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The Whatuni Student Choice Award acknowledges how the University is leading the way in driving digital innovation to support students.

The University has scooped the Excellence in Digital Innovation accolade at the Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCAs), it was announced today (Tuesday, June 22). The University was also shortlisted in the category of Diversity and Inclusion.

The Awards are an annual celebration of the best Higher Education Institutions in the UK, highlighting those that have gone above and beyond in support of their students during the academic year. With winners in four categories - all from smaller institutions this year - each also receives £10,000 to be awarded to five eligible students as Whatuni Bursaries in 2021/22 (£2,000 each).

The panel was impressed by the way the University approached the challenges of the pandemic as a way of driving and accelerating digital innovation aimed at enhancing student and staff resources; addressing ‘digital poverty’ by enabling access to appropriate IT wherever students were working during lockdown, and ensuring a user-friendly teaching platform.

The ‘Chester Blend’ was developed and delivered - a flexible, blended learning approach which combines in-person seminars and workshops with online lectures and self-directed learning through digital resources.

To support staff and students through these developments, the University’s Learning and Information Services (LIS) team created a new digital skills development programme; delivered more than 200 live digital skills events; enhanced the digital support for students disadvantaged by COVID, with laptops and other IT equipment shipped directly to their homes, and loaned specific equipment to students involved with video, 3D or game development requirements for their coursework.

The University focussed on regular communication to staff and students; the delivery of digital skills support and accessibility for all students to promote inclusion. Student engagement was monitored with learning through new, live data dashboards, allowing experts to intervene early where necessary. These enhancements are intended to be long term, ongoing and sustainable beyond the pandemic.

Henry Blackman, Acting Director of Learning and Information Services at the University, said: “We are thrilled to win the Excellence in Digital Innovation category at this year’s Whatuni Awards. It is a credit to the entire department - they have gone over and above to create digital solutions to help ensure students are equipped and supported in their learning and beyond, and combat the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“A massive thankyou to all of the team for their forward-thinking and hard work - and the panel of student judges for this much-valued recognition of all their efforts.”

Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the leading work of the Learning and Information Services team in driving digital innovation to support students.

“Across the institution, the University community has shown what can be achieved in the time of a pandemic - with commitment, care and hard work. I am so pleased and proud that we have stood out in these highly coveted and competitive Awards, recognising excellence, resilience, innovation and diversity within higher education - and delighted that students will benefit from Whatuni bursaries.

“Congratulations to the LIS team, to the HR team for being nominated for championing diversity and inclusion, with a special mention for Kathryn Leighton, HR Manager - Development and Diversity, and to all the Awards nominees.”

Simon Emmett, CEO of Whatuni’s parent company, IDP Connect added: “The Whatuni Student Choice Awards are a chance to recognise those institutions who have excelled in supporting their students, even in the face of a global pandemic. This year has thrown up some real surprises, with some smaller institutions winning across all categories.

“Each of our winners and finalists have gone above and beyond in support of their students and the calibre of the nominations we have received shows the incredible creativity, resilience and innovation that exists within the higher education sector.”

The University’s nomination for championing diversity and inclusion among students recognised how it had looked to develop a sense of belonging and connecting remotely when world news was understandably causing anger and anxiety, through initiatives such as events, focus groups and the development of the Student Race Advocate role.

The winners of the Awards were announced at a virtual ceremony today, Tuesday, June 22.

For further information about the Awards, please visit:

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