Reflections from CAN 2016 in partnership with the University of Lincoln

On 2nd June, the University of Lincoln hosted the 4th annual meet up of the network, with 175 participants from over 47 institutions representing higher and further education, of which 63 were students. From the initial meeting in 2013 hosted by Simon Walker and Mark Kerrigan, at the University of Greenwich, with 15 change agents, to 70 participants at the University of Winchester in 2014, 120 in Birmingham in 2015 and now 175 for our 4th annual meet up, it shows the impact student partnerships in having on driving change with technology and enhancing learning and teaching in HE and FE and Skills.

The growth of CAN

The growth of CAN

What a fantastic day we had and it was a privilege to meet so many inspirational staff and students who are driving change in their institutions through student partnerships. The event was officially opened with a welcome from Professor Sue Rigby, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Development), University of Lincoln. It was evident from Sue’s welcome that support for student engagement and partnerships starts at the top. Sue challenged us to use the Teaching Excellence Framework as a vehicle to show how student partnerships can be embedded in all aspects of institutional practice.
Putting partnership into action, Dr Karin Crawford, Director, Educational Development & Enhancement Unit and John Paul-Dickie, Level 3 Journalism Student and Vice-President Academic Affairs Elect shared the vision for student partnerships at Lincoln and illustrated this with examples of practice which showed how embedded the ethos is across all aspects of the university:

• Staff and student insight scheme (in which John-Paul and Karin had participated and had shadowed each others’ practice)
• Student recruiters
• Student reviewers
• Student advisory groups
• Students consulting on teaching
• Peer assisted study sessions (PASS)
• Student teaching panels
• Student digital leads
• Joint review of practice.

As one delegate tweeted, ‘this is my to-do list to embed partnerships at my institution’. You can view Karin and John-Paul’s presentation here on Periscope (starts around 14 min) with our thanks to Chris Thomson for his recording.

The 25 student partnerships showcase sessions brought together the best of institutional practice from across the UK. Students presented their projects with passion and easily identified the benefits they were realising from their involvement. You can view short video clips from these sessions by visiting the conference website and clicking on the showcase tab and selecting the video icon. There was a noticeable buzz that this market place activity generated with plenty of ideas to take away and new connections made. Posters from these sessions will be added when available.

Student partnerships showcase in action

Student partnerships showcase in action

We were also delighted to see 3 of the Jisc Summer of Student Innovation projects participate in the showcase, with SALT: The Student’s Academic Literacy Tool, University of Teesside; UCanCook – the augmented reality cookbook, with Chris Medwell and his learners from Doncaster College and Gemma Holtam, Dearne Valley College, with a Specific learning difficulties digital stories e-book. These student developed tools have the potential to transform learners’ lives.

For the afternoon line up we had 4 participatory workshops sharing sector led initiatives:
• The REACT Project: Perspectives on enhancing inclusive approaches to Student Engagement, Liz Dunne (Director of REACT), Tom Lowe (REACT Project Manager), Dr Stuart Sims (REACT Lead Researcher), Stella Jones-Devitt (Head of Student Research and Evaluation – Sheffield Hallam) and Sheffield Hallam students
• Making student engagement a reality – Turning theory into practice led by Luke Millard and Stuart Brand from Birmingham City University, stepping in for Ellie Russell who had travel difficulties and unfortunately couldn’t join us for the event to represent the work of TSEP.
• What will a successful student-staff partnership look like in 2020? Peter Chatterton, Clare Killen and Sarah Knight (Change Agents’ Network, Jisc)
• Youth Justice Live! Engaging Students in Curriculum Development, Sue Bond-Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Lincoln
• Putting learning and teaching partnerships into practice, Abbi Flint, Higher Education Academy (HEA)


What will success student partnerships look like in 2020?

What will success student partnerships look like in 2020?

We ended the day on a high with 15 students from 5 institutions sharing their experiences of working in partnership. You can view the recording of this excellent panel chaired by Simon Walker session here.

CAN Student Panel

CAN Student Panel

And so ended #JiscCAN 2016! We would like to thank our hosts the University of Lincoln, and in particular, Reece Horsley, Marcus Elliott and Dan Derricott (for the original invitation) for all their hard work and dedication in organising such a successful event. We are already planning #jiscCAN 2017 and in discussion with an institution who has stepped forward with an offer to host the event next year. We also have another potential regional network starting up in the Midlands. We are also hoping to support an FE and Skills focused event later in the year.

I am so proud to have been involved in CAN and to have seen the network grow and evolve into being a nationally recognised lead for student partnerships. With the enthusiasm and vision of the CAN team of Simon Walker (University of Greenwich), Mark Kerrigan (Anglia Ruskin University), Peter Chatterton, Clare Killen and Ellen Lessner, the network has enabled students and staff across UK HE and FE and Skills, to share and continually develop their practice on student staff partnerships. With the ever changing political and educational landscape, student partnerships offers an exciting way forward to lead and sustain change across HE and FE and Skills.

You can view the Storify summary here and view the conference learning wheel set up by @DebMillar24 @learningwheel. Presentations will be added to the event blog page.

And the final word goes to Anna Dolidze, University of Westminster, and one of our student panellists:
“As one of the lucky students, I just wanted to thank every single one of you for giving me the chance to be a part of something so truly special and inspiring. Words cannot even begin to explain how happy I am to have attended the event with such amazing and inspirational people by my side, or how grateful I am for all your support and for the incredible conversations (brainstorming sessions 🙂 ) we had.”

CAN Meet Up at the University of Lincoln

The Meet Up on 2 June at the University of Lincoln was attended by over 175 students and staff from FE and HE and we want to thank all of those involved with the planning and running of the day for organising a brilliant, busy, inspiring day in a lovely location. Read more about it by going to the Events page or look through the  Storify of the day:

‘Students as Partners in learning and teaching in higher education’

mapping poster Posted on behalf of Rebecca Rochon, Senior Lecturer in Education, Buckinghamshire New University:

I’ve got a bit of the Monday blues- I’ve returned from my native Canada where I was fortunate enough to attend last week’s ‘Students as Partners in learning and teaching in higher education’ organised by the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Enhancement in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL) (

As a single participant, I could not attend the Change Institute aimed at mixed groups of students and staff. However, I was more than satisfied with the two consecutive two-day workshops on Students as partners in teaching, learning and assessment and Students as partners in curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy. Both had wonderful facilitators, and introduced a range of case studies and guided participants in considering potential initiatives that could be implemented after the event. I’m hugely excited by a potential project on student observation to enhance teaching excellence that I spent time discussing with colleagues from Cardiff Met, Coventry and UCL.

ice creamI was impressed by both the range of food on offer (ice cream as an afternoon snack: genius) and the incredibly diverse projects that I was able to hear about: the latter was particularly useful as I was able to nab a few people with a view to building on the mapping project ( Indeed, my quest to get an overview of sector activity was considerably enhanced by contributions from the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Australia! Overall, though, I have to underline that the UK is doing a brilliant job driving partnership, and I was delighted to see colleagues from across the UK sharing their expertise.

Birmingham City University: Student Academic Partners – Case study published

Posted on behalf of Clare Killen:

Launched in December 2008, the student academic partners scheme (SAP) brings together project teams of students and staff working in partnership on initiatives designed to improve the student experience.  This case study outlines how the SAP scheme was developed and how it has impacted on student engagement and the student experience.

The case study includes examples of the SAP scheme in action and includes details of other student engagement initiatives that have grown from the success of SAP showing how the principle of student engagement and working with students has become embedded in all aspects of the university.

The sixth CAN case study is available in Word or PDF format along with other case studies on the Resources page.

Take part in a growing project to put partnership on the map!

Posted on behalf of Rebecca Rochon, Senior Lecturer in Education, Buckinghamshire New University:

Whether you call it partnership or it’s just the way your organisation works, we know that the way students and staff work together is both changing and driving change.

If your organisation is involved in partnership activities, we invite you to complete a short online survey:

Survey information will contribute to the creation of an interactive ‘map’ of partnership activity: this accessible overview will make it easier for everyone to see what is happening across the sectors, foster connections and potentially drive change. As a contributor, you will be emailed once the map becomes available.

Please contribute by April 30, 2016. The map will be available for viewing in July, 2016.  

3 March 2016 – latest edition of the Journal now available for downloading in PDF, ePub and Kindle formats

The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change has just published the third edition and is available to download in PDF, ePub and Kindle formats here.  Editor Simon Walker from the University of Greenwich and Sarah Knight, Senior Co-design Manager, Jisc provide an introduction (The strategic importance of working together with our students), with a preface from Liz Dunne, University of Winchester; Design Thinking: A framework for student engagement? A personal view.

CAN journal

Guest student blog post: Student Learning Technologists – A peer-to-peer support network or a feedback mechanism?

Blog CAN Feb16Posted on behalf of Callum Hutchinson – second year student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC)

Last year I took on the role of the Student Learning Technologist (SLT) for my cohort. The core task for myself and the other Technologists is to promote, encourage and support students at the RVC in the use of technology in our studies and improve digital literacy. As part of this we:

  • Ensure lecture recordings via Echo360  for our cohort are published to a good standard.
  • Assist staff where necessary to improve the quality of these lectures or provided materials.
  • Monitor and maintain RVC Learn (our Moodle site) for our cohort and provide any assistance needed.
  • Feedback and communicate with the eMedia Unit ( any issues with these systems.

We see, hear and discuss things that might otherwise go ‘off-the-record’. We are able to feed this back to relevant staff before it become mission critical and can start looking to implement the right things at the right times.

For example, in 2015 the RVC decided to switch all first year courses at the RVC to a paperless handouts system for environmental and other reasons. In response, my role during the first half of the term included assisting students transitioning to paperless, enhancing digital literacy and providing help with paperless annotation tools and cloud syncing to get them settled as quickly as possible. I am happy to report that this has been a success thanks to the hard work of myself, the other SLTs and my colleagues within eMedia.

Ground work has to be done to ensure we know exactly what to add, change or remove in this new digitally literate curriculum. How do you find out what students are doing well or struggling with? Heaven forbid, perhaps an email survey? We students are (mostly) lazy. Unless there’s an incentive or something is very seriously wrong, we probably won’t do it. Broadly speaking, we don’t make the connection that this is crucial to our future education.

I also see my role as SLT including being a contributor new ideas as to how students can use our existing technology in better ways based on our ‘ground work’. One example is the project I have undertaken for development of a Microsoft HoloLens/Windows app that would be accessible on all form-factors to assist students in their anatomy education outside of the classroom. You can read the proposal (and vote to signal your interest to Microsoft) at

I bounce ideas about, not because I’m paid or that it’s indirectly part of my job. I do it because it’s better to share and discuss them than never see where they lead. An idea cultivated on one day could be implemented in a few months versus a few years if it is brought to the attention of the relevant people sooner.

The SLT programme is much more than a group of eager students wanting to help out and get paid for it. It’s a mechanism by which we can find out what the best path to go down is and start thinking about how to do it before it becomes detrimental to the student experience and digital literacy. We can plan to do the right thing so it’s less expensive and less time consuming than doing the wrong thing.

It was good to see that Jisc has also been promoting digital literacy more widely to students and staff around the UK. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the Jisc digital student experience project team at a London Digital Student Meet Up (LDSM) at the RVC. I have been particularly impressed by their Digital Student Experience Tracker and that there is a commitment to fund student innovation through the Summer of Student Innovation (SOSI) which I feel is important in trying to gather interest and engagement.

In conclusion, I believe that the best people to support and inspire our students to become more digitally literate are other students!

University of Winchester Student Fellowship Scheme Case Study Published

Posted on behalf of Clare Killen:

The Student Fellowship Scheme (SFS) at The University of Winchester recruits and trains students to work on targeted educational development projects alongside academics and professional staff.  The SFS evolved from the Jisc-funded FASTECH project, a collaborative project involving staff and students at The University of Winchester and Bath Spa University that advanced  understanding of assessment-for-learning with technology at both universities and showed the potential for engaging students as active partners in educational development projects.  It is now run as a partnership between the university and the Winchester Student Union and there are currently approximately 60 Student Fellows working on a diverse range of research projects.  This case study looks at how the scheme has been scaled up since FASTECH and how the principles of student engagement have become embedded across the wider university community.

The fifth CAN case study is available in Word or PDF format along with other case studies on the Resources page.

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.