P30 – Working with students to shape the transitional experience to university education in a trans-disciplinary course.

Room E – MONDAY 16:45-17:45

Quigley, Terry; Harding, John

School Creative Arts & Technologies / Ulster University

Terry Quigley

Terry Quigley is a Lecturer in Creative Technologies and Design. He holds a Ba (Hons) Visual Communications and MSc Computing and Design, both from Ulster University. His research interests include info-graphic visualisation, graphical user interface design (GUI) and user experience design (UX), and exploring novel technologies within teaching and learning. He holds an HEIF Academic Fellowship Award (2012) and is an active member of the Research Institute Art & Design (RIAD).

John Harding

John Harding is a graduate of both the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) University Belfast, and the Times Higher Education Award winning institution; Teeside University. John is heavily involved in a diverse range of emerging technologies and research in various fields of study including: Advanced Audio Production, Developmental Psychoacoustics, Electronics, New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Visual and Audio Programming, Sound Synthesis and Signal Processing and Trajectorybased Spatialisation.

Summary

CT is a trans-disciplinary course offering a broad range of topics from music technology, visual arts to computer programming. It was found that due to this, all students in semester one, year one, experienced low levels of confidence at some stage during the transitional period.

This paper reports on the interventions and outcomes implemented by staff and students of Creative Technologies (CT) aimed at improving year one attrition rates and improving the student experience during the transitional period to university study, which can be particularly difficult within a trans-disciplinary course.

Abstract

This paper reports on the interventions and outcomes implemented by staff and students of Creative Technologies (CT) as part of the UK wide What works? Student Retention & Success Programme, aimed at improving year one attrition rates and improving the student experience during the transitional period to university study. Staff identified issues with year one attrition rates on the course which were directly related to difficulties experienced by students during the transitional period to university study.

CT is a trans-disciplinary course offering a broad range of topics ranging from music technology, visual arts to computer programming. It was found that due to this, all students in semester one, year one, experienced low levels of confidence at some stage during the transitional period. As a response, staff worked together with current and previous year one students to identify specific elements of their transitional experience that could be improved.

Once these elements were identified, staff and students worked in collaboration over a 12 week period to design, implement and evaluate a series of interventions to the existing student program aimed at enhancing the student experience and increasing their sense of belonging during the difficult transitional period of university study within a trans-disciplinary course.

This process helped the team establish four specific aims on which to focus;

1. Build positive staff-student relationships.

2. Help students develop team-working skills.

3. Increase students’ sense of belonging to the course / university and develop and consolidate their interest in the subject area.

4. Improve student experience and increase their confidence and performance across a range of disciplines.

During the next phase of the project the team designed four interventions responding to each specific aim;

1. Overnight field trip

2. Team based hackathon activity

3. Created a shared space for students

4. Manage active learning during transitional period for module CRE104

The overall impact of these interventions was immediately reflected by a drop in the course attrition rates. In 2012/13, 10% of year one CT students dropped out. In 2013/14 after this study 0% of students dropped out from year one. In a wider context there are of course other influencing factors which could be attributed to this statistical improvement such as the induction process, admissions, marketing, student profile etc, however, there were no notable differences in these processes from the previous years.

Overall students were positive about the interventions and felt they achieved, to varying degrees, their intended aims. The results from the goal-free questionnaires indicated students benefitted from their partnership with staff throughout the process and expressed appreciation at the level of effort, time and consideration staff contributed to improving their university experience which in itself increased their motivation and sense of belonging.

All students agreed that having a deeper understanding of module rationale and active learning strategy in relation to the management and delivery of content, collaborative work, assessment and feedback contributed to fostering a sense of community within the class.

Learning from this process has resulted in all staff who teach modules within the early transitional period to work with students to manage active learning strategies together with student partners in order to identify areas of good practice.

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