ST20 – Focussing on Students: Reflections on Student-Inspired Pre-Arrival and Induction Experiences in Computer Science

Presentation
Room C – TUESDAY 13:00-14:00

Emily Foster, Dr David Grey

Department of Computer Science, University of Hull, UK

Emily Foster is a Student Experience Officer currently working with the Department of Computer Science.

David Grey is an academic and the Director of Learning and Teaching for the Department of Computer Science, with responsibility for all aspects of teaching provision and student success.

Summary

We report on tailoring Departmental pre-arrival and induction to the needs of Computer Science students based on student surveys and best practice, and the benefits of a dedicated individual within the Department solely focussed on the success of students who are often unwilling to engage with central support services

Abstract

The Computer Science Department of the University of Hull has recruited well for many years and puts a lot of effort into its recruitment activities and supporting students through the recruitment process. Recent institutional reviews have praised the department for the sense of ‘tribal’ identity and belonging that it instils in its students. However student progression and retention remains a problem, particularly at the end of the first year, and the university appointed a Student Experience Officer (SEO) to work within the Computer Science department with a focus on improving the student experience and student success.

Using simple post-induction questionnaires the SEO was able to identify a number of areas of concern for new Computer Science students, both pre-arrival and during the transition to study at university. This paper reflects on our experiences of addressing those issues by simply listening to students needs and tailoring our induction process to better meet these through the application of policy and best practice identified by other institutions. In particular, we focused on improving pre-arrival information and personal communication from staff, streamlining administrative processes, introducing social activities and small group interactions to foster peer relationships between staff and students, and introduced support activities to engage students and help them through the difficult first weekend. We also involved student mentors to support induction activities and facilitate orientation. Evidence from post-induction surveys, student experience surveys, the volume and nature of enquiries to the SEO and anecdotal evidence from staff and students indicates that the combined effect of a number of relatively minor changes can help new students feel much more supported and can have an important impact on the ease with which students make the transition into university life.

Our experiences suggest that providing support at departmental level is particularly relevant to the Computer Science discipline which attracts many introverted students who are unlikely to seek assistance and support from centralised support services. We highlight the value of having a dedicated member of staff to focus on the student experience and deal with student issues. We identify ways in which this support complements and strengthens existing pastoral support mechanisms provided by personal supervisors.

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