What do we know about the experience of first year students?


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Presentation for a workshop delivered at the UALL event on 28 Feb 2008 where Becka Currant gave an overview of work being done at Bradford to support student transition and retention.

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What do we know about the experience of first year students?

  1. 1. What do we know about our first years? Becka Currant Head of Learner Development Unit, University of Bradford
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Context </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research into the First Year Experience (FYE) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students 2.0 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Bradford picture </li></ul><ul><li>FYE Survey </li></ul><ul><li>Changes made </li></ul><ul><li>Implementing Develop Me! </li></ul><ul><li>Issues & next steps </li></ul><ul><li>Your experiences </li></ul>
  3. 3. Context: Research into the FYE <ul><li>National research in FYE ongoing </li></ul><ul><li>UK behind in terms of research compared with America and Australia </li></ul><ul><li>Issues identified have not really changed </li></ul><ul><li>Problems have wider impact due to differences in student population </li></ul>
  4. 4. Recent headlines highlight issues of retention BBC news 20 Feb 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7252723.stm Yorkshire post 20 Feb 2008 http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/800m-is-wasted-in-bid.3795428.jp Is a traditional 3 year degree pathway really the most effective option for modern students? Why are students leaving?
  5. 5. Students 2.0? <ul><li>Who/what are modern students? </li></ul><ul><li>A vision of students today Wesch (2007) </li></ul><ul><li>What issues do they face? </li></ul><ul><li>What challenges does this pose for us? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we respond to differences from the ‘norm’? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why Do Students Leave University? <ul><li>Because they are not engaged </li></ul><ul><li>Not engaged academically </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I am not clever enough” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The course is not what I thought it would be” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not engaged socially </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I feel lonely” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I am homesick” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The other students are not friendly” </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Bradford FYE Survey <ul><li>Annual survey undertaken to place results of national work into local context </li></ul><ul><li>Aims of the research are to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand what issues might affect new first year students. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify where the University might need to improve provision, and how this could be achieved. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand how students adapt to studying at University. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify levels of engagement with the University. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify potential trends between previous study and engagement with University. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inform the development of induction, retention, transition and progression strategies at the University. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. FYE Survey 06/07 - Headlines <ul><li>Surprisingly low numbers (29%) of students in employment </li></ul><ul><li>Low involvement in Clubs and Societies (29%) </li></ul><ul><li>40% of respondents ‘first in family’ to attend University </li></ul><ul><li>Significant issues identified to do with </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student behaviour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Commuting to and from campus/between campuses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjusting to being at University </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organisational issues within courses </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. FYE Survey 07/08 - Headlines <ul><li>Lower response rate than 06/07 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>29% in 06/07 and 13.4% in 07/08 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Survey open for shorter period of time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students not requested to complete at end of SaPRA sessions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Similar picture to last year in terms of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Part time employment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Involvement in Clubs and Societies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First in family </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Polarisation in use of IT and computers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some expert users, some terrified </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Best Experiences 07/08 <ul><li>Similar to last year: </li></ul><ul><li>The course </li></ul><ul><li>Being at University </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting new people </li></ul><ul><li>BUT a lot of responses stating “nothing” or “none so far” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Best Experiences – their words <ul><li>“ I feel like I'm working my brain again after six years of no studying!” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I think the best part for me was meeting so many new people. I didn't know anyone else before I came here, and I was worried about not making friends, not fitting in etc. But on my very first day (the welcome talk), I already got talking to a few people, and that really worked wonders for my confidence. Since I've got here, I've got to know so many different people, and it's just been amazing!“ </li></ul><ul><li>“ I'm just eager to learn things on my course. I'm actually enjoying learning now I'm older.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Best Experiences – their words <ul><li>“ Living away from home, the course itself, societies and the optional classes outside of the course.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Making friends and the university facilities like the courtyard and basement” </li></ul><ul><li>“ My tutors are very helpful, understanding and approachable” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Atrium, a nice place for mates to chill. we make friends with friends of friends.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Woking with caring, committed staff, especially lecturers!” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Worst Experiences <ul><li>Adjusting to being at University </li></ul><ul><li>IT issues – unable to access Blackboard and other facilities </li></ul><ul><li>Getting lost – not being able to find their way around </li></ul><ul><li>Lecturers – pace of lectures, not speaking good English, lack of contact and feedback, feeling intimidated by the learning </li></ul><ul><li>Other students </li></ul><ul><li>Parking/travel/commuting to and from/between campuses </li></ul><ul><li>Costs e.g. printing, food on campus </li></ul>
  14. 14. Worst Experiences – their words <ul><li>“ A combination of not liking the course, the university, lecturers and Bradford itself.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The city itself is not as lively as I expected” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Don't feel as involved in the 'university lifestyle' this is because my course is so intense and i wasn't informed of activities during freshers week.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Entering a building, whose entrance is surrounded by smokers” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Getting lost, arriving late to lectures due to not finding the rooms” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Modules are scattered by time and by location” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Non serious students” </li></ul>
  15. 15. Worst Experiences – their words <ul><li>“ Not being able to make new friends and that it is a problem travelling everyday as i live quite a distance from the university. Also the freshers fair was not a very good one there wasn’t much to do. not enough activities for students to be able to interact with each other so that we could make and meet new people and friends.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Other students there seems to be some sort of segregation within the students on the campus and I have never witnessed this before I find it quite intimidating” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Poor services and absolute lack of space in the canteen. Plus the food is expensive. The lack of relaxation space/somewhere to sit and eat lunch in general is very poor.” </li></ul>
  16. 16. What still needs to be done? <ul><li>Provision of more social space on campus </li></ul><ul><li>More opportunity to meet new people in first few weeks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student Union involvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School/course based activities </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reality checks to ensure people feel supported </li></ul><ul><li>Understand better where students are coming from and what they need to help them adjust </li></ul><ul><li>A more ‘personal’ touch to a major life change </li></ul><ul><li>Helping students to engage with the institution more effectively </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Local students feel loyalty to their course and their friends. They do not ‘belong’ to the University as a whole </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National/International students feel more loyalty to the University than local students. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How can we make the University more of a community? </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Integration, Support and Retention <ul><li>How have we addressed these issues? </li></ul><ul><li>Overhaul of induction framework, development of new strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Overhaul of the personal tutoring framework </li></ul><ul><li>Opening of the Atrium </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation of student support at Bradford: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Changes to process of administrative transactions through launch of the Hub </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adaptation of traditional Learner Support model to incorporate wider range of services </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Establishment of the FYE Forum </li></ul><ul><li>Embedding of the LDU within the University </li></ul><ul><li>Launching Develop Me! </li></ul>Integration, Support & Retention
  18. 18. What is Develop Me!? <ul><li>Online space for new students to meet other students </li></ul><ul><li>Early engagement with PDP process via SaPRA and online learning materials </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity for students to see we care about them, and for them to ask questions. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Areas an online portal can address <ul><li>Social inclusion – online discussion groups </li></ul><ul><li>Managing Expectations – comprehensive information about starting University in one single place. </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement – Enables new students to contact existing students and staff online as well as personalisation of tools </li></ul>
  20. 20. Develop Me! Online <ul><li>Development of ‘extended student’ model </li></ul><ul><li>Focus of Pathfinder Project (strand 1) </li></ul><ul><li>Replicating good practice at other institutions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. Bournemouth, Sunderland </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall objective to enable effective transition and initial engagement with institution </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence based approach </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work stems from research in sector including STAR, 2006; Yorke, 1997; Longden and Yorke, 2007; Harvey and Drew, 2006; Tinto, 1999 </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Develop Me! Online <ul><li>Academic: </li></ul><ul><li>Early engagement with academic materials and development of academic skills </li></ul><ul><li>Completion of SaPRA to identify levels of confidence and develop action plan to reflect on with personal tutor and evidence in PDP </li></ul><ul><li>Social: </li></ul><ul><li>Start process of making links with peers on courses and other students in University </li></ul><ul><li>Share hopes, fears and concerns about starting course </li></ul><ul><li>Identify challenges and find answers to burning questions </li></ul>Primary objective to enable students to manage process of transition in both academic and social terms
  22. 22. Develop Me! Online <ul><li>Located in Moodle for 07/08 </li></ul><ul><li>Issues with access to University systems prior to enrolment </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Safe’ space for students to share experiences (unlike Facebook) </li></ul><ul><li>3 areas of content: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SaPRA online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion forums </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop Me! Online materials </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complementary web based materials to support development of skills </li></ul><ul><li>To date over 3500 unique visitors (NB: site is open access so not all UoB students/staff) </li></ul><ul><li>Over 1000 students have completed SaPRA from across the University </li></ul>
  23. 23. Develop Me! Online <ul><li>Successes </li></ul><ul><li>Early access to materials </li></ul><ul><li>Access to SaPRA more effective </li></ul><ul><li>Clear links with PDP process </li></ul><ul><li>Early focus on developing skills and evidencing competencies </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Limited use of discussion forums (due to Facebook?) </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of engagement from Hub in answering questions </li></ul><ul><li>Needs embedding within main University website to encourage web traffic </li></ul>
  24. 24. Develop Me! Online – The Future <ul><li>Significant interest from HE sector in approach </li></ul><ul><li>Extensive work on learning materials completed as part of Pathfinder project </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creation of linked ‘podlets’ to enhance learning experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile materials available for download onto PDAs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Extensive evaluation of materials and concept with student feedback (HEA funded project) </li></ul><ul><li>Issues of where to host materials for 2008 onwards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SaPRA migrated into PebblePad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What to do with discussion forums? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Development of Virtual Hub and Online Induction module </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Impact of ESCALATE on to Develop Me! </li></ul>
  25. 25. Future support (2008 onwards) Integrated Online Support Targeted information relevant to particular courses Bespoke interactive exercises to promote academic and social cohesion prior to arrival Generic University based information (the usual paper bumpf sent out to freshers!) Integrated support for skills development and understanding development needs Health & Safety Information Course Specific Information E- Induction Module Develop Me! Online
  26. 26. Your turn! <ul><li>What happens at your institution? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What do you know about the student experience? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How effective is it? </li></ul><ul><li>What would you like to see happen? </li></ul><ul><li>How can you ‘make it so’? </li></ul><ul><li>Group based discussion with plenary feedback </li></ul>