Crediting the student: embedding volunteer opportunities in the curriculum (Interactive Session)

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Colin Cavers, Mary-Ann Kennedy and Lyndsay Morgan with Katie Matthews and Becca Clements (School of Arts and Creative Industries)

Edinburgh Napier’s Honours Degree Photography Programme is regularly contacted by organizations and institutions looking for students to either produce unpaid work ‘for the experience’ or volunteer their time and expertise delivering visual projects in schools. Though often an interesting learning experience this lacks a professional approach, excludes those students who can’t afford to work for free and gives no opportunity for credit recognition.

To address this, and in line with Academic Strategy 2020’s ‘Improve Graduate Employability and Build Student Enterprise Activity, the Photography Programme has been working with Lyndsay Morgan in the Placement Office, developing strategies that turn these enquiries into learning opportunities for the module cohort.

Photography’s new Level 9 structure has been designed to incorporate these enquiries within modules as live projects, commissions and collaborations. In this first year students have worked with NGO’s, Secondary Schools, PR Agencies, a European Funded Research Project, Saughton Prison and local community projects. Participating students have submitted work for publication, presented at exhibition, and developed teaching and promotional material. Their professional skills have been honed, and their confidence has been developed to such an extent that they are pursuing further projects. Previously students separated their learning experiences and the ‘real world’. The new structure with these opportunities embeds, as praxis, learning, research and professionalism.

The presentation will consist of a brief introduction, with visual examples of projects by Colin, Mary Ann and Lyndsay. This will be followed by participating Level 9 Photography students outlining their module experience and detailing their ongoing, ensuing projects.

Theoretical underpinning

Elkins, J. (ed.) (2008) Visual Literacy. New York: Routledge.

Holdsworth, C. and Jocey Q. (2010) “Student volunteering in English higher education.” Studies in Higher Education 35.1 (2010): 113-127.

McDrury, J. and Alterio, M. (2003) Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education, Using Reflection and Experience to Improve Learning. London: Kogan Page.

Thomas, L. and Jones, R. (2007) Embedding employability in the context of widening participation. York, UK: Higher Education Academy.