I didn’t know I needed to ask…

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Do you remember your first day at University or College? What about the first week?

Arriving at a new institution is a disorientating experience. As students walk around the university or college campus they are faced with problems that need to be resolved in order to help them settle, provide a satisfying experience and even help them on their learning journey.

Transition is hard, for most learners going to an FE College the last time they moved between educational institutions was when they left primary school and moved up to secondary. Transition to an FE College is for many learners a huge leap.

Similarly transition to University can be for many students a challenge, especially when moving away from home (often for the first time).

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With the forecast growth of apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships, colleges and universities will find their campuses awash with apprentices who are only on campus for a day a week or for blocks of a week or two. These learners will have the challenge of finding their way round, but not having the luxury of exploring the campus that full-time students often have.

There are the known problems, such as where is my next lesson? What books would be useful for this topic? When is my tutor free for a quick chat on assignment? Do I need to come into college today?

Even simple questions could result in a complicated route to multiple online systems. Imagine asking the question, where and when is my next lecture, what resources are available and are there any relevant books in the library on this subject? The module design or course information system (or more likely this is a dumb document) would have the information on what would be next. Timetabling systems would be able to inform the learn which space and when the lesson was. The campus map (which could be interactive) would provide the information on where the space was on the campus. Imagine the extra layer of last minute changes to the information because of staff sickness, or building work resulting in a room change. As for what resources are available, this may be on the VLE or another platform. As for additional resources then this could be on the library systems. Add in a social platform, say a closed Facebook group, or a collaborative tool such as Slack, then you start to see how a simple question about what am I doing next and where is it, becomes rather complicated.

One big assumption we make in all this is, we assume the learner knows about all our system, knows how to use them all, has access to them all, and has a connected device to do all this!

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There are also the unknown problems, these are the kinds of problems that learners don’t even know they have and haven’t thought to ask? Could the university or college push information and notifications to learners based on where the learner is on campus, when the learner is on campus, and how far the learner is on their learning journey? Would this extra information confuse the learner, or could it help to reduce the disorientating experience?

So how are you supporting learners in this area?

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