It was a great honour to see the Level Up team from the Birmingham School of Media win an Extra Mile Award last week!
Level Up has seen a long and organic development since its inception back in the Easter break of 2012. Encouraged by the enthusiastic support and unwavering faith of our Head of School, Prof Phil Thickett, his on-going commitment to the student experience within the School of Media at Birmingham City University has seen the project placed firmly within the priority schedule of life in the School. Our friends in the Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (of which I am now a part!) have been an invaluable support network in terms of their initial seed funding for the project and their support, both financial and administrative, has been invaluable in making the project a possibility in the first place (their willingness to support activity such as this, being just one reason that I have recently been tempted over to the dark side!).
Level Up represents a student-led and predominantly student-driven transition mentoring programme. Designed with the student experience in mind and from the perspective of the students themselves, Level Up was designed to assist our new students in making the transition into Higher Education, both personally and professionally. With a key focus upon both the academic life and social lives of our students, the project has been hugely successful with solid bonds with the School being formed and, for the academics amongst us, a correlating 7% increase in our student retention figure in the corresponding period of its development.
Our intervention not only featured the social mentoring of our new students across our designated social media channels, but it also featured a series of academic levellers through which we sought to ease our students into the academic life of the School. This included a short assignment that was assessed by our new students’ personal tutors and through which formative feedback was offered in one-to-one tutorials across the first few weeks. We embedded a series of workshops across the first year which were targeted around enabling our students’ success and we spent time ensuring that our new starters really felt at home as a part of their new environment.
Prior to their arrival, all students received a free copy of the core course text, and a personalised postcard (a lovely idea nabbed, and given in good grace, from our friends in the School of Health) inviting them to join the online Level Up activity, which included live-chats and discussion forums across a range of interest areas. Upon their arrival, our students were not only welcomed to a branded School of Media hoody which was designed to reinforce their sense of course identity (another generous idea shared by the CEBE Faculty), but their induction was similarly tailored to enable them to make friends and discover their new city as they ventured out across Birmingham in a Twitter-managed treasure hunt for media inspiration. These induction week activities culminated in a Tea Party and Level Up Awards Ceremony in our Students’ Union building, and while we didn’t have any oscars to offer, we did have sandwiches, a hot-chip buffet and some all-important supermarket vouchers to hand out as prizes for the winning teams as a part of their Twitter challenge.
Level Up has continued to grow in strength and ambition, and as a direct result of Prof. Phil Thickett’s enthusiasm and CELT’s unwavering support, Level Up has now extended its play across the rest of Birmingham City University. While I am saddened to be leaving the School of Media and the awesome Level Up team, I know that I am leaving it in the safest of hands, with Neil Hollins and our wonderful, Jamie Morris, Student Success Adviser for the School of Media (yet again a first in the School, and again with the support of CELT!).
I think we have just about recovered from the excitement of winning our award and have almost stopped high-fiving at every given opportunity, but just in case you haven’t already, a little corridor high-five action is always welcomed!
As part of my new role I will be aiding others as they set up their own projects and interventions, spreading that student engagement love, through transformative institutional relationships and on-going CELT support. It’s time to Level Up!