The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

3. Learners' perspectives

Turning now from our practitioner experiences, it is important and often illuminating to consider the learners’ perspectives on using technology to enhance the educational experience. There is an emphasis in current pedagogic research on characterising and understanding the ‘student experience of learning’.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) recently commissioned a report, ‘Student perspectives on technology – demand, perceptions and training needs’ (NUS, 2011). The research highlighted a number of trends including that student opinions are divided over the benefits of e-learning. Students felt that technology should be integrated and complementary to their learning; they do not want technology to replace traditional teaching (in particular as a cost-cutting measure). Further, students are concerned about the ICT competency of lecturers, thus identifying training needs. Students’ expectations are certainly increasing and continue to do so in the light of increased tuition fees.

‘These new technologies not only give an opportunity to refresh teaching methods, but also act as a starting point for more flexible, personal and improved learning environments.’ (NUS, 2011)

Case study: ‘Students as change agents in technology’

‘The concept of “listening to the student voice” – implicitly if not deliberately – supports the perspective of student as “consumer’, whereas “students as change agents” explicitly supports a view of the student as “active collaborator” and “co-producer”, with the potential for transformation.’ (Dunne et al., 2011)

Evolving from the ethos and framework of The University of Exeter ‘Students as Change Agents’ project,[1] partnerships between Business School staff and students emerged to address the challenges of using technology with large and diverse cohorts. The intention of this framework is to move beyond responding to student feedback and evaluations to the direct involvement of students in actually bringing about change.

Students carried out research (Lowe, 2011) into the views and perceptions of students which led to recommendations and solutions for practice. The need for greater and more consistent use of available technologiesto facilitate their learning is highlighted (expressing frustration if this does not happen). This has led to proposals that the Business School adopts a policy which requires lecturers to use ‘lecture streaming’ when it is available. Students also identified the need for institutional support in terms of investment as well as training programmes for staff. This led in turn to the ‘Technology Enhanced Learning Champions’ project where a number of recommendations are being followed through including the use of student mentors to support lecturers with their adoption of e-learning technologies.

‘I think the most exciting part of this project has been that it is possible to make a change even at such a large institution. Before this project I did not expect it to be possible to make a change, but this has shown me that with a little work and dedication you can make things happen’. (Student)

Figure 23: A theoretical model for students as change agents

Source:Dunne et al., (2011)

[1] See Dunne, L. , Zandstra, R. and ESCalate (2011) Students as Change Agents – New ways of engaging with learning and teaching in Higher Education, ESCalate; other outputs can be found at