Supporting Student Learning Community Through Study Streams
Despite its challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged universities to embrace new ways of engaging and supporting students. This paper explores how we have used one new platform, Twitch, as part of our student engagement activities.
Twitch is an online streaming service, most notably used by streamers sharing video game content. Viewers can interact with the streamer, and one another, using a text chat function and the site therefore serves as “a platform for participatory cultures to engage with each other” (Brown & Moberly 2021, p.54). The importance of community as a factor in student learning has long been acknowledged (Vesely et al. 2007; Shea et al. 2006); in a university which had traditionally created community primarily through in-person activities, COVID-19 presented a serious threat to the formation and maintenance of our learning communities. Since studies have stressed that the participatory nature of the platform, and the interaction that it encourages, creates third places which can develop and enhance notions of community (Hamilton et al. 2014), we felt that Twitch offered a vehicle for community-building activities. Thus, we introduced a programme of live study streams, hosted by academics and professional services staff, and open to all students, to support students outside of their specific modules. These streams have become an integral part of our student offering and proven popular with students. They have also provided an insight into how we can better support and engage with students living off-campus and commuting to university, who can feel like they miss out on community-building activities that take place in-person on campus.
In this paper we reflect on the implementation, management, and impact of these streams; to capture a holistic view, the paper is co-authored by academic and professional services staff, and a student representative. While stressing the importance of learning community and the potential of services like Twitch to assist with its creation, we also seek to provide a practical guide which allows readers to replicate this model of engagement. This will include a series of tips about what has worked well and reflections on things we hope to improve in the future. We support our findings with reference to feedback from students in key surveys and streaming data provided by Twitch. Thus, the paper showcases an innovative approach to student engagement which is replicable beyond our institution and will continue to have relevance in the future.
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