The power of student partnership to effect change: in a course and in yourself

by | May 21, 2021 | Student partnership

Emma Smith is a Student Partner Intern (SPI) and has been part of our Online Blended Learning (OBL) cohort this year.  Over the 2020/21 academic year this cohort of SPIs have worked in partnership with staff, undertaking activities such as reviewing academic content and supporting transcription and subtitling projects across the University.



My motivations in becoming a SPI

I have been a student at the University of Manchester for 5 years – a long time! My student experience has been such a huge part of my life and I am sure all students can say the same – whether it has been good or bad.  At the beginning of last year, I knew I wanted to do something to get more involved and give back. I saw the advertisement for Student Partner Interns (SPI) and straight away I knew I wanted to apply. I began my role August 2020, and since then I have worked on a variety of projects and learned a huge amount from the experience.

What does the role of a student partner consist of?

Essentially, we were matched with staff from certain courses either individually or alongside other student partners to help make improvements. The experience varies for everyone depending on what projects they are working on. I have worked on a variety of projects, mainly giving feedback on course modules and lecture videos, and also on transcription projects. In addition I have worked in a team to produce materials for staff and students based on ‘How to Build an Online Community’ where we addressed the issues of working online and shared tips based on our own personal experiences of working online. Recently, in teams we have also worked on producing training materials for new student partners which I think will be beneficial, alongside also working on this blog! There is plenty of variety in the work that we do which is one of the things I have really liked about the role. 


My favourite project was providing feedback on a university wide ‘Introduction to Statistics’ course alongside two other student partners. The format of this project was well organised to optimise our time with our staff partners. Each week was structured as a 3 hour ‘microsprint’ where a group of people work towards a common goal to get the optimal outcome. We had 30 mins reflection, then 30 mins setting out tasks and expectations followed by 2 hours carrying out these tasks. This broke down the workload evenly and really optimised the hours that we had working on the project. I found this structured approach much easier to fit around my studies compared to other projects I had worked on and I knew exactly what was expected of me each week which I think was sometimes slightly unclear on a minority of projects. It would be good to approach other projects in this way to get the best outcome for both staff and students.


Overall, I have found it really interesting to see all of the work that goes into the teaching material provided to us as students – in all honesty before having this role I didn’t realise all of this work went into producing online material, I thought that lecturers would just upload podcasts! It has been really refreshing to see and it is great that staff are so open to constructive criticism to better their course. During this role I have learned a lot of skills, and more importantly the value of these skills. The most important for me were teamwork and communication. I preferred projects I worked on as a team because you can integrate different perspectives and ideas to produce the best outcome, yet I found communication style to be important also.  For example, constructing feedback to staff would be communicated differently than communicating with other partners in my team, and I found this concept of adaptive communication to be an important skill to have.

Overall becoming a Student Partner Intern has been a great experience for me and best of luck to the future student partners!


If you are interested in learning more about our Student Partner Internships, please see the Student Partners Programme pages.


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