Using the Students’ Union to “Step it Up”

I have had the opportunity over the last year of working closely with our Students Union here at the University of Huddersfield. Historically we have just had a process of updating the SU with upcoming projects etc. but have never really worked collaboratively on anything. This is the story of two IT initiatives that we decided to work on collaboratively with the SU, and how in doing so these initiatives came to life in a way that we in Computing Services could never have imagined on our own.

This is how the SU helped us to ‘step it up’ and make two good initiatives great. hud2The first was a project the SU collaborated with us on is UniAsk. Our vision was to create a peer-to-peer support forum packed with guides for popular University systems. This we did, and the principle was sound, it looked great and worked as intuitively as we had hoped. The problem was we now needed a community to drive our amazing empty vessel. I approached the SU with the hope that they could do something along the lines of promotion through social media and inclusion on the regular email that goes out. What I got was an entire marketing plan and a volunteering project just for UniAsk. Thanks to the SU we don’t just have a few engages students, we have an entire network of volunteers dedicated to engaging with UniAsk, driving improvements to the system and promoting it to others. I guess to call it a ‘step-up’ would be understating the benefits of the SU input, more a leap-up with a slam-dunk at the end. hud1

The second initiative started life as an attempt to target the advertisement of our fantastic services to third year students leading up to the completion of the NSS, in the hope it would bump up our percentage. This led to the rather marvellous idea (even if I do say so myself) to create a ‘dissertation survival guide’. The pack would be some kind of physical, tangible thing that had an element of fun to it whilst still promoting our services. I took the idea to the SU, and they loved it. All I had to do was provide text information on the services we wanted to advertise, and the budget we wanted to spend. The SU did the rest, again their creative cogs set in motion and despite a tight deadline they pulled off another blinder. The SU designed the boxes, sourced the items that would go into the packs, designed the poster advertising our services, packed the boxes and distributed them to students. Over 2 days in January the SU distributed 500 dissertation survival guides, tweeted about it including pictures like the ones you can see in this post, and even produced an executive report once the project was over. We are yet to know whether the project had an effect on our NSS scores, but regardless – the effort and energy our SU put in was fantastic. So maybe you have an SU that would help you step-up your ideas. They could be the piece of the puzzle you have been missing all along.

This blog post contributed by Alistair Reid-Pearson MBA MCMI MBCS
2nd Line IT Support & IT Training Manager
Computing & Library Services
University of Huddersfield

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