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In the spotlight: Student think tank helps university create a digital code of conduct

The Faculty of Arts has a new minor system. In profiling minors, students not only follow thematic courses but also get the opportunity to form a think tank and work on an assignment to tackle a concrete problem. “This builds a bridge between the university and society.”

Students and lecturers at Radboud University have been using Brightspace since 2018. Although the Learning Analytics function in this digital learning environment offers all kinds of possibilities for analysing student learning behaviour, the university does not (yet) use it. That is because there are significant privacy concerns about this function in Brightspace. At the request of Jos in den Bosch, programme manager of ICT in Education, a think tank consisting of ten students developed the foundation for a digital code of conduct that allows learning behaviour to be analysed without breaching the privacy rules.

“We had to get used to this way of working”, recalled Teun Fransen, a Communication Science student, and Jasper Pesch, an English Language and Culture student. “Normally there is a lecturer who explains and gives assignments, but with this we had to decide for ourselves what we were going to do. Throughout the semester, each group member played their part in the process.”

Roel Smeets, assistant professor of Modern Literature and Digital Culture and coordinator of the Data and Society minor, also had a new role. “Instead of acting as a lecturer, I was more of a facilitator who helped the students find their way and supported them when they had questions. That made it a unique experience for me too.”

There is now a digital code of conduct, which was developed based on literature research, interviews and surveys. Fransen: “In it, we have defined what Learning Analytics is, what students and lecturers can expect from it and what the university therefore needs to consider before implementing Learning Analytics.”

The university can build on the code of conduct, but it remains to be seen whether this will be done by a similar think tank. Smeets: “We are certainly open to it because we are satisfied with the progress of the profiling minors, but of course that depends on what the clients want.” As for Pesch and Fransen, the positive experience continues to bear fruit. “The group work with students from different disciplines and with diverse cultural backgrounds was particularly instructive”, says Pesch. “Especially since we couldn’t meet in person because of the pandemic”, Fransen adds. “The project also helped me better recognise my own qualities and I have a better idea of what role I should play in group work.”