Personal Awareness and Development: A Student-Created VLE Site

E. Alpay, Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Ongoing needs exist to support student personal development and effectiveness, well-being and resilience. The first step in development is to raise student awareness about the social and psychological forces at play that may inhibit or constrain personal growth. However, education and mentoring in such areas can be challenging as it is often outside the expertise or “comfort zone” of the typical STEM lecturer. Indeed, many lecturers themselves may not be fully aware of the issues affecting personal and social inhibition. Another challenge is student engagement with such material, many not appreciating the relevance and value of the content to their technical and professional development.

To address these challenges a university-wide VLE site has been set-up that collates short, bite-size content on topics related to personal awareness and development, such as personality preferences, imposter phenomenon, stereotype threat, marginalisation, group issues and neurodiversity. Most of the content is student generated and where relevant has been contextualise to the university environment. The content involves videos, case studies, interviews and guides, as well as links to selected external content. The material is also available to all academic staff as a resource for teaching and personal tutorials.

The initial setup of the site was funded through a Fluor Global University Sponsorship Programme (GUSP) award that allowed the recruitment of students for site and content development. The site now remains dynamic whereby student submissions of new content are encouraged. Quality control is through the careful vetting of the content scripts for accuracy, language and accessibility.

Since the introduction of the site in October 2020 (and its promotion in welcome talks), hundreds of students have accessed the content. Two Faculty-wide (Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (FEPS)) seminars have also been run on “group issues” where reference is made to the frameworks and concepts available on the site. It has also provided academic staff (and teams of staff) a reference point for discussions and activities related to personal and social development. In the 2022/23 academic year, workshops on some of the topics around EDI and group will be integrated into modules in some of our FEPS programmes. 

The  VLE site can be accessed here: Homepage – Personal Awareness and Development ( (Surrey student and staff access only).

Snapshot of the VLE site showing an “explainer video” with student and staff case studies