We are more alike, my friends…

This is the first of three themes we cover in ‘Permission to pursue my passion: driving innovation through student voices’, a pre-conference workshop originally scheduled for delivery at the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Under the ‘Student Experience’ conference theme, we explore growing needs and opportunities to diversify student experience, and especially the potential for shared student experience that bridges the Pacific. Insights have been drawn from student research conducted in Navitas colleges across Australia, the UK and Canada during 2018 and 2019.

“Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other”

Tom Robbins, US novelist

Theme 1: If you want to innovate, find out what you have in common

Theme 1 looks at the importance of discovering ‘common ground’, particularly when a drive to innovate nudges us to seek points of difference. Analysis of 100+ hours of student interviews made it clear: our systems, government policies and diverse cultures may impact students in varying ways across regions, but students’ core attitudes and behavioural drivers offer a set of unifying stories we can all relate to.

In recent staff workshops sharing this research, it didn’t matter whether the student voices came from colleges in the UK, Australia or Canada, or whether they originated from China, Nigeria or Pakistan. The raw experiences students described in drawings and videos rang true for college staff working in counselling, marketing and student administration; they have met these students, heard their challenges and now see their experiences clearly articulated for a whole-of-campus approach.

Why does it matter?

Students expect us to understand their journey and make it as smooth as it can be, easing the practical and emotional strain of new experiences both cultural and academic. When our understanding of their experience is disconnected across our organisational functions, their transition from one journey stage to another feels ‘disconnected’ too.

To design better experiences, we need a shared understanding and language to describe challenges we’re solving for, grounded in the perspective of the ‘customer’ (student). Using their voices to unite us can become a catalyst for better collaboration and innovation both locally and globally. 

Or as Maya Angelou expresses towards the end of her poem, ‘Human Family‘:

“I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike”

Curious to hear more? Explore Theme 2 to start activating insights and squeeze more from your research!