As students at a diverse, devolved institution, Strathclyde newcomers have a wide variety of induction needs and experiences. Much of our current induction activity has positive outcomes for students, such as engendering a strong identification with a community of practice within their discipline, and fostering a strong association with course and department. However, research by student interns in summer 2014 identified issues with the induction experience that suggested we could do more to ensure that there was a greater degree of consistency of experience across the institution.
With a huge range of activity going on at departmental and faculty level, a high degree of co-ordination is desirable, to ensure not only that events do not clash within a students’ timetable but that where possible activities complement one another.
Another concern raised in the internship research was the focus on Week 0 – “Fresher’s Week”- for activity. This results in students being “overloaded” with information, including some that might actually be relevant later in semester. Most departments are well aware of the need to allow students time to “settle in” and “find their feet” within the department and the culture of their discipline and undertake some monitoring of student performance in the early stages of their degree but another finding of the interns was that there could be more “follow” up induction activity to support successful transition.
The project was designed with three aspirations in mind:
This project had one overarching objective which was to develop a “toolkit” of information for staff planning, co-ordinating and delivering departmental and faculty inductions. The intention of this toolkit was to provide a non-directive support for staff engaged in all levels of induction activity across campus, but with a focus on those who are planning and/or delivering a programme.
The toolkit would consist of three areas:
The project has resulted in a Toolkit available below and also hosted on the University’s transitions SharePoint site. The toolkit comprises a number of elements.
General induction arrangement information (University-wide information on Faculty and other induction arrangements). The intention of this document is to provide a go-to reference for staff across the University when arranging induction events to ensure local arrangements are a good fit with other activities.
Common issues for students. A guide to commonly encountered induction issues (such as registration, IT issues, MyPlace). A key finding of the 2014 intern research was that students were frustrated when relatively straightforward questions resulted in referrals to other services. Common themes in this area were basic IT and registration-related issues which can be expertly addressed within the appropriate services but in most cases simply require staff across the campus to be supported in giving accurate information.
A discursive induction checklist and guide to timing. This element of the toolkit was developed with reference to existing best practice on campus and is intended to function as a guide for those approaching induction planning for the first time or who are wanting to refresh their induction activities. A key aspect of this element of the toolkit is that it encourages staff to spread induction activities across the first semester. This means, for example, that information about presentation of work, referencing and plagiarism is introduced ahead of first assignments rather than during the first week.
Guides to ice-breaker activities and longer induction activities. Some courses may wish to develop the teamworking capabilities of their students, or simply to facilitate social interaction. To this end we identified a number of icebreaker and longer teambuilding activities for staff to use as appropriate.
Good practice examples from two faculties. There are excellent induction practices under way in every faculty. We chose two to as examples for others to draw on, from DMEM and HaSS.
A guide to further resources for induction. These are intended to support staff in further developing induction activities.
Given more resource, we would have engaged more deeply with colleagues in departments in collating the toolkit.
In a widely diversified institution like Strathclyde, bringing together information that applies across the institution was a challenge, as was deciding what material would be more relevant to colleagues.
The next stage for this project is to roll the toolkit out to departments and faculties and encourage engagement with the content. We are currently planning to make the toolkit more widely available and invite key contacts within departments and faculties to engage with us through discussions and a workshop.
Elements of the outcomes would support induction activity in any academic department.
The work was carried out by a student intern who undertook desk-based research and met with a number of key staff to develop materials for our toolkit. The work was undertaken over Semester 2 and into the summer of 2014/15.
The toolkit elements are available to download below. They are also available at: https://moss.strath.ac.uk/eduportal/curriculumenhancement/student_transitions/STN/Induction%20arrangements/Forms/AllItems.aspx