Focus Group Session

Yesterday, 23 April, saw the meeting of the focus group in which a combination of staff and students involved in the Opps for Apps project got together to discuss their experiences of using apps in seminars. A wide range of issues was discussed including the quality and user-friendliness of particular apps, their relevance to the academic curriculum and their pedagogic capabilities, how best to incorporate the content inside and outside seminars, and access and cost issues of using apps more widely in the programme. Overall, it was felt that the use of apps had created a positive buzz in classes but their pedagogical value was less certain. Anthony, a postgraduate student who used the Carmilla app, commented “the app facilitated group discussion and gave the group a focus”. Views differed considerably on whether such products represented a threat to the research skills associated with studying print materials. A particularly lively debate concerned the degree to which the app market was driven by commercial concerns, which may constrain the choice of texts for teaching purposes and/or limit student access to teaching materials. Catherine, a first year English student, commented that using the app had developed her digital competency but the cost of the products would be prohibitive on a student budget. On the other hand, as digital proficiency inevitably grows among our student cohorts, apps and other digital technologies could play an increasingly important, and potentially positive, ancillary role in teaching and learning. It was generally acknowledged that such a move would need to be supported at an institutional level in terms of funding and resourcing. Overall, it was fascinating discussion and we hope to present a summary of the views of the focus group at the L&T Conference on 21 May.