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Working with Connected Learning Interns in Economics

Prof. Parama Chaudhury on working with interns to develop student-facing module activities, and getting the First Year Challenge online.

Connected Learning Internships have enabled departments to engage with students and to support the changes required for academic year 2020-21. So far, activities have included technical support for remote teaching; consultancy on content for welcome activities; developing resources to support the transition of new and returning students; support to develop products or enhancements that will enrich the student experience – and many more.

Professor Parama Chaudhury from Economics spoke to us about her experiences working with Connected Learning Interns both in summer 2019-20 and most recently in December and January.

In the summer Parama together with Cloda Jenkins ran two projects, one with the main focus of bringing course content in line with the Connected Learning Baseline, and another looking at alternatives for the First Year Challenge, which in previous years was wholly face-to-face, with student teams getting together and visiting UCL sites (Supporting Development of Student-Facing activities in Economics Modules and Moving the Economics First Year Challenge Online).

The interns were invaluable as they reviewed our Economics-specific Moodle template (based on the Connected Learning Baseline), they road-tested the design of the template and the learning model - did the changes work technically? What does it look like? Is the wording clear enough?

UCL Arena Centre has a lot of resources available so the interns selected those that seemed most valuable to students. They also made short videos for students, especially first years, to signpost useful content, such as certain webpages or sections of a particular video. These examples were obviously very anecdotal but it was invaluable for students to have those recommendations and extra resources from peers.

For the First Year Challenge, the interns created a Google map and pinned locations with interesting videos or other resources associated with them, and turned it into a multimedia exercise for groups of students to take part in. All four of the summer interns got involved with testing the links to publicly available resources. This could be YouTube videos or films on the BBC, and of course as Economics has a student body spread across the world, the interns recruited students in every country they could find to test whether it was possible to view these resources through VPNs or firewalls – this was before China Connect! 

The final thing the interns did was to make a selection of videos with students who had previously taken part in the First Year Challenge, and they asked about the value of participating in the challenge, as it isn’t marked in any way. They also went big on tips for students!

The interns had great insight into what was needed and just took the tasks and ran with them. In terms of checking in with them regarding the work – “it was very symbiotic. We set up a Teams site so the interns knew to tag us with any questions they had, as well as listing scheduled tasks”.

As the summer interns put together their work so well it was easy for the winter interns to continue. The winter project, Evaluating the Digital First Learning Approach in Economics, focused on reviewing the changes made over the summer and the interns hosted evaluative focus groups with fellow students. They were able to look back at the Teams channels and see what the previous interns had done and when, this was important especially as the tasks in the summer grew and changed with the interns’ input. This provided a great sense of continuity – even though different interns were working on the project it still felt like a team effort.

This year the Economics undergraduate intake went from 300 to nearly 800 including the joint degrees so it was important to have everything set up and working perfectly, and the interns were unbelievably helpful with this.

UCL Arena Centre and UCL Careers will be offering summer internships for 2020-21, with 200 opportunities available for students between July and September to work on technical support, content development, and other educational enhancements to prepare for the next academic year.