Students worldwide hang out for online focus groups

Student Affairs Manager, Huw Morgan Jones, reports on hosting student focus groups via Google Hangouts
People connecting
A rare opportunity to bring together independent distance learners with those attending a teaching institution
Capturing the student voice through Google Hangouts has proven popular, and we will look for opportunities to host similar sessions in the future

Our latest Student Experience Survey ran at the end of 2013 for postgraduates and early 2014 for undergraduates. Hopefully many of you reading this article will have taken the opportunity to give us feedback on your experience as a student of the International Programmes. 

For the very first time this year we also ran two online focus groups to explore the results of the 2013-14 survey. These sessions connected a cross-section of students from several time zones and served to emphasise the unique make up of our student body – 50,000 students from over 180 countries. It also provided a rare opportunity to bring together independent distance learners with those attending a teaching institution.

Among the participants was a full-time university lecturer from Vietnam balancing our MRes in Educational and Social Research with the already competing demands of parenthood and an academic career, a school leaver from Jamaica taking on our LLB programme, and a qualified doctor from Nepal who took full advantage of the flexibility of our MSc Infectious Diseases by relocating to the United States midway through her studies.

While our students come from a range of different backgrounds, the focus groups served to highlight what they have in common – the passion to work for a valuable University of London qualification, and a willingness to engage with the University despite being thousands of miles from London.   

The focus groups featured lively discussions around themes from the Student Experience Survey, including organisation and management, assessment, learning resources, professional development and communication with the University. 

We used Google Hangouts to run these discussions. Providing a user-friendly communication platform which is free for both students and the university, Hangouts requires minimal set up and allows for text and video chat at a range of bandwidth levels. Students enjoyed hanging out with each other, and while Hangouts was new for some, others proudly announced that they use it regularly to participate in study groups. 

Information about the survey findings and follow-up work will be published on the International Programmes website. Capturing the student voice through Google Hangouts has proven popular, and we will look for opportunities to host similar sessions in the future.