Improving Distance PGR Student Access to the University Research Community

Salomé Villa Larenas – PhD Student, Department of Linguistics & English Language

For many postgraduate research students, involvement in research groups is a chance to participate in the wider research community and to get to know the work of other researchers in their area. While accessing these groups can be challenging for distance students, digital technologies should be able to significantly reduce the barriers they face.


That’s why the Department of Linguistics and English Language is evaluating how digital conferencing systems such as Skype for Business can be used to simplify access to and support increased PGR participation in their many research seminars, workshops and guest lectures. Salomé Villa Larenas is leading the initiative in her position as a Student Digital Ambassador.

The research project’s aim is to streamline conferencing practices so that all members of the department’s research community are able to effortlessly link up to live and/or cached programming. Streamlining and simplification is important. Research communities can’t afford to lose five or ten minutes of a one hour session to setting up equipment and testing connections. Further, no one likes to be the person at the front of the room fumbling with the equipment. Finally, poor connections and transmission quality risk distance students feeling more not less isolated. So the technology has to work and work well in order to meet the department’s requirements.

Salomé admits the biggest challenges will link to compatibility of the systems and software used across the research population. Identifying and resolving these issues in a crucial component of the project. The Language Testing and Research Group, led by Tineke Brunfaut and Luke Harding, is providing Salomé an initial site for this work, in which she is being supported by the contributions of Byron Ellershaw and Ian Cannings of ISS. Introducing new technologies and prompting behaviour change is no small task but Salomé is prepared to persevere.

This project is now complete: view the case study for Improving Distance PGR Student Access to the University Research Community.

See June 2016 Project Update


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