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Views & Opinion As GCSE season approaches it’s vital to re-engage


disaffected learners Comment by Fleur Sexton, Joint Managing Director, PET-Xi


Spring is in the air – which means it is revision time! Supermarkets and stationers are full of revision charts, flash cards, highlighter pens and sticky notes as GCSE students across the country pore over their books, trying to ensure they are prepared for their forthcoming exams. But what about those pupils who are


disaffected with education and struggling to revise and get to grips with their fast approaching examinations? Failure to achieve a C in Maths and English at Year 11 immediately limits a young person’s choices and future potential. My team and I work in partnership with schools day in, day out, providing practical support to young people around the country and we see on a daily basis how it makes a valuable difference to their life chances. Our starting point is always to ensure pupils


have mastered the basics – and, if not, to work like mad to provide this vital scaffolding because it’s absolutely crucial to all future success. Students who for some reason have missed out on the fundamental points of a subject or topic are consequently often unable to follow enough of the subsequent lessons to become, or remain, engaged.


When it comes to revision, the first thing to do is break the task down into manageable chunks. Yes teachers will have gone over the necessary skills to help them arrange and organise a revision programme – but that doesn’t mean they will have remembered! We have to acknowledge that unfortunately


some young people in modern Britain lead chaotic lives with difficulties in their domestic and social situations. These youngsters often suffer from a sense of bewilderment and simply don’t know where to start – they may have bigger issues to think about than their English and maths GCSEs, which simply won’t seem that important to them. So always look at any specific barriers that may


stop a child revising or completing their homework – for example they may have no appropriate quiet space available at home, or have a routine that precludes it. But you may be able to help them spot other opportunities – help them use dead time, like a bus ride to school each day, and suggest they revise then, using flashcards they can make themselves and carry in their pockets. Revision does not need to be one size fits all – it’s possible to make it relevant to an individual child and their circumstances. Another useful idea here


is to test out different ways of getting through to them using their own learning style – anything from colour coding and pictures to mnemonics. One more vital, but frequently overlooked,


factor is to help young learners develop resilience. A resilient child will be more successful in sticking at revision - realising that small failures are not a problem and that success is all about turning up and not giving up! Finally, be sure to help learners maintain a sense


of perspective so that exams don’t take over in a negative way – a holistic approach including good nutrition, exercise and even trips to the cinema and X-Box time are also essential elements of any good revision plan. Life is precious and every part must be enjoyed, rather than these teenage years becoming stressful and full of drudgery. Protecting and maintaining mental health is more important than getting good exam results at any cost. It is also a valuable lesson for later life. By helping young learners to be clear about


exactly what is expected of them, providing all the support that they need and focusing on breaking down their barriers, we can ensure they are as successful as possible in their all important exams this summer.


Why universities should improve the student


experience with better technology Comment by Simon Harrison, CIO, Kingston University


At Kingston University, we’re always looking for ways to provide the best experiences for our students – after all, we want to make sure that they’re getting the most from their time with us – especially when it comes to the way they are able to carry out their studies. But how can we make sure we’re providing the best level of service possible? One of the biggest changes that universities


have had to deal with is the expectations students now have around technology. They have been using sophisticated laptops, smartphones and tablets on a daily basis and they have constant access to hundreds of applications, from social media and email to online banking and retail. This means, when students come to university, they have the same expectations – they just expect it to work, and more importantly, they expect to use their own devices to do their work. Research by cloud computing company


VMware showed just how high up technology is in a student’s hierarchy of needs – second only to food and shelter. The study showed that nearly half (46%) of the students VMware questioned considered the level of IT on offer when choosing their university. Clearly then, the services universities provide in this area could make or break a student’s decision whether or not to study at your institution. For this reason, I believe


April 2015


Technology is absolutely essential for both attracting students and ensuring they have the best academic experience. Growing up au fait with technology means


students generally have an expectation that the technology they have at university will work as well on campus as it does at home – and why shouldn’t it? They anticipate being able to access the same applications at home that they do in lectures and tutorials in order to study in exactly the way they want to. And yet, worryingly, more than a quarter (26%) of the 1,000 students at other institutions in VMware’s survey said they didn’t feel that the technology being provided by their university met the level they would expect for the tuition fees they are paying. So, what can be done by IT departments to make sure they are meeting the needs of their students? At Kingston, we strongly believe that


universities have to constantly evolve their entire technology offering - from infrastructure and networking, to the applications they make available and how they are accessed - if they are going to remain competitive and meet the expectations of new and prospective students. That meant investing from the ground up; providing high-speed web and data access across the entire campus, through to us replacing all servers, storage and back-up hardware. Building


on the core infrastructure and to create a university without walls, we then installed a virtual desktop solution so all students would be able to work from anywhere on any device, with access to the applications they needed to study all in a securely and efficiently managed environment. Ultimately, universities need to realise how


important IT is to students and the student experience – the research also showed that the vast majority of students (92%) said that having IT to help them study in a more flexible way could enhance their experience. For this reason, from the moment students first contact us until after graduation, the IT department needs to make sure they don’t ever experience a second of frustration with the IT facilities and services. And, it's also about giving students the freedom to work from any location – whether that is on campus or at home, in the UK or abroad – while still being able to access their university desktop, complete with all the applications they need for their course and life at University. This, for a lot of institutions, means investing in the IT infrastructure to support their students. After all, providing an excellent IT service to a generation of people who have grown up with the most advanced technologies at their fingertips is what we all aspire to.


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