Salford To Success (part 1): Set-up

In this series of posts, I will discuss the practical aspects of setting up a two week self-directed digital skills programme that ran in January 2021. The programme had about 250 students on it and they undertook about 4500-5000 hours of activity (why these numbers are not precise is covered in part 2) across a range of on-demand and live sessions.

Part 1: Set-up (this post)

Part 2: What happened (link to be added)

Part 3: Reflections and next stages (link to be added).

Rationale and background

If you cast your mind back to January 2020, the UK was in Lockdown and University students (in the main) could not return to campus. At the University of Salford, the period of 18th – 29th of January represented our inter-trimester break. We as a (Salford Business) school exec wanted to put on a digital skills programme that:

  • Students could dip in and out of depending on their own schedule
  • Made use of existing resources
  • Did not require much intervention from academic or professional services colleagues as many of these would be on holiday/prepping for the next trimester/etc
  • Allowed students to do as much or as little activity as they wanted depending on their own schedules.

Promotional activities and on-boarding

The first promotional poster.

So we did soft promotion in the run-up to the Winter break and then ramped this up in the early January period. To host the community, we decided to make use of Microsoft teams. One of the reasons for this decision was the easy on-boarding. When you make a Teams site you can create a join code and members of a site can add themselves rather than create the need for a staff member to do it.

Tied to this – a little used feature of teams is it’s tagging feature that can be used to categorised members. Once categorised, the @ command can be used to communicate with sub-groups. Similarly @team will send a notification to everyone.

Here you can see the ‘early bird’ tag which was used to communicate with early joiners to encourage them to get other people to join. It also meant that later I could analyse how different students interacted with the activities. We could have broken this down further with level and programme category tags but did not to keep this project lean and nimble.

Teams Site set-up

Structure of the Teams Site was relatively straightforward – just the use of different channels for different purposes. There are outlined below:

GeneralTeams requires a general channel, you cannot amend it – I would have deleted it otherwise. This was locked to be read-only and was use for notification and an overview video explaining the programme and how it worked.
1 Problems and Technical IssuesThis was for any technical issues or problem. I’m happy to report that this was barely used.
2 Introduction to Life SkillsWith our partner Beready, students had access to a micro on-demand module that took students through a range of life skills (dealing with problems and stress etc). The module was a mixture of video content and quizzes.
3 Preparing for Career Success With our partner Beready, students had access to a micro on-demand module that took students through a range of tips and activities related to employability (dealing with assessment centres, job interviews etc). The module was a mixture of video content and quizzes.
4 Linkedin Learning JourneysThe University has a subscription to Linkedin Learning. We created a series of themed learning journeys on a range of topics related to skills development, employability and confidence building.
5 Microsoft Office QualificationsUniversity of Salford students can undertake Microsoft Office Specialist Qualifications for free. To be eligible to sit the exam, they need to sit practice exams and get 70%.
6 Live EventsAcross the two weeks we hosted some internal live (online) events but also sign-posted a range of external free events – for example we heavily pushed Google Garage events as they fitted the theme of the two weeks – see below for more detail.
7 Programme League TableThis was not actually used – there was intention to have a friendly inter-programme competition but it turned out to be too logistically challenging to undertake.
8 Providing EvidenceThis is where students could ask evidence about providing evidence for activities they undertook.
9 Charles Daily ChallengeI provided some simple daily fun challenges (photo-competitions etc) where there was a daily winner for a small prize such as hoodies (more on this in post 2)

Core Activities

So based on the above, the Salford To Success programme had the following core activities:

CoreWhat does it involve
On-demand ModulesThese were related to the online modules discussed in Channels 2 and 3 of the teams site.
LinkedIn Learning JourneyThese were related to the linkedin learning journeys discussed in channel 4.
Microsoft Office SpecialistThese were related to the Microsoft Office Specialist qualifications discussed in channel 5.
Internal Live EventI was involved myself in running self-employment masterclasses which covered the sorts of things often missed on such sessions such as “what happens if the client decides not to pay you?” and so on. These were discussed in channel 6.
External Live EventWe selected and curated appropriate live external events that would add value for the students in the qualifying time period. For example, Google has a whole range of live webcasts that run on a weekly basis under the title of “Google Garage”. Some of these are google specific and about running a business using google services. However the majority are more general and covered having a web presence, building a CV, putting together impactful presentations. These were discussed in channel 6.

The list of core activities

Use of XP points and gamification

To make this interesting there were elements of gamification where students earned XP points for activities and multipliers when certain levels of activity reached. The XP points were related to some small prizes (hoodies, vouchers). There were also some just for community activities such as sending a supportive message to a fellow student.

So for example, if a student did three of the possible LinkedIn Learning Journeys – they unlocked a multiplier that doubled the amount of XPs available. As a rough rule of thumb (excluding the multipliers), an activity was given 200XP per 30 minutes of activity. Therefore a LinkedIn Learning activity taking 1 hour was worth 400XP.

The overall schedule plus direct links to all activities was provided separately in a PDF document so students could monitor their progress and upcoming activities in a relatively straight-forward way outside the Teams site. There were two versions of this – one for finalists (with a slightly stronger emphasis on careers) and one for all other students.

An extract from the PDF showing allocated points and notes on the multipliers that were available. Part 2 will discuss how students verified their XP points at the end of the two

So join me next time to find out what actually happened…

Next… Part 2: What actually happened and why

What actually happened

surprises and hijinks!

90s disco with DJ Knight

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