Recently, Commissioning Editor Kat Rylance spoke at the AMOSSHE 2021 conference about Creation through Collaboration. Missed the event? You can catch up here or read about 5 benefits of student co-creation below.
Collaboration is at the heart of what we do at Epigeum and our Tackling Harassment: Promoting Cultural Change in Higher Education programme was developed with a wide array of expert advisors including academics, university services staff, students, and an accessibility advisor.
Ensuring the student voice was kept front and centre of the development process was especially important and really enriched the development process.
So, what did we learn about the benefits student co-creation can bring to a development process like this?
- ‘Nothing about us without us’: developing this programme began with an acknowledgment that, as learning designers, we are limited by our own lived experiences. We cannot authentically develop a programme which seeks to support universities tackling harassment if we do not have personal current experience of student life. Co-creation enabled us to really hear what students need from a resource like this – from content coverage, to realistic scenarios, to tone of the programme – we made no assumptions about the student experience, we asked them instead!
- Lived experience vs academic research: when creating educational content, the tendency can be to prioritise academic scholarship and research above lived experience in the development process. As Sara Khan, Vice-President – Liberation and Equality NUS, said “lived experience often isn’t particularly valued as knowledge or data”. While this can make sense in curriculum specific content, it can be a missed opportunity when developing support & wellbeing resources. In this project, co-creation allowed us to balance the two, ensuring the content was genuinely reflective of students’ needs and experiences, and that it is of the highest academic quality.
- Inclusion and representation: we all hold implicit biases and one way to work towards counteracting this is to ensure you have a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds, disciplines and sectors, and bringing different perspectives, reviewing the content. Co-creation helped us to do this and the hope is that the programme reflects the nuanced experience of students. This wide range of advisors also meant that our student reviewers felt less pressure to be representative of a specific lived experience, and able to speak freely on numerous experiences. Mia Nembhard, Women’s Volunteer Officer at NUS, summed this up during our AMOSSHE event when she highlighted that “it’s a much nicer experience when there’s better nuance and a better range of people that are a part of scrutinizing, challenging and creating content.”
- Make it meaningful: students told us that they often felt that co-creation was performative. Consultation often happens right at the start of a project, or right at the end, when students can feel that their feedback has been sought to ‘tick the box’ of co-creation. Our collaborative process is iterative, which means that feedback is sought at every stage of the process – beginning when we have the kernel of an idea and continuing through development and beyond. Publication can often feel like the end point but for us it is just the end of the beginning – as more students use the programme, we use that feedback to continuously refine and develop our offering.
- Beyond the development process: by involving students from the start in the creation process you can engender trust and demonstrate commitment, enabling a better understanding of students’ needs and experiences. Long-term, this can lead to better, more relevant, trauma-informed support systems for those reporting any kind of harassment or hate.