We know there’s a transition to university for first year students. Orientation helps them get off to a good start: finding rooms, cafes and those essential amenities; starting to think about why they’re here and what they want to become; maybe picking up some study tips.Hopefully they’ll start to meet others who might become friends and begin to develop a sense of belonging as a UTS student.
Now it’s week 1, all students are coming back to study.They might have been rushing around finding somewhere to live in a new city or country, working full-time to earn money for the year, on holidays, or just lazing around at home checking social media. Think about how you feel when you come back to work after the holidays, or when you’re starting a new job or big project.Those feelings might be what many students are experiencing right now.
Whether they’re starting first year, second year, final year or postgrad, students are starting new subjects.They need to prepare for learning new skills, new concepts and new ways of applying them.They will also probably have classes with new people. Good week 1 activities can help students to make the transition into your subject and class. And it’s not (quite) too late to do something.
Your UTSOnline site will of course be up, students will be enrolled and your Subject Outline will be available.What else will help your students?Here are three key points:
Helping students want to do your subject
OK, so you have a compulsory subject.What will motivate students to want to do it, to see it as interesting and relevant for their future? Do you have a short video that gets students excited? You might not be a video star (unless you’ve done Power of Screen Presenting),but maybe there’s a TED talk that students can watch. Maybe next time you could get some alumni to talk about how they use what they learned in their careers?
Helping students with pre-req skills and knowledge
What skills do you expect students to have? If they need to use any software, is there a Lynda course that could help new students, or give continuing students a refresher? It doesn’t have to be perfect for your subject if it helps students to make a start.
What prior knowledge do students bring with them? Diagnostic and self-test quizzes and activities can help students, and you, to realise what they know. For later year students, an activity from a pre-req subject might help them to refresh. Make sure you offer options for students to catch up.
Helping students to develop a sense of connection
Will all students know others in their new classes? Probably not, but it’s vital to help students to develop a sense of connection. If you have a smaller subject, why not ask them to introduce themselves online. If you have a larger subject with tutorials, make sure the first tutorial week includes an icebreaker or two. Plenty of examples can be found online.
If you are teaching first years, you might like to dip into the Successful Student Transition guide for a lot more tips Most of them apply pretty well to second and later year students too.
All students are transitioning to something new. So help them to make that next step on the journey.
Image CCBySA2.0 by Michael Kowalczyk