Stephen Barton and Lucy King explain how student feedback has helped to shape volunteering at NTU.
“In many ways, our students have totally moulded how the volunteering offer has developed at NTU. Students give us plenty of feedback, and we reshape and grow our provision in line with that feedback.
“A good example is the change we’ve recently made to how our volunteering opportunities are structured. We’ve had feedback that time can be a real barrier to volunteering, and particularly to giving a long-term commitment. So now, as well as finding an opportunity that appeals to a particular passion, our students can choose a timeframe of one day, one term, or one year. It makes their volunteering more relevant, more manageable, and it empowers them – whether they’re looking for a taste of something completely new, or a longer, more involved journey. It’s great – and particularly good for students who are on courses that are quite restrictive, time-wise. Based on their feedback, we wanted to make our offer as flexible as possible.
“You can see those changes in our Community Engaged Learning scheme, too, where the idea is to take the requirements of a particular module, and apply them to a community initiative that’ll really benefit from the students’ time and skills. The Business School might want students to get twenty hours’ experience in a particular area, for example – in that case, we work to set them up with a bespoke project to have a real-life impact.
“One of our goals is to get beyond the preconceptions and stereotypes of volunteering. We’ve got lots of students on certain courses who sometimes struggle to see volunteering as something that could be relevant or open to them, and Community Engaged Learning is a great option for addressing that barrier.
“Volunteering can be such a valuable part of a student’s experience at NTU, so we’re always keen to build on their suggestions. It helps people who aren’t from Nottingham really get to grips with their new community, and perhaps even stay here after graduation; it helps them develop a sense of identity and purpose; and sometimes, it helps them give a little back of what they once benefitted from themselves.
“As we move forwards, our work is going to be even more collaborative and feedback-based. We want to understand where our volunteers are at, and what they want to achieve. We want to help them set goals, and to really understand and celebrate the impact of their work.
“That’s why the voices of our students are so important – they guide what we’re doing, and they benefit everyone.”