Last week I took a taxi from Southampton to my in-laws house, where I’d left my car. A journey of about 45 minutes and 30-something miles. The taxi had those rear-facing seats and, because of the luggage spread over the boot and other seats, I took one of these rear-facing seats for the journey. A journey I’d driven many many times myself But this time I was a passenger, and traveling backwards.
I’m rarely a passenger in a car, preferring to do the driving myself, so this was an uncommon experience for me. As was the experience of facing backwards out of the side and rear windows as we hurtled down the M27 and A31 (New Forest), a route I know well. What struck me about this was that we we weren’t going particularly fast (I checked), and the ride was comfortable, but it still felt overtly dangerous and nerve racking, mainly because it was a new and different experience for me. Watching cars and lorries fly by in the wrong direction, the (apparent) distracted behaviours of other drivers, the bumps and turns of the road and how the other vehicles moved on, through and around them. Everything about this was so familiar and yet totally alien to me.
Then I thought that the only thing that was different in this situation was me. The route, speed, road, other road users were all the same, pretty much, as any other time I’d driven the road. So, here I am, totally out of my comfort zone doing the same thing, only ‘different’. Then I thought, is this how students feel when they come to further or higher education? Is this how they feel when they access online resources at college and university for the first time, yet it’s the same or similar to systems or work they’ve done previously? Do we prepare students for the different perspective of living away from home when they’ve had independent lives previously?
My experience in the taxi was unsettling, but in a safe(ish) environment. We should, in further and higher education, be providing the students with an equally safe, but flexible, environment in which they can explore and learn about their chosen subject and expand their skills and horizons. But do we, as the course team, faculty, student experience, etc. take the similarities into account or just look at the differences?
Do we do enough to prepare ourselves to understand the students, in order to properly prepare our resources, systems, access, etc. so they benefit the student instead of benefiting ourselves?
Image source: Anika Huizinga on Unsplash