Three innovative student success programs within the Faculty of Health just received a major boost with renewed funding from York’s Academic Innovation Fund (AIF): YUSTART, Experiential Education (EE), and Personalized Learning Spaces (PerLS).
These three projects, to be undertaken for the 2013-2014 academic year, fall under the AIF development goals of a pan-University systemic approach to Experiential Education, eLearning, and First Year Student Experience. They are also an integral component of the Faculty of Health’s Integrated Resource Plan that focuses on the faculty’s goals for the future, including student success.
Robert Bishop, director of strategic initiatives in the Faculty of Health
YU START is a pilot welcoming program for First Year students meant to simplify the high school to university life transition. The expansion of the pilot study was tested last summer with incoming Kinesiology and Health Science students entering university directly from high school. The aims of the program are to coordinate University-wide information for new students and to support them as they develop their capabilities to successfully transition to university. The program originated from three AIF-funded projects — lead by Rob Bishop, Catherine Salole, Martha Rogers and Lara Ubaldi — that blended into one at the initiative of the respective project leads involving online advising, summer learning communities, and making connections for incoming students.
The pilot program initiated with approximately 650 Kinesiology students in the summer of 2012 and was successful enough to receive renewed funding of $400,000 for the next academic year. Thanks to this new funding, Martha Rogers, Susan Murtha, Gary Spraakman and Diane Woody hope to expand the program to include all of the Faculty of Health high school students going into their first year, along with three other programs within the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies (Law and Society, Criminology, and Sociology) in the fall of 2013. A new “transition” curriculum will be introduced in the fall of 2014 with learning outcomes and modules using the Moodle platform for eventual potential application university-wide in upcoming years.
Martha Rogers, Graduate Program Director of Nursing in the Faculty of Health and Interim Master of Stong College
At the end of the YU START pilot, an evaluation to assess student satisfaction and learning was conducted with YU START participants compared to students entering the university through the usual process of academic orientation. In January 2013, 5 focus groups were conducted by the Institute of Social Research (ISR) to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. “So far the feedback has been excellent. For example, 97 per cent of students surveyed would recommend the YU Start program. As such, we are very excited about expanding this project in the future,” says Bishop.
One of the things that the team is considering in the program’s development is the extension of the project through the first academic year for new students. “Our focus groups after the initial program asked, ‘Why did you drop us so quickly?’ as the program ended in September. We have to see if we can extend the program to provide more support,” says Rogers.
Going forward, the team wants all incoming students to have access to a high quality new student transition curriculum that is research-based and uses the best practices in e-learning. “The ultimate aim is to create a YU START program that is customized for every incoming student based on their needs and academic programs,” says Rogers. With the synchronization of the YU START modules to the Student Information System (SIS), it will be possible to create a truly individualized learning experience for new students.