Help students explore the facts about consent, consider their boundaries and make a positive difference in difficult situations.
There is currently increasing pressure on universities to address sexual violence and behaviour on campus. At the moment much of the provision is concentrated on workshop initiatives, which are challenging to facilitate on a big scale. Staff and students need to be trained to implement workshops that are time and cost-intensive, and often alienate a number of students.
This topic is of such importance that Universities UK established a Taskforce in September 2015 to address this issue. Some of the emerging recommendations from the Taskforce have recently been publicised and include:
- Encouragement of senior management buy-in and appropriate resourcing
- Holistic and comprehensive provision covering both prevention and response
- An institution-wide approach
- Recommendations for evidence-based resources.
(Universities UK 2016)
An evidence-based approach
Last month saw the launch of Epigeum’s first online course for undergraduate students dedicated to sexual consent education. Our experts in online pedagogy and design saw the potential for online training on this topic as there are currently no online options in the UK or Australia for preventative training on ‘consent’. The online medium provides a safe space to learn about consent and works for a wide range of students and can be used to complement existing workshop initiatives.
Consent Matters: Boundaries, Respect and Positive Intervention is a 60-75 minute online course to help students understand sexual consent and promotive positive change in the university community. This interactive course is positive not punitive and addresses prevention of sexual violence in the student community – covering the areas of sexual consent, communication, and bystander intervention.
During the development of Consent Matters it became very clear that there is a need for an evidence-based approach to training about consent and positive intervention amongst the student body. This was spearheaded by the course Advisory Panel member and module 3 author, Dr Alan Berkowitz. The course draws on social norms theory – a means of training pioneered by Dr Alan Berkowitz found to be a very influential means of learning.
What makes it evidence-based?
There are a number of carefully considered features of Consent Matters which contribute to the evidence-based nature of the course.
1) Interactive polls
The course features a polling activity in module 3. Participants are asked to imagine they are that they are witnessing a situation in which someone is making judgemental comments about a friend. They are then presented with a series of questions about how the situation would make them feel and whether they would feel compelled to speak up or not. As students submit each answer, they can compare their responses to those of their peers.
The aim of this activity is to actively engage students in social norming – a powerful tool when it comes to preventing sexual aggression and assault. The perception may be that most people would not be bothered by a difficult situation, and so if we personally are bothered, we may decide not to step in because we fear we’ll step outside of the social norm – and go against the majority. In reality research actually shows that around 90% of students would be uncomfortable with the situation described and want to step in and do something. The theory goes that by completing the poll, we illustrate to students that their peers are likely to be uncomfortable too and want to step in and do something. So the poll acts as a powerful tool for empowering the students to intervene positively.
2) The student voice
The peer voice is very much prominent in all the modules of Consent Matters. There are ‘Students Say’ pods which feature quotes from real students that relate to the screen topic.
We also have Vox Pops from real students in the UK and Australia who talk openly about quite personal subjects. This animation explains how students would feel if they heard something offensive, and how they feel about those individuals who are willing to step in. Like the poll activity it is designed to help students see that if they do feel uncomfortable around certain language or behaviours they see and hear on campus then they are not alone.
3) Authentic data
The course also draws on key evidence from prominent and reputable studies and reports including:
- Statistics from the NUS Hidden Marks Report
- Official Statistics from the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Office for National statistics
- Statistics from NUS Australia Talk About It Survey Report
These sources all feature in the ‘Consent In the News’ feature on the screen dedicated to ‘Why Consent Matters’ which allows students to consider some of the wider issues around sexual consent and highlights the seriousness of the issue in universities worldwide.
See for Yourself
Consent Matters: Boundaries and Respect and Positive Intervention is now available for free institutional trials: register your interest here
Interested in learning more? Attend a free workshop dedicated to best practice responses to sexual violence in higher education: Find out more here