Achievements of the Change Agents’ Network

I’ve been in a rather fortunate position having been commissioned to undertake an evaluation of the Change Agents’ Network (CAN) by the Advisory Group, looking back over the last three years of its operation and helping to inform its future. I’d like to focus this blog post on key achievements and the best way to start is probably to report a few of the many feedback comments that have been received:

  • Jisc CAN has been instrumental in changing my perspective on student engagement and seeing how it can be useful, powerful, and ultimately necessary. On a local scale, it has helped to drive projects forwards
  • A fantastic opportunity to network, learn from others and share effective practice. The range of opportunities/activities with which to engage is very helpful and I think helps to build a momentum.
  • The CAN has helped me gain a deeper understanding of how to lead change in an institutional setting, appreciating the complexity of factors that influence a well-executed change project and to be more aware
  • CAN is a great way of crystallising thinking around student-led change within an institution and setting a context and framework for existing good practice.
  • The Change Agent Network has galvanised an isolated local trend into a national movement. By having the opportunity to see good practice from throughout the sector we have developed our internal thinking

What has surprised me most is the extent of the CAN activities, the degree of engagement between students and staff and the impact it is having in supporting institutions in educational innovation and change for ultimately enhancing the student experience. Let’s look at these activities in more detail:

Networking events

Two major two-day full-capacity networking events took place in 2014-2015 each with a high proportion of students attending. I attended both events and was inspired by the enthusiasm and the positive feedback from both students and staff from FE and HE, who found the opportunity to share ideas, gain inspiration and identify good practices overwhelmingly positive as can be judged from quotes such as these:

  • “Thank you for the fantastic opportunity you and your team at Jisc at this week’s conference. It was absolutely brilliant and the Student Fellows, new to CAN, who attended spoke very highly of the event, how it was inspiring, active and great to engage with similar students doing change agent work elsewhere.” Student
  • Absolutely amazing projects presented! I’m still trying to write a consistent piece of feedback for these two days. A lot of ideas to implement and more than anything, great amount of inspiration. Event objectives – checked! Student
  • I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years but this by far has been one of the most informative. Well done Jisc Staff


The series of themed webinars have been equally popular, attracting 459 registrations overall for the 5 events in 2015 and the recordings of these are available on the CAN web-site. The webinars have particularly focused on grass roots work which participants really value hearing about, as can be judged by a selection of the feedback:

  • This is my second Jisc Webinar I have participated in – have found both very worthwhile and enjoy them. A very interesting and informative end to the current series of CAN webinars – all excellent.
  • Really useful information that I can take away for my own practice
  • Interesting content, well delivered
  • Informative and useful ideas for networking and sharing best practice
  • It was well run, with interesting content and a chance to engage with it.

There is a new series of themed webinars for 2016 which kick starts hearing about “‘Growing a whole institution culture of commitment to student engagement” at the University of Lincoln.

Change Leader Award

A considerable amount of work has gone into the development of the Change Leader Award which has been accredited by SEDA and is now in its second cohort, with 130 registrations from students and staff. The award supports staff and students working in partnership on technology-related curriculum innovation projects. Key feedback includes:

  • This course gave me the chance to look into much further detail at the implications of implementing change and at how to ensure shareholders are convinced of the benefits of it.
  • This course has helped me to understand how to increase the impact my work.
  • I found the course a very supportive framework, with excellent tutors and real enthusiasm which kept me focused on what was needed to achieve a successful student-staff partnership. Thank you!
  • It’s not just given me ideas, it’s inspired a whole new approach!

The Change Leaders course has been particularly effective at raising awareness of the vital need for professional approaches to managing educational innovation and change. See the CAN Alumni page for details of the participants who have successfully completed the course.

Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

The new peer-reviewed CAN online Journal of Educational, Innovation Partnership and Change has been oversubscribed with article proposals and has published two issues resulting in over 2,400 abstract viewings and over 1,000 downloads of individual PDF articles (March – September 2015). The Journal is also available in EPUB/Kindle formats. Feedback includes the following:

  • I have just read a very timely article for my institution which has given me a valuable insight into transformational projects within an institution and I will be sharing it with colleagues that probably need to read it more closely than I
  • We would like to check if we would be able to host the published version (our) repository
  • As a contributor, one piece accepted for publication. As a reader, interesting ideas and perspectives that have altered our practice model
  • Interesting articles that I perhaps otherwise would not have come across

Student-staff partnerships toolkit

The CAN team have put considerable effort into listening and learning from the network and distilling all this into a range of online resources including in-depth case studies and a toolkit “Developing successful student-staff partnerships” which provides a valuable set of key principles to follow and top tips for implementing student-staff partnerships which have been distilled from sector good practices. These are made available as a set of Viewpoints discussion cards for use in change processes, based on the established Viewpoints change model (developed as part of the Jisc Curriculum Design programme). Feedback on the resources includes:

  • What a huge amount of work that has gone into this project. This is an excellent collection of resources and I am looking forward to using them at the college. I really like the format and methods
  • I found the cards to be a comprehensive framework, especially valuable if you are planning a institutional based project. This workshop was introducing partnership to the group for the first time and I was encouraging them to keep their project idea small, and I found the cards catered for this also
  • The early guides and workshops discussions were paramount to my formative ideas and convincing me to plough on with new ideas. I would not have set up a CAN, nor approached student engagement in the same way
  • The good practice examples helped us convince the decision makers to let the original research partnership go ahead

Find out more about CAN achievements

If you would like to find out more about the evaluation of the Change Agents’ Network evaluation, there is a 11-page summary report available.

I’ll be publishing a further blog post soon which looks at how the Change Agents’ Network can enhance its activities and continue to support institutions in our changing sector environment.

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