Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Participation Journey – Part One – Ellen's three key points.

Over the coming weeks I hope to add a series of blogs about the participatory approach we took to our JISC funded Learner Experience project, the impact it had on us as researchers, comments from those taking part and also discussions and papers that also allowed some of us, who were working on different projects, to link up and work collaboratively.

Before we delve into some of the research and ask others about their part in the LexDis project it seemed a good idea to ask Ellen Lessner who was Project Manager for the Phase 2 Support and Synthesis project, to provide an overview. She very kindly did more than that and has given us a Mind map with audio (avi file) of the three things she feels help to make successful participatory projects.
The transcript of the audio may be found beneath this image of the mind map

“Hello. This is a brief summary of why I think the Learner Experience Participation in the JISC Experience Projects worked so well. It is an overview, really and I have identified three things which I think were important:

The first one was that individual project members actually had quite a lot to do with keeping in touch with people who were participating in their projects, and that was very critical to the success of the individual projects. And, in fact, at the end of the projects I think that the role of these individuals was acknowledged and applauded, really – because, whether they were keeping in touch by email, text, phone or in person, their role could not be underestimated – and they turned out to be key players.

The Thema project, in fact, which used a ‘penpal’ method of keeping in touch by email, is probably a good place to start, to see how that was identified as working particularly well for keeping participants involved in the project. But, as I said, it was also individual personalities that just turned out to be in the right place at the right time – which kept people going.

Second of all, it was quite important to actually know what the learners’ value to enable them to stay on the project, and I think each project knew what had worked previously and what hadn’t worked previously with learners – in other words what was interesting for them. So some people thought that Amazon vouchers weren’t going to work. They used cash. Others found the vouchers worked perfectly well. Then there was a whole range of things over the 2 years that the projects ran, including a Twix bar attached to a survey that turned out to be very popular. But mainly, people were given either cash or vouchers at the completion of their participation, and that was a very important aspect of keeping people on board, because obviously students need money.

Finally, my point of view would be that, because of working in a university environment, many of the participants actually understand the importance of the research. And, actually a number of students probably want to into research themselves if they want to stay on as post-graduates. So, they are willing to participate. I come from further education, so it has been a little bit harder to get people involved in research projects, and I would think that the couple of the projects that were working with FE students, or people who had come from FE, also found that sometimes it was a little harder to get them involved.

Anyway – that is my opinion. Three things: having key people on the team who keep up the relationship with the individual learner participant, actually knowing the learner’s value, and also working within a university where people understand the importance of research probably helped make this very successful.