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UCL Virtual Common Rooms

Virtual Common Rooms (VCRs) are online spaces led and owned by students – similar to the environment of a ‘real’ common room – a place for you to get to know other students and socialise with them.

UCL has introduced VCRs this academic year to help you make connections with fellow students, your department, your programme of study and wider UCL.

If you department has a VCR, you will automatically be added to it by the start of term. You may find that you are in one or more VCRs, depending on the structure of your department, so that you can interact with different groups of students.

If you are taking modules in another department, or you are on a combined-studies degree, and you want to join a VCR in another department please contact the Teaching Administration team in that department.

If your department doesn’t yet have a VCR, you can speak with your Teaching Administration team or your Academic Representatives – the VCR project team can help them set something up.


On this page you will find:

Please note, this guidance assumes that your department has chosen to set up VCRs. If your department doesn’t yet have a VCR, you can speak with your Teaching Administration team or your Academic Representatives – the VCR project team can help set them up.


Introduction

The majority of learning activities will be done remotely in Term 1, and some international students may not be able to travel to the UK. Even when on campus, there will not be the usual opportunities for students to meet socially, such as meeting up in cafes, common rooms and study spaces. We want to support all students, and especially those new to UCL, to meet and connect with each other. 

VCRs have been created in consultation with students and the Students’ Union UCL, to provide new and returning students with a virtual social space to network, connect and build communities with other students in your department (and beyond). 

VCRs are spaces led and owned by students – similar to the environment of a ‘real’ common room. VCRs will be student-led and maintained by Student Owners, but with some support by the department in the first few weeks to help them take root and become lively and well visited spaces. Once the VCR is up and running, Staff Owners will leave.

The Student Owner roles within the VCR are voluntary and may be taken up by Academic Reps, Transition Mentors or other students in your department interested in creating the social connections vital for succeeding as a learner.


How do VCRs work?

The VCRs have been created via the Microsoft Teams platform, with different channels for different activities:

  • Noticeboard - a place to see notices about important information, events, jobs etc similar to a noticeboard in a physical common room.
  • Introductions - students are encouraged to introduce themselves and share information about themselves and their interests. These introductions can be referred to over time, especially if new members join the VCR.
  • Chat - the main space for general discussion (both live and in your own time).
  • Cafe - a space dedicated to hosting meetings and events, with ability to set up ad hoc, scheduled or drop-in style events.  Guests can be invited to specific events too.

Please note, these channels titles are default titles. Your VCR Owners may also change and add to them to suit your department.

You will be added to one or more VCRs based on the structure in your department – this may be by degree programme, study type or other social grouping as appropriate.


What will your Student Owners do on VCRs?

Students in your department have volunteered to be owners of the VCR, so that they can be entirely student-led and student populated. They will:

  • Work with your department to finalise the structure of your VCR.
  • Set up some ad-hoc, regular or drop in events. Your department may have initially set up some induction week/welcome events. Some events may include staff, but only by invitation!
  • Promote and encourage use of the VCR.
  • Publicise things on the noticeboard, such as other events, activities, tasks, jobs or interesting news items.
  • If your department does not use Unitu they may have created a feedback channel in your VCR so that you can give feedback to your Academic Reps to raise at meetings of your Staff-Student Consultative Committees (SSCCs) as well as outside of these meetings.

What to do if you are concerned about behaviour in the VCR

The VCR is an informal space. Like a physical common room, it is part of by UCL for use by students. Also like a physical common room, there needs to be some expectations or rules to make sure the common space is respected and respectful.

UCL, as part of its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, believes that every student has a right to work and study in an environment which encourages harmonious relationships. We are committed to preventing harassment and bullying. As on campus, behaviour in virtual common rooms and other online spaces is covered by the UCL Code of Conduct and related policies such as the UCL Student Harassment and Bullying Policy.

In particular, it’s important for students to remember that any activity engaged in “…using the internet, including virtual learning environments (e.g. Moodle), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc.), blogs or other web resources, refrains from causing offence and could not be regarded as bullying or harassment.” (Section 1 of the UCL Code of Conduct)

Please make sure you have read the UCL Netiquette guidance. This guidance sets out what is considered good practice in a virtual environment. 

If you are concerned about any behaviour in your VCR, please contact your Student Owners, Academic Reps and/or staff in the department in the first instance.


Further information

For general guidance about using MS Teams, visit the UCL Teams Support Centre.

For queries about using the Virtual Common Room, contact the Student Owners of your VCR in the first instance (these should be easy to find in the ‘Introductions’ channel on your VCR) or your Academic Reps if you’re not sure.