By: Dr Nadia Gulko, Senior Lecturer in Accounting
It is just over a year since February 2020 when I launched a series of student-led Excel workshops as part of the Advanced Management Accounting module for final year Accounting and Finance students.
It was an excellent week of student-led activities in computer labs, aimed at improving students’ Excel skills through peer learning.
This year has changed the world in a way that no other year has. The pandemic has resulted in many events and plans being cancelled, postponed, or changed. Of course, for me too, this was an option. It would probably have been the safest option to cancel the Excel workshop for this year cohort. However, I was keen to take on the challenge of offering student-led excel workshop virtually, no matter what the pandemic threw at us.
And I am happy to share that the workshop was successfully delivered online in March 2021. This project would not have been a success without the help of some brave volunteers. For sharing their knowledge, helping their peers, and contributing to student as producer initiative, all volunteers were presented with a letter of appreciation in recognition of their valuable contribution in delivering student-led workshops in 2021. As almost everything in the new virtual reality, not everything went as planned, but the feedback from the participants was brilliant and shows that all efforts were worth it. This is a great success with 60% of the participants rating this workshop as ‘extremely useful’ and ‘very useful’. Many thanks go to all students for their excellent engagement and valuable feedback. Here are their comments:
“I really enjoyed getting to learn more functions within Excel, broadened my knowledge on how to create graphs and perform a What-if analysis.” – participant
“Excel workshop lead by Nadia and students was a great opportunity to refresh my memory on excel and learn some new shortcuts. Amazing transferable skills for the working environment!” – participant
“I found it useful! I liked having the allocated time to really focus on Excel and refine my existing skills, for example making charts and setting filters etc. I was really impressed by the students who led the workshop – they were all confident and answered our questions’ well. What was most interesting for me was the introduction to the ‘what-if analysis’ which I never even knew existed before that workshop!” – participant
“The excel workshop was excellent in learning the software skills and functions in order to create and sort data as efficiently and accurately. The step-by-step activities for the different types of problems and workings was very engaging, it was also helpful to see how my fellow students would tackle the problem. It will be great knowledge to carry forward in saving a-lot of time in exams and also for professional use in any business career.” – participant
Peer teaching practices and student-led teaching activities are gaining more attention in higher education as they increase engagement in the classroom and facilitate the transfer of knowledge. These activities, where students can take an active role in the learning process, are a great tool to support students in achieving more effective and collaborative learning (Ramsden, 2003). The introduction of collaboration with students in the teaching processes might be challenging as it requires a careful design of peer learning initiatives and takes time in organising these activities. It also requires lecturers to trust their student volunteers in the ability to take seriously on teaching roles. It might require lecturers to be open-minded in not prescribing the exact tactics, ways, and tools students should use to truly allow the peer learning practices. This flexibility should encourage students to think rather than simply follow the imposed instructions. As a result, the classroom becomes an effective platform of peer learning and sharing knowledge. It also helps student volunteers to explore their own potential and equips them with the skills they will need later in life. This year student volunteers were asked to evaluate their experience working with a student-led approach. Their reflections are provided below.
“I appreciated the opportunity to present to my peers and it was brilliant to practice on my transferable skills, that I will no doubt need in future roles. The ability to use excel is crucial in a finance function, and I had the confidence that my ability was to a proficient standard.” – volunteer
“It was great to see engagement from peers, who were willing to get involved with the workshop. The team of volunteers were well organised, working simultaneously and persevering to deliver an engaging workshop for students despite tricky circumstances.” – volunteer
“Opportunity to learn from the engagement I had and to speak to students on my course, who I have not had a chance to meet due to the current restrictions. The opportunity will give me self-assurance in future events and workshops.” – volunteer
“Through this activity, I can cooperate with British students and get to know each other better. This volunteer task provides me with a good opportunity to better understand the learning status of Chinese students in the classroom and the problems they encounter by following the whole process of the classroom. The experience of volunteer activities can be helpful for my future graduate application and career.” – volunteer
“I know that I have quite good excel skills from placement year experience and was really excited to share this knowledge with others. It’s also a great talking point for job interviews in the future and shows you are competent in excel but can also teach others. Great experience presenting and to talking to such a large group of people. It was great to have some questions from students and engage with them and also to reaffirm my own knowledge about excel and how to use it to our advantage.” – volunteer
Organised by Dr Nadia Gulko
Senior Lecturer in Accounting, Lincoln International Business School