Skip to main content
Contact us

For any queries, get in touch at

Shorlisted for Reimagine Education Award

What is Challenges Online?

What is Challenges Online?

Challenges Online was a project week, during which students worked with other like-minded students in interdisciplinary groups to design innovative solutions to real-world challenges. Much like the pre-existing Grand Challenges programme, students heard from top academics and invited speakers who helped them apply their skills and knowledge to a real-life sustainability problem. Students had the freedom to create their own choice of output(s) to tackle the Challenge you have selected. In previous years, student outputs have included: social media campaigns, videos, podcasts, websites, and apps. Students were also required to create a short group presentation to explain how their output addresses the issue that they chose. In the creation of their output and presentation, students further developed their employability prospects, developing key skills such as project planning, teamworking and public speaking. 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Grand Challenges programme here at the University of Exeter evolved into the Challenges Online programme. Watch this video to find out more!

What did students get from Challenges Online?

An Innovative University-led introduction to a topic outside of their degree

Challenges Online allowed students to broaden their knowledge of a subject that they would like to learn more about in a fun, immersive and engaging way. There was no requirement for previous knowledge or understanding of the topic for students to get involved in a Challenge.

The opportunity to develop a wide range of transferable skills

In today’s ever-changing job market, it is more important than ever to demonstrate transferable skills to employers. Challenges Online gave students a platform to develop a wide range of skills to enhance their employability prospects, such as online teamwork, communication, public speaking, and time management. 

Just like Grand Challenges, all Challenges Online offerings were based on the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), which in themselves act as a global call to action to help end deprivations and reduce the impacts of climate change across the world. Not only are these important issues in their own right, but many businesses choose to align themselves with SDGs, so participating in Challenges Online can be a great way for students to show employers that their personal ethos aligns with the company ethos. 

The potential to make a real-world impact

Challenges Online gave students the freedom to carry out a project at a level where they are able to make a real-world impact. The university encourages the longevity of this impact by supporting students to continue with their projects after Challenges Online week.

The opportunity to make new friends

Challenges Online was a great way for students to meet like-minded people and work with those who are passionate about the same topic as you are. In a socially-distanced world, Challenges Online offered the opportunity to forge connections with others safely while achieving a common goal. 

Recognition of achievements

Upon completion of Challenges Online, students received a certificate, and their participation in the programme was recorded on their degree transcript. Challenges Online week can also be used towards students' volunteering hours for the Exeter Award

How the week worked

How the Week Works

Challenges Online Week took place on Microsoft Teams. With the support of their postgraduate facilitator and academic leads, students collaborated with a small group of other students on their Challenge to design a project/output. Each student project group had their own separate workspace within Teams to best facilitate online teamworking, with integrated features such as chat, video calls, shared areas to edit documents together in real time, planners, and other collaboration tools. This online way of working modelled how staff across the world are working remotely from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more about how to use Microsoft Teams here

The main purpose of the week was to carry out a student-led project, which addresses an aspect of students' chosen Challenge. In their interdisciplinary team, students defined a problem that they would like to address and came up with an idea for tackling it. Due to the flexibility of the programme, students chose to focus on the issues and questions that they are most passionate about.

As part of their project, students produced one or more creative outputs to display their work. This project took the form of their choosing; past outputs include websites, social media campaigns, podcasts, videos, and more! Click here to view examples of previous student outputs. The student groups then created a short video presentation to explain their project/output to the rest of their Challenge participants. 

During the week, there was a series of online timetabled lectures for each Challenge, led by academics and external experts at the forefront of their respective fields. These were designed to educate and inspire the project that students carried out during the week. 

On Friday, students presented their work online and got to see what other students were up to during the week. There was also a Grand Finale event held online, open to University staff and members of the public.