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Ulster University Staff Guide

Ulster University in partnership with Ulster University Student Union will be implementing Unitu across the university this academic year.

Unitu is a Student Voice platform that is purposefully built to support and enhance the student representation system.

This document is a guide for staff on the most frequently asked questions. We hope it will help you better understand what Unitu is, how it works and how it will be implemented at Ulster University

For further information and support:

For technical queries on Unitu, please contact support@unitu.co.uk. 

For queries on using Unitu as a Staff Member at UU, please contact Mandy Mullholand, UUSU Student Voice Manager, m.mulholland@ulster.ac.uk 

Unitu is not a new feedback process. Unitu is not an app like yikyak.

Unitu is private and closed app that only UU students and staff can access and it’s built to enhance an already existing student feedback process, i.e. the student representation system.

Unitu’s goal is to overcome key roadblocks within the student rep system, such as:

  • Lack of awareness students have of who their reps are and of the formal student rep structures
  • Students not hearing and knowing what is happening with the feedback they are providing
  • Reps not providing representative feedback to staff
  • Reps not fully engaged with their role as a result of the lack of student engagement
  • Staff members finding out key student concerns that are solvable at the end of the academic year 
  • Staff members struggling to show students in a clear and visible way how and what can be done in regards to student feedback

Unitu’s platform is purposefully built to address the above issues within an already existing student representative system. We fundamentally believe addressing these challenges, the student rep system will benefit and be useful to all parties (students, staff and reps) involved and ultimately improve the student experience. 

Unitu achieves this by:

  • Making it easy for students to raise feedback and identify who their reps are through the platform
  • Empowers reps to respond, moderate and generate evidence based feedback in one centralised space. This increases their engagement throughout the academic year.
  • By reps being able to escalate feedback to the appropriate staff in their department, staff do not need to wait for a formal meeting or through end of year surveys to find out and solve key students concerns. They can address them within a matter of days, this ensures small problems do not escalate into bigger ones and the student experience is being improved during the year rather than at the end.
  • Finally by being able to address student feedback within the platform, the relevant students are made aware, which supports staff in closing the feedback loop in an accessible and simple way and increases students trust and engagement.

These key points is the sole purpose of why Unitu exists, to smoothen out the blocks in the student representation system and enable students, reps and staff to collectively work together in improving the student experience in a more timely manner.

On the Unitu platform:

  • Students share prompted or spontaneous feedback on their experiences by making a post on their Unitu board. This feedback can be a Praise / Issue / Question / Idea. The content of the post is not visible to staff at this stage.
  • Student Reps review the feedback posts and respond where appropriate.
  • Reps can choose to share the feedback with staff in the department, by moving it to the next level ‘Opened’. Here staff can see the content of the feedback and can provide a response, such as explaining how a change will be made in response to the feedback.
  • Staff can then move the feedback to the next level ‘In Progress’ or the final level ‘Closed’ dependent on their response.
  • Notable changes and improvements in the department / programme are then recorded in the ‘Together We Changed’ section of the Unitu board.

Unitu supports the UU and UUSU’s ambition for students to be active partners in their education. The platform supports staff-student partnership in the following ways:

  • Responsiveness – Some Student Reps previously felt it would be better to hold on to feedback on the academic experience until the next Staff-Student Consultative Committee (SSCC) meeting, where they could discuss the feedback with staff.  With Unitu, students and Reps can receive more timely responses from staff and make positive changes more swiftly.
  • Transparency – Students who have made a post on Unitu can see who is considering their feedback (Student Rep or staff member), and how many times their fellow students have up-voted their post. Responses from Reps or staff will be visible to other students, so there is less duplication of feedback..
  • Flexibility – With much of the university’s teaching in 2020-21 likely to be conducted remotely, and some students remaining overseas for part of their studies, it is important to have feedback mechanisms that don’t rely on attendance in-person. Students can access Unitu at any time, and give their feedback without having to attend a “live” meeting.
  • Real time feedback: Rather than having to wait for SSCC meetings or responses to surveys, Unitu will help you collect and analyse student feedback in real time, delivering faster improvements to the student experience.
  • Amplify student voice: Unitu will help you empower your students by letting them engage with an accessible app and website to voice their feedback anonymously.
  • Better Rep engagement: Unitu provides the tools to student Reps to do their job more effectively. In addition, Reps have felt Unitu has increased their visibility to their fellow students. As a result, you will have more Reps engaged over the entire academic year. 
  • Discover and solve issues faster: Unitu will help you find out and resolve issues faster before they escalate to a wider issue.
  • Stronger Community: By bringing students, Reps and staff from your department under one transparent board, it will help increase your sense of trust and therefore build a stronger sense of community.
  • Improvement in student survey scores: By providing students with a student voice platform that is easy for them to see how staff value and act on their feedback, Unitu has consistently helped institutions improve their NSS results, specifically around student voice and community.
  • Unitu is a closed environment where only selected students and staff in the department or university can view and engage with feedback posts. Their accounts are created in advance and therefore only students and staff from specific courses and departments have access to Unitu.
  • Unitu brings students, staff and Reps into a transparent environment to deal with student experience related issues and feedback. In comparison social media is purposefully built for social engagement.
  • Unitu is managed by the University and departmental staff. Students are incentivised to post feedback on Unitu rather than other social media platforms as university and department staff can be made aware of student concerns and respond in a timely manner.
  • Unitu is a student experience first organisation. All iterations and future developments are focused on enhancing the communication between students, staff and Reps with the primary goal of improving the student experience.

We have stricter and uniquely designed moderation processes and controls that are designed to ensure a more professional and constructive academic community. You can read about our 3 strike policy and sentiment checker processes on the staff training web page.

On Unitu, we have a strict moderation process:

  • The moderators are student Reps, staff members and Unitu Reps.
  • Any user can Report a feedback post or comment.
  • Once it’s Reported an email will go out to the moderators on that specific board:
    • Content Reported in the Private area: if the post or comment that is Reported is on the Private area, then only Reps and Unitu staff will be notified and will be able to view and moderate the content.
    • Content Reported in the Public area: if the post or comment that is Reported is on the Public area, then Reps, staff and Unitu staff will be notified and will be able to view and moderate the content.
  • If as a staff member, you receive an email about a moderated content:
    • You can click on the link to the Reported content and you will be ask to perform one of three actions:
      • Remove the content with no strike for author
      • Remove the content with strike for author
      • Do not remove this content
    • Whichever decision you make you will be asked to give a reason for it.
    • If it’s one of the first two, the content will be removed and the author of the content will receive a notification explaining that the moderation team have removed the content and the explanation why.
    • In addition, staff have the ability to directly remove content from the feedback board if it is deemed inappropriate.

You can find further information and a video walkthrough of our moderation process here.

Unitu is an anonymous platform. We provide students with the ability to provide feedback and share comments anonymously.
 
By introducing this feature we have seen student engagement increase significantly for the positive.
  • Firstly, their feedback is more authentic which allows staff to understand the real issue or concerns students have.
  • Secondly, it helps students who do not typically engage in these processes to also have their voice heard.
The key concern around anonymity is if students abuse the functionality and use it to say inappropriate things towards staff members.
 
To put it into context, out of the 60,000+ students on Unitu we’ve only ever had 1 student in the past 4 years go to the third strike. In addition, out of the 10,000+ comments on Unitu we see a year, we recieve around 100 reports for inappropriae comments across all Universities we work with. In addition, the majority of comments are reported for being irrelevant rather than absuse towards any particular person.
 
However at Unitu we stand firm in our position to strive towards ensuring both students and staff feel safe, confident, and willing to engage with each other on the platform. This is the only way we believe student-staff partnership can be fruitful.
 
Here are a number of mechanisms in place to ensure feedback remains constructive and positive on Unitu.  Our goal is that if you are aware of our approach to combat any innaprorpriate behaviour on Unitu, you will feel more confident about Unitu as a student voice platform.
  • Firstly student reps and student union officers will be trained on how to moderate comments in the private area before they are escalated to public area. In the training, it will be emphasised that any unfair allegations or inappropriate comments towards staff members are not to be tolerated and therefore such comments can and should be removed.
  • Secondly, our three strike policy has been created to combat repeat offenders, therefore if a student receives a 1st and 2nd strike, their ability to post anonymously will be disabled automatically. Out of all students who have received the 2nd strike, only 1 student in the past 4 years has gone onto receive the 3rd strike, which is to have their account suspended. And very few students go from the 1st strike to the 2nd strike as they value their anonymity.
  • Finally, we have created a sentiment checker to ensure that comments made by students are not framed in an abusive and negative manner. If it is, it will be flagged up to them and they will be advised to change their comment before posting it.

Turning off anonymity is an option

The problem we’ve experienced in the past is that turning anonymity off will discourage students from providing ongoing, authentic feedback – which is critical to understanding the key concerns students are experiencing and therefore improving student satisfaction.
 
We shouldn’t discourage students from giving honest feedback about the teaching and learning they are experiencing, but we should 100% discourage them from providing unprofessional and inappropriate feedback towards staff members. This is why we have implemented the three points above and will continue to iterate and build upon it to ensure staff feel comfortable and confident with the use of Unitu.
 
If the above points are not enough for staff to feel comfortable with Unitu, we do have the option to turn off anonymity on comments for specific boards. I would advise against it as it can lead to a lack of student engagement. However, the option is there and we can discuss ways to implement it if this is the route you’d like to take.
  • All Reps are advised to enrol on the online training for elected Reps that have access to Unitu.
  • In addition we have created a student Rep guide to support student Reps in their role.
  • There is guidance available for students that will be delivered via email from staff and through University induction. In addition, when students log into the app, there are video tutorials on how best to use the app.

We have developed a simple comms kit that you can use to communicate Unitu to your students.

You can find the resources here: https://unitu.co.uk/comms-kit

In addition, we’ve also created a customised video for Ulster University, that you can add to your intranet site and share in induction sessions.

Here is what staff members have said about Unitu:

“Thanks to this platform, last year we were able to respond to students’ issues usually within 48 hours. We believe this intervention has led our Student Voice NSS scores to increase by 14% in 2018 compared to the year before”.

Dr Graham Roberts, UCL, Department Tutor

“Unitu has been an ally in driving positive campus changes, from student wellbeing to catering and from sustainable transport to study and social spaces. It has also helped to increase NSS metrics, with improvements seen in the Learning Community and Student Voice categories.”

Debbie Ricci-Jones, Swansea University, Head of student partnership and engagement services

Unitu has been fantastic for closing the feedback loop and engaging the students in direct conversation, so that they can see what changes we’re making, and they can see that we’re listening to them.” 

Izzie Jay, UCL Medical School, Head of Management for Quality Assurance. 

Unitu helps universities to improve the student experience by effectively engaging with the student voice in real time.

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