Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Validity of Focus Groups.

Focus group meeting with NUSSU + Alumni + GSS + FASS Students

I was at a focus group today, the focus is as follows:

The master planners propose holding a dialogue with NUS student organizations & young alumni representatives to receive a comprehensive view of campus student life in relation to academia.  The discussion will place special emphasis on student/ young alumni views of campus aesthetics, conveniences, and overall student activities throughout both the night and day.  Concepts of the campus’s sense of community, belonging, and social vibrancy will also be queried, along with how these ideas relate spatially with academic services and facilities such as lecture theatres, libraries, and faculties.


·         Introduction
·         Breakout Groups
·         Reporting

I. Introduction: (5 minutes)

·         Team introductions and why we are here

II. Breakout Groups (30 minutes)

·         Break out into groups of four to six students according to interest (NUSSU, Young Alumni, GSS, and FASS)
·         Undergraduate/ graduate students and young alumni may want to split up
·         Discuss the following questions:

Student Government:

1.       How do students participate in student organizations?
2.       What types of activities do NUS student organizations promote, and how to students hear about them? 
3.       What facilities do student organizations usually use for events or activities?
4.       Do student organizations need meeting, office, or storage space?
5.       Do the facilities or venues you use feel crowded and over scheduled? Give examples.
6.       Are there spaces or venues you feel are missing from the existing facilities?
7.       Would you prefer the location of your activities be closer to housing or your academic studies?
8.       What do you like best about the existing facilities?
9.       What do you like least?
10.   How do you think you will later remember your time at NUS, for instance as a young alumni?

Academic Faculties:

1.       How do students participate in student organizations within your faculty?
2.       Describe how student organizations within faculties may be different from other NUS student organizations.
3.       What types of activities do student organizations within a faculty promote, and how to students hear about them?
4.       Are student activities usually held near the faculty, or in other venues?
5.       Do students in your faculty feel well connected to the ‘hot spots’ of the campus?
6.       Between classes, do students within your faculty prefer to hang out or relax nearby, or go to other places on campus?
7.       Are there adequate dining options near your faculty?
8.       Where do students prefer to study, in the library, residences, or other locations?
9.       What do you like best about the existing facilities?
10.   What do you like least?
11.   How do you think you will later remember your time at NUS, for instance as a young alumni?

III. Report Findings (10 minutes per team)

A team representative will present a summary of the responses from each break-out group. 


I was glad to be part of such a focus group and glad that NUS has an initiative to seek the opinions of students and ex-students about campus life.

During the discussions, I felt an overwhelming sense that the focus group was to justify something. The committee seemed to be focused on:

1) Student interactions or the lack there of, and attributed it to lack of meeting space and non-conducive canteens. There seemed to be suggestions that the canteens are going to be renovated, possibly to include air-conditioning.

2) Students do not spontaneously gather to do arts. There is a lack of opportunities for this to happen, and new facilities will be built to accomodate this.

3) There is lack of sports facilities, and more should be built for students to enhance student life.

4) There is a need for study rooms and something new should be built.

I seem to feel that this interview was to justify the need to add more facilities, but in my opinion, NUS seemed to have built too many new buildings and useless structures and have missed the point -- TO EDUCATE A WELL ROUNDED STUDENT.

1) Canteens are overcrowded, class scheduling seemed poor, and lunch seemed to happen at the same time for staff and students. There is simply not enough chairs to sit during lunch time. It is not really about air conditioning, but rather, seats.

2) With the heavy curriculum and study load, student do not have much time to socialize and discover themselves. The school focuses on examination results, and arts, sports and other soft skills may seem as a distraction to most students who are focused solely on academic excellence.

3) There are sports facilities in places that are unused but out of bounds to students and alumni, making those available packed and overcrowded.

4) There are classrooms that should be opened, and a lot are utilized as study rooms. No new rooms are required.

What really irks me is the feeling that the university has already decided on these changes and are getting these surveys with flawed questions to justify these new structures that will be built in the near future. Though not needed or wanted more than the extra seats required at the canteens, there is a need to justify and the survey was supposed to show that, and the findings of the survey on other topics will be ignored as "this is not a survey" for the other findings.

As for the canteens that close too early, lack of a bar or hangout place except Fong Seng (A coffee shop outside NUS sadly) Poor service for the ATM machines. The incredible amount of paperwork and bureaucracy to make things happen in NUS, the task force does not seem out to find a solution for that, but rather a justification for more money to be spent to make NUS look more pretty from the outside with more facilities that are out of bounds and are of no concern to the student body in general.

Well Done.

-- Iron Bowl

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