No rest for the wicked! Just a few hours after our annual dinner, NUPSA’s trio of delegates – President Andi Deane, Vice President James Pinkerton and myself – were off to Sydney and then on a plane to New Zealand, in advance of the 2016 ANZSSA and ISANA conferences in Auckland and Wellington.

The Australia and New Zealand Student Services Association (ANZSSA) is the peak professional organisation for staff in tertiary education, and its 2016 conference drew a diverse collection of education and student service providers from several countries (not just Australia and New Zealand, as the name implies). It was hosted by the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), at its ultra-modern City Campus in the heart of Auckland.

Among the various presentations, panels and papers emerged a recurring theme of technological innovation. Speakers such as Eric Stoller and Dr Shanton Chang argued that universities mustn’t be afraid of new social media platforms, but should instead embrace them, and adapt to the channels of communication students already prefer to use.

Some fantastic examples were given of this: the use of Snapchat and Periscope to run campus tours, Yik Yak as a method of fielding personal questions with anonymity during counselling and sexual health workshops, or even Curtin University’s wildly successful Facebook Live Q&A sessions during orientation.

NUPSA, of course, has made some gains in the digital space this year (such as the very pretty website you’re currently browsing), but there’s a lot more we can do. We want to reach all students next year, online and satellite students particularly, so you can expect some serious online features to emerge as a major priority.

 

 

The International Education Services Association (ISANA) is a body specifically for international students, and the services and educators that support them. Held in the gorgeous Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongerewa, its conference was built upon the idea of evidence-based practice; presenters from a host of universities spoke about the various student programs and initiatives they’d found to be enormously successful.

Programs such as the human library may not be entirely new to UON, but it was fascinating to see how just a few tweaks to the way they are run can have a huge effect on their success and student engagement. We were able to swap tips, talk about challenges, and pick up all sorts of ideas for activities to run for you all in 2017.

The best part of the conference by far was the student panel. All the panelists were postgrads, and they fielded a broad range of questions (including some from Andi and James) on how to get better student feedback, nurture the student voice, and that ever-pressing conundrum, ‘Are you students or customers?’

 

 

Both these conferences were enormously productive, gave us a ton of new ideas and completely re-energised us; I for one cannot wait to start exploring new workshops, social activities and online features with you all in 2017.

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