Gathering student perspectives: a case study of capturing student feedback

Image of a flock of penguins on a rock

One of the key areas of growth activity over the past year or so has been to gather more student input into the design process. To this end we have a number of core approaches to gathering student perspectives during design phases:

  • we administer the curriculum design student panel, which provides us with access to over 1500 OU students for rapid feedback
  • we support and advise on developmental testing, frequently working in partnership with colleagues in LTI academic, editors and the module team
  • we advise module teams on use of Real-Time Student Feedback for gathering input during presentation from students

The examples below demonstrate how we go about deploying some of these approaches in our design work with module teams.

Student perspectives on aspects of module design at postgraduate level

Gill MacMillan (Senior Learning Designer)

In this example, we were able to use the Curriculum Design Student Panel to gather student feedback – during the design phase – on specific aspects of the structure of a postgraduate module:

  • Effectiveness of a weekly introductory slidecast/video, in which an academic author sets the scene and outlines the key focus and discussions to be covered in that week
  • Usefulness of a ‘Planning your week’ overview table – outlining the activities in the week ahead (timings, type of activity etc.) in order to help students plan their study time
  • Student preference between two alternative layouts for the study planner

A relevant cohort of students was identified, and while the number who then actually responded was relatively small, the feedback was very consistent and gave a clear steer from students on all 3 aspects:

  • The majority of students found the introductory slidecast/video easy to use, informative and more effective than reading online text, and said they would start the week by looking at it in order to understand the aspects of the topic to be covered. (In addition, an issue was raised about the visibility of the transcript link when viewing the video on an iPad. This was fed back to the Learning Systems team who were already aware of the issue and have made improvements to the functionality).
  • All the students found the ‘Planning your week’ overview useful
  • The majority expressed a clear preference for the second alternative layout

In terms of the overall findings and impact, the Module Chair was happy with the results and the process, recognised the usefulness of getting this direct student feedback, and went on to implement the findings. So there was a clear impact from the panel’s input, and the Module Chair summarised this impact in a follow-up message to those students who had participated. Now that the module is live, Real-time Student Feedback is being used to get feedback from students as they study, enabling us to get further feedback on these, and other, aspects of the module design.

Testing innovative assessment

Yvonne Murphy (Learning Designer)

This testing was carried out as part of the Developmental testing that the LTD team in LTI Academic lead on. We work in partnership with the LTD team initially, and then work to co-ordinate the input of D&P colleagues in the testing. LTI Academic liaise with the module team to establish how the testing will run, recruit the students and set up the evaluation. Learning Designers then support by making sure the content is setup in an authentic manner on the VLE, and work with D&P to get the materials ready and presented to an appropriate standard.

For this particular testing relating to activities for a new WELS module (E309), a key part of our role was the qualitative analysis of student feedback.

The development testing itself consisted of two student activities

  • Creating a ‘digital badge’ using a PowerPoint template with embedded audio.
  • Creating an Infographic comparing two datasets using a PowerPoint template with embedded audio.

Both activities used Office365 and required students to work collaboratively in pairs. There were 11 student participants who completed the E309 activities and associated questionnaire, some students gave additional feedback by phone.

As a result of this, we had a lot of qualitative data from the student questionnaire which was analysed and captured in a table summarising issues per participant per activity. Following the initial analysis we contacted some of the students and arranged a phone call with them to engage and explore their feedback more thoroughly.

Some of the identified risks and opportunities were as follows:

Risk & Issues Opportunity & Mitigation
If using a personal Office365 account cannot ‘share’ with partner (using Office365 share function) if using an OU student account and vice versa (cannot share outside of organisation) Cannot use the ‘share’ function of Office 365 to collaborate. Advise to share via email and on Module e-groups
PowerPoint had to be installed for audio and the desktop version used (audio functionality not available online) Provide instructions to save PowerPoint to desktop rather than using the online version
Unsure how to record audio Provide additional resource:

  • One page visual document on recording audio
  • Have a session in tutorial one around Office365 and PowerPoint
  • Produce a Camtasia screencast on basic navigation


Students lack confidence in IT and PowerPoint skills
  • Use digital badge activity as a ‘practise’ ‘dummy’ TMA to prepare students for creating a poster in TMA01
  • Provide additional support and resources (as above)
Unable to collaborate with partner due to clashes in time commitment – one partner did most/all of the work Students to produce individual infographics for assessment but to collaborate with the preparation and research.

The module team implemented all of the recommendations coming from the opportunities documented above (except the one page visual document as it was felt enough resource was provided with the screencast, tutorial, template and instructions).