USW wins award for tackling student digital poverty

working from home - Getty

The University of South Wales (USW) has won the University Alliance (UA) Innovation Award for how they met the challenge of student digital poverty, as the nation went into lockdown, during the coronavirus pandemic.

USW is a member of the UA, the voice of professional and technical universities. Held virtually in June, the inaugural UA awards were set up to recognise those individuals and teams that have demonstrated the behaviours and values the alliance universities believed to be most important.

When the Prime Minister asked everyone to work from home and USW was forced to close, some students did not have the technology they needed to access work and sit exams. Staff from across the University pulled together to provide a solution quickly.

IT Services had recently refreshed two computer laboratories and in doing so had a pool of decommissioned iMacs which they repurposed so that they could be used off campus. These devices come with built in Wi-Fi and are therefore easier to set up and connect to the internet at home than with a standard desktop. Over 200 devices were distributed to students and staff, including some Wi-Fi dongles to enable connectivity. Some devices were sent as far as Anglesey.

Nathalie Czechowski, Chief Information Officer, IT Services, said: “University Alliance informed me that USW won this award by a landslide, which is a reflection of the quick-thinking and hard work of staff from across our university to tackle such an important problem.

“As you can imagine, the logistics of this project were immense so I would like to thank everyone who was involved and went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that our students could continue to learn. We have continued to ship out kit over the 13 weeks of lockdown”.

Vanessa Wilson, CEO of UA and host of the awards ceremony, says all finalists truly represent the talent, work ethic and success found in the UK’s professional and technical universities.

“Huge congratulations to all the deserving winners for their outstanding efforts. Reading all the nominations was an incredible privilege and showed the breadth and depth of work and commitment across the Alliance membership to deliver for both students and staff alike.

“We received a large number of strong applications, and the tough choices we had to make to pick the winners reflects just how high the standards were.

“More so now than ever before I believe we are all aware of the need to take time out to recognise those individuals and teams who go the extra mile and stay true to those values and behaviours we feel are important, particularly when demonstrated in challenging and adverse circumstances”.

Winners will receive a specially commissioned University Alliance medal made by Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery.