StARs Forum, 9th December, 12:30pm, Room EEG162
The STAR (student academic representative) Forum was a lively affair with questions going to and fro between STARS’s and staff members. The issue of Worcester Weeks was first discussed and feedback amongst the STAR’s revealed that the Weeks had received a mixed reaction. One STAR commented that they enjoyed the workshops and felt they were useful.
However, this was balanced out by another STAR noting that the weeks were for some students a time to “work or detox!” Furthermore the alarming statistics of less than “10% of students from across three groups” in some departments attending the workshops was raised and ideas of how to address this were put forward.
Both groups in the STAR’s forum displayed a willingness to listen to each other with STARs noting that they were aware of stresses and strains that preparing these Weeks can have upon tutors, while emphasising that the Worcester Weeks are appreciated across the student community. This engagement was seen with the staff as well and John Ryan the Universities secretary noting of the Weeks that there was a “need to improve communication”.
The discussion of the Worcester Week also generated the weird and wonderful with one STAR noting how there had been throughout Worcester Week a mysterious “giant purple bus behind the Students Union” which remained strangely empty. In relation to the events STAR raised the issue of whether or not these were distributed equally across the departments.
It was decided of the past Worcester Week that while there was a lot of great events on, with the testimony of Holocaust survivor Ziggy Shipper being immensely popular, improvements in making students aware of such events were vital for subsequent Worcester Weeks, suggestions of using blackboard and sending personal emails to each student were advocated for accomplishing this.
There were also concerns from some STAR’s that two week blocks of teaching would be missed in January but staff members allayed these fears noting that Worcester Weeks are designed to add not remove anything.
Next up was the discussion of the mysterious Turnitin, which is an internet plagiarism detection software. While some STAR’s noted their satisfaction with Turnitin, others commented that there was not enough information about it and one student representative noted how one student had declared “Turnitin what the hell is that!”
Problems over confusion between the UK and US versions of Turnitin were raised as well as the ramifications that the Turnitin forms on which names are displayed could have upon the concept of anonymous marking.
However, there was consensus among both the STARs and the chairs of the meeting that Turnitin was very useful but there was a distinct drought of information in regards to knowledge of Turnitin among students, with an understanding of the software varying across different groups.
The final topic was course management meetings like the previous issues, there was a variety of feedback for this. Some STAR’s noted that they had found the environment in these sessions “really receptive.”
Others student representatives felt there had been problems with organisation, resulting in both students and staff members missing out on the ability to engage as the meetings were scheduled at inconvenient times and another problem was poor turnout, reflected in the experiences of one STAR who recollected how they had been the only student representative present at one such meeting despite it being held during lunchtime.
It was decided that as with Turnitin and the Worcester Weeks, the main objective was to keep students and staff informed. The staff members at the meeting then asked where there was any other business to raise before closing the discussion
Student Vice president of Education Tom Clarke afterwards said that the meetings through the questions being unexpected had allowed students to “get their voices heard”.
Story by Joe Hayes.