A couple of weeks ago there was an extended summer special Light Lunch session in the Learning and Teaching community on planning for effective student inductions with presentations by Rachael-Anne Knight (SHS), Stian Reimers (SASS), Martin Rich, Clive Holtham (Bayes) Louise Jennings (Head of Student Support). This blog post, co-written by them, summarises the presentations and discussions.
Welcoming Business management students to Bayes
First on were Martin Rich and Clive Holtham (Bayes) who spoke about their experience with setting up an online induction for business management students in the summer of 2020. They found themselves having to make very quick decisions about the best way to bring together such a large cohort of students, who weren’t going to be there in person at all. Teams was chosen as the students were not yet fully registered and so would have been unable to access learning platforms such as Moodle. Consequently, Martin and Clive came up with what they call the ‘TMWAT ‘model, which is using Teams meetings without a team.
In addition, student feedback from previous inductions had often been that they would prefer to have a stronger educational component within the process rather than just looking at the administrative side of things. So for Clive and Martin, this was a real opportunity to put into practice ideas that had been evolving over a long period of time. Therefore, they very much focused on producing something that would offer something of real value and alighted on the idea of ‘relentless welcoming’, supported in pedagogic literature.
‘Undergraduates need far more than an engaging “welcome week” at the start of their time at university; they need to be welcomed and to feel welcome throughout their time at university (Teaching Matters blog. Edinburgh University.2019)
Martin and Clive concluded that they had learned a lot from last year’s induction experience, much of which they will apply this year and that fundamentally it was an incredibly useful exercise. This year they are also hoping to introduce new technologies such as Flipgrid, a video discussion tool, and Clive invited any colleagues from across the university, who may be interested in exploring this very interesting tool, to get in touch.
Induction Treasure hunt for the BSc Speech and language therapy
Rachael-Anne Knight (SHS) was on next to tell us about a professionally oriented treasure hunt that is being planned as part of the induction activities for BSc Speech and Language Therapy. Inspired by previous treasure hunts from the Journalism department, and supported by colleagues in LEaD. The underpinning aims relate to the literature on progression and retention and acknowledge the importance of students
1) building their professional identities,
2) developing a sense of belonging to the institution,
3) finding peer support groups, and
4) establishing meaningful relationships with staff, from the start of their programs.
Students will work in small groups to visit ten locations across the Northampton Square campus that will be relevant for their studies, including central services such as the library, and bespoke SLT spaces such as the Roberta Williams Centre. At each of these locations, they will engage in a professionally relevant task, such as a verbal fluency assessment, speech in noise test, or interview. The treasure hunt will be evaluated in relation to each of the four aims above, in order to inform future development.
Induction for Psychology students
Then Stian Reimers (SASS) was on to talk about what he and his team were planning for their students’ induction. SASS’ strategy is to have a mix of online and face-to-face activities, with one day during which students are on campus, combined with various online activities during induction week.
In Psychology, some of the online activities will be synchronous, such as a speed-dating type session using breakout rooms, and others can be completed by students in their own time. The activities build on the success and challenges from the last academic year when all the inductions were online. It was found that activities encouraging students to talk about themselves were less well-received than those during which they were made to talk to each other.
Connecting the activities to the discipline is also important in engaging students. The department may run again their session when a short film is being shared, followed by a discussion around the psychological notions it presents with academics and students.
Two face-to-face activities are being planned:
- Treasure hunt/Escape room. Students will be made to solve a series of puzzles in a playful way while making connections with members of their team. The focus this year will be on the City campus after a year of being away from it and the tasks will help with onboarding students. For example, they will have to find where the library is and look something up there. Other tasks will also relate to the discipline. Each task will provide a clue to unlocking a chest with prizes hidden somewhere on campus.
- Meet your Future Self. Students will be meeting with recent graduates or students in the year above them to discuss their experience and what their aspirations are. The aim is to create a sense of belonging and identity.
The future self-idea was an idea that was received very enthusiastically by participants in the session and so there are requests for a LEaD Light lunch session on the Future self, so hopefully, that will be coming soon.
Welcome to City 21/22
Lastly, Louise Jennings (Head of student support services) talked about what is being organized for welcoming students to City. Below are details:
Welcome to City Pages on Student Hub
Information on the Student Hub is being re-focussed this year so that it is available and relevant to both our new and returning students. These pages will clearly define what our new and returning students need to know before they start at City and when they have arrived, either face-to-face or virtually, this will include new student programme induction timetables as well, which will be available from Monday 6th August. The information on these pages will also be signposted to students through the Student communications that they receive and across the various social media posts from the middle of August onwards.
Pre-entry Live QA – Welcome to City 2021
This year, for the first time , there will be a ‘Live’ virtual QA session for incoming students to ask professional support service representatives questions about practical next steps to starting their academic journey at City. Teams involved in this activity will be Accommodation services, International student advice and guidance, Registry services, Student Finance team, Student Funding team, Student Advice and IT services.
This event will take place on Thursday 9th September.
Start@City, a targeted pre-entry programme, will take place the week commencing Monday 13th September for new UG students from specific targeted groups, who would benefit from additional transition support into HE. Please contact the WP team – firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information.
Student Counselling, Mental Health and Accessibility Service (SCMHAS):
SCMHAS student welcome letters are being sent to all students who have disclosed, via UCAS, a long term disability or mental health condition. The first of these went out to students in the first week of May, the second will follow A-level results week and the third will be a tailored letter from a specific team (eg. Disability or Mental Health) just ahead of course starting dates.
The Neurodiversity and Disability Service are also planning a bespoke induction event for students with Autism Spectrum Conditions which is being planned for early September. For further information please contact – email@example.com
Student Union – Student Check-ins:
City Students’ Union, in collaboration with the University, will be following on from the success of last year by running its Student Check-ins project during Welcome to City 2021. The SU’s enthusiastic team of student check-in callers will begin making calls to incoming first years pre-arrival with all students being contacted shortly afterwards.
Student check-in callers will be making sure that students have everything that they need to start at City, checking in on their wellbeing, showcasing City’s Welcome event timetable and will be on hand to answer any questions students may have. Calls with students will start taking place from the end of August.
Student support for online learning
There are a number of resources to support students with their online learning, including:
- A new Education technology guidance site for students created by LEaD.
- A new Learning with Moodle Module that will be available to all students to support their use of the Virtual learning environment. There is also a Welcome to Moodle (pdf) guide
Students can also join the Student Digital Support Community (MS Teams site) – a forum for all students at City to ask questions and get support around Educational Technology and online learning.
Getting started with IT guidance is also available on the student hub to assist students in setting up their IT account.
Applications to be matched with a CityBuddy mentor will open on results day – the form can be found at https://buddy.city.ac.uk/apply/mentee/. Please encourage new first-year students to sign up to receive support from a mentor, especially if they are feeling anxious or isolated.
CityBuddy Leaders will also be in various locations on campus throughout Welcome Week running activities that will encourage students to sign up to the scheme and share information about the support services that are available to them.
Centralised student communications are being coordinated by Catherine Gowers and her team and will begin from Wednesday 18th August. The Induction, Welcome Week and post-Welcome centralised communications plan has been signed off and is now available here – Welcome comms summary.docx (sharepoint.com). You can also find reference to all the planned emails and social media posts in the spreadsheet link above.
All of this is starting from Mid-August and will go on through to the beginning of November; a ‘thin long welcome’ approach that is similar to Martin Rich’s and Clive Holtham’s ‘relentless welcoming’ idea that we heard about in the first presentation.
All participants agreed that a joined-up approach where schools are aware of the centralized welcome timetable and how it can work in unison with their school-specific inductions is key for a good student experience. It was greatly appreciated that Louise and her team was working hard to keep everyone updated with what is being planned.
We ended with a quick round-up of just one word that participants felt represented the lively discussion that had taken place in the session, the words put forward included commonality, highlighting the challenge that all schools have for this coming new year; collaboration, sharing ideas and approaches; community and then lastly belonging, whether it’s belonging to the university as a whole or belonging to a department, profession and community.