Outreach and widening participation activities deliver an important dimension of the University’s work in raising aspirations, promoting diversity and encouraging people from non-traditional backgrounds to enter higher education. This category recognises staff and students who have made innovative use of technology to deliver exceptional widening participation activities and to support learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Winners: Niall Winters, Melanie Jewell, Anne Geniets, Paula Fiddi, Paige Mustain, Ashmita Randhawa, Tracey Calabrese, Isobel Talks, Sabbah Bakhtiar, Laura Hakimi & Emily Winstanley for go_girl: code+create Project
Led by the Department of Education in collaboration with Oxfordshire County Council, this interdisciplinary project has engaged a group of young women from non-traditional educational backgrounds to undergo a programme to build their confidence and self-esteem through developing videos, games, and web apps.
The project complemented existing programmes aimed at widening access to the University, but tackled the problem in a fundamentally new way using technology. Every week, nine young NEET (not in education, employment or training) women came to the Department of Education for coding and media skill sessions. The pilot ran 35 sessions in total, as well as a number of events and social activities such as visits to Facebook and job fairs, as well as cultural experiences. To scale up the project to other cities in the UK and to make it sustainable, the team is currently in the process of developing a manual, which can be used by youth workers and universities aiming to replicate the success of the go_girl project in different contexts.
The judges were impressed by how the project worked with the women to tackle widening access in a new way using technology, equipping girls with the skills needed for today’s digital world.
Runner-up: Yiu-Yin Tong for PhyWiz — Physics Solver
This year’s runner-up aims to level the playing field when it comes to providing access to high quality Physics education materials. You-Yin (Eric) Tong, who is reading Engineering Science at Harris Manchester, has developed a free app that facilitates the learning of physics concepts, supporting pupils across the world to sharpen their skills.
The Phywiz app displays clear explanations of solutions to physics problems, enabling students to learn how to approach questions. Also, using recursive logic, the app can generate hundreds of practice questions.
In its first month, PhyWiz was installed 7,000 times. It has already been downloaded and installed more than 100,000 times. Over 90% of users have given the app a four- or five-star rating, with reviews such as: ‘PhyWiz has made physics more interesting’ and ‘one of the best apps I’ve ever seen.’ It is used by over 15,000 people a month, mainly from countries such as India, Indonesia and The Philippines.
Honourable Mention: Jo Murray for LMH Snapchat Take-over Campaign
Engaging with students in their digital space is vital if the University is to attract diverse and academically brilliant young people. LMH’s Snapchat ‘take-over’ campaign does exactly that. The College has handed over its Snapchat channel to a selection of students to tell a series of ‘day in the life’ stories, with an aim to engage those who think Oxford is remote and not for them. During the take-overs students receive questions about Oxford and positive feedback from viewers.
We believe LMH is the first Oxford college to use Snapchat actively as an outreach tool. We commend Jo for the planning that went into the campaign, engaging both LMH and prospective students in the process. Jo has markedly increased the number of LMH’s Snapchat followers.