UTS Study Groups is a new program designed to extend the transition support for commencing students, provide opportunities for students to build connections with their peers, and give students every opportunity to succeed at UTS.
As we reach the end of the first week of Autumn Orientation, the thing that has struck me most is just how nice it is to see students on campus again walking around in small groups. In our ‘Get Started with Design Your UTS‘ session this week, a new student asked “How do I make friends?”, and I followed up with “How did you make friends in high school?”. Their response: “By accident”.
In the world of online learning, there’s very little space for accidental connection and relationship building. There is no chance to chat with a classmate while waiting for a tutor to arrive, or to walk off together in the same direction afterwards. There are no whispered jokes, saved seats, or chances to tentatively ask “did you do the readings?”.
In the Student Learning Hub, we asked ourselves: How can we deliberately design the accidental and organic development of relationships and connection to support students?
In the second half of 2021 the Library ran the Digital Experience Insights Survey, and received responses from over 900 students on how we could improve the digital experience at UTS. We used this data, along with insights from several focus groups with students, insights from the 2020 and 2021 Student Hackathon internships, and the feedback from all of our Design Your UTS training sessions in 2021 to build UTS Study Groups.
Ask a student
Organise meeting links (e.g. in discord, zoom link) for study sessions accessible to all students… [so] students can easily ask each other for help.Student feedback
What we designed:
- A ready-made peer support network for students co-ordinated by a Library Guide
- Regular online and on-campus meet-ups to study and socialise
- An online space to ask questions and connect facilitated by their peers
Learn a skill
More workshops!!!!! They always sell out and it is as much of a social interaction as it is a learning space.Student feedback
What we designed:
- Embedding Design Your UTS and digital skills training into the session program
- Bringing in support services when students need them.
Make a connection
More interaction and fun activities for students to engage in, especially with lockdown.Student feedback
What we designed:
- Extending an invite to social events, club activities, volunteering opportunities
UTS Study Groups in a nutshell
We put students into small faculty and interest-based groups supported by an experienced student Library Guide from the same faculty. The Guide’s job is to:
- facilitate conversation and connection;
- give guidance on where to go for help and support, and;
- organise meet-ups and study sessions with their groups.
All our Guides are trained in co-design methods and supported to ensure that each group experience is as unique as the group itself. We know that student needs and expectations change throughout the session, and this co-design process ensures the student experience is nuanced and responsive.
In addition to their 10-person group, students in Study Groups can connect with peers from their faculty and their cohort in our online discussion spaces on Teams, as well as attend mixer events and training sessions throughout session.
It’s important to know that UTS Study Groups don’t do everything – but they do provide trustworthy insiders who extend an invitation and a guiding hand to other wonderful resources and services that UTS provides like Counselling, Careers, HELPS, the Library, the Student Centre, and ActivateUTS. We are the friends you ask for advice when you haven’t made your group of friends yet.
Study Groups are primarily promoted to commencing students, but they are open to all current students. The Student Learning Hub believes in offering anytime orientation, and this is especially important for students over the last two years who might feel that they missed out on an orientation experience.
What do students want from UTS Study Groups?
When signing up for UTS Study Groups, students tell us 3 things they most want out of the program – this gives us a great snapshot of what students are concerned about and helps us start customising their experience from the very beginning. We piloted UTS study groups in Summer session of 2021 and the data is consistent in Autumn 2022. The main things students want out of a UTS Study Groups experience is to:
- Make a group of friends
- Receive advice from experienced students
- Have a friendly face in their classes
- Get help with studying
How can you help?
We still have space in the Autumn 2022 program. Let your students know about UTS Study Groups and encourage them to sign up. Even if the groups run out of space, they can still access our online discussions and mixer events to connect with students from their faculty.
Want to collaborate with us on Study Groups, or any of the other Student Learning Hub services? Email us at StudentLearningHub@uts.edu.au