In Think Tank’s first ever commissioned research, we took a look at the inner workings of college communication at Halifax college. Johannes Huber, Head of Research for 2014-15 and Project Lead summarised the research project as follows:
Over the past 30 weeks, we have been working as commissioned to determine weak points in Halifax’s communication structures. As far as we can tell, this project was one of the largest student run investigations ever completed at the University of York only being rivalled by our own consultations. 18 focus groups were held over two weeks, interviewing a total of 72 students, and 44 more shared their thoughts with us in a comprehensive online survey. Six interviews with college staff and HCSA officers were also conducted to gain a holistic perspective; after all, there are two sides in communication and as such both should be considered.
While we gathered much raw data, our primary objective was to propose recommendations. To this end the objective data merged with the subject experiences the team picked up during their stay in Halifax. We hope that both our findings and suggestions will live up to the high standard we set out to achieve.
Johannes Huber, Project Lead & former Head of Research
Ensure and continue to advertise positives
Halifax is a quiet, green college, which sets it apart from most other colleges. Many students actively look for such a college. Its close proximity to 22 acres and the sports centre makes it ideal for many interested in sports. Halifax does not only offer flats but houses. Overall we recommend that every effort is made to advertise to the correct target audience.
Halifax as an outdoor college
Halifax, through its proximity to 22 acres, and its remote and green nature, is ideally suited as an “outdoor” college. On a sunny day we spent in Halifax, we noticed large groups of students outdoors, barbecuing and being social. While these kind of events are weather reliant, we suggest further investigation into the possibility of engaging students with outdoor activities. The closest part of 22 acres is not used for any sport, and could provide the college with additional space to host sporting events, or other activities.
Central System for distribution of Halifax communications
A recurring complaint was that information was not reaching students. We have come to the conclusion that this is due to a very convoluted method of distribution. If information is not easy to obtain, students will not attempt to. Instead having a very clear cut strategy, and sticking to it will yield far better results.
Develop a social media strategy on how to advertise events
Create a definitive protocol to govern where, when and how information is distributed and events are advertised. This guideline should distinguish between different types of events and should serve to ensure continuity between administrations.
Tightly police Facebook groups to cut down on spam and ensure content is relevant to students
While it may sometimes be beneficial to let 3rd parties advertise events of interest to Halifax students, it can also clutter up news feeds. Especially considering that in case of societies, many students interested in the society will already be subscribed to their newsletter of Facebook page.
Have the college run the HCSA election advertisements and organisation (on a two-three years to determine the impact)
It is difficult to determine exactly what caused the incredibly low turnout during the last HCSA election, defer this point to be largely subjective. However, we do find that there is a general conflict of interest to ask those who run a current representative organisation to advertise an election.
HCSA president to set up a “work” Facebook accounts (see YUSU Sabbatical Officer pages)
Less about sharing events, more about informal updates to what the HCSA is up to. Allows students to keep up to date with what is going on behind the scenes.
Allow for space to be booked by societies to host events Give Non-residents reasons to come to Halifax
Currently there is not much reason for second and third years to go to Halifax. Halifax has no academic departments, and no through traffic. The often requested bar will most likely not become a reality, primarily due to viability reasons. Instead we recommend giving second and third years student card access to JJs, and more importantly to heavily advertise that non-residents have access and are welcome there. Setting up study spaces during exam times is not only an excellent service to students as study spaces can be difficult to come by, but once again will give students a reason to spend more time in the college. Lastly we suggest investigating the feasibility of offering students a place to heat up a meals.
Many students seem to choose Halifax because it is quiet, perhaps looking into more quiet events/non alcoholic events would engage a different demographic of students.
You can read the full report here: Halifax-ThinkTank Report