgetting the student representatives and many members of staff who have directly supported this process. As the ISSE slogan declares and as NCI commits: “We’re Listening, We’re Learning”.

ISSE 2017 – NCI’s 663 responses


ISSE 2017 – Week 3 of 3 is coming to a conclusion

ISSE 2017

NCI homepage
NCI homepage

And, we’re suddenly in the home straight, with the third week of three coming to an end as far as NCI’s participation in ISSE 2017 – i.e. this year’s version of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement – is concerned.

As of this morning, 648 of our students – equating to just under 23% of the total learner population polled – had responded to the invitation, firstly to reflect upon their own engagement with their studies and, secondly, to provide feedback regarding their student experience at NCI.

NCI’s participation in the survey will end on Tuesday morning, February 28th, so there is still some time left for our first year undergraduate, final year undergraduate and postgraduate taught students to respond. But, just as importantly, the rich data which this survey will provide to the ISSE project as a whole and to NCI in particular will offer us a real opportunity for thoughtful analysis and subsequent action.

It is too early to predict whether the final NCI response rate will be reflected in a similar national figure, but the key will be to learn from what is said and to act upon it – it really does become a case of ‘We said, we did!’ As last year’s data analysis suggests, there are both strengths and weaknesses (see below) inherent in what we are doing, but identifying them only gives us strong foundations on which to build; click here for access to the full ISSE 2016 report.

NCI strengths and weaknesses identified by ISSE 2016

Strengths Weaknesses
NCI students actively engage with staff in the classroom and typically they say that they come to class with their preparations done NCI response rates are gradually eroding, yet more representative data would support better informed decision-making
Final year undergraduates make good use of the learning opportunities available to them, both inside and outside of class First year undergrads and PGTs should be invited to work more closely with their peers, as well as with staff, inside/outside class
Staff generally teach in a clear, structured and insightful manner, while drawing upon real world examples where appropriate Students identify staff feedback on their assessments as one area where they would welcome improvement