Making the Transition to Higher Education

This video gives a quick overview of the
Transitions Project and a look at the initial findings. It involved students and staff from the University. The staff were from the Foundation Centre, the Careers Centre and the Learning Technologies Team. Four students and a video expert were employed to create and capture materials. Staff and students also acted as review and advisory boards. The idea came from the Foundation Centre who created a website to support their incoming students. At the same time across the sector there was an increasing awareness of the importance of making students feel part of an academic community. The Transitions into HE project built
on this, aiming to support incoming first years before they start at the
University through an online course. It should help the students develop study skills and make the transition into the HE community at Durham. Its delivered using duo. The course is organised into four main sections. Each contains carefully structured content: videos, discussion boards and online materials to work through. The course also exposes students to the concept of digital literacy. Exploring their preferences for the way technologies can be used to enhance an individual’s learning and research. There’s a range of custom interactive materials to explore these were developed by the students and cover topics such as the positive use of social media time management and effective learning. Staff and current students also feature
in a range of videos shot for this project. The layout has been optimized for mobile
delivery basic content, discussion boards and the online activities are all
accessible using phones and tablets. In just one world the online course was
accessed over 100,000 times – the vast majority of this activity almost 80% was the incoming students. A few interested staff also had a look. The contributions from members of the project team are partly building the site and partly interacting with the students once the course went live. We can see here shown in red the times when the project team accessed the site. Activity leapt when the course went
live in September. You can see from the student access (in blue) that the site was heavily used even at weekends! A total of 838 students enrolled from departments who had volunteered for the pilot. 88 of these were from the Arts & Humanities, 567 from the Sciences and 183 from Social Sciences and Health. So in our pilot the number of people in each faculty doesn’t quite match that across the University as a whole. What was nice to see was that in each faculty more than half the students enrolled took part in the course, and overall 65% of the students on the course made use of it before arriving at University. We can see it’s heavily skewed by the
Science departments who took part in the pilot though there are also departments from Social Sciences & Health and from Arts & Humanities. There are a few differences in the participation rates for each department In each case these increased the longer the project went on As this map shows, the courses was accessed from many locations across the globe but before we get too carried away the vast majority of hits were from students in the United Kingdom. These figures show the number of pages and the length of time a student spent (on average) working through the Transitions Project materials on duo. If we compare those with the figures on the right showing average duo use we can see that students have viewed more pages on the online course and are spending longer working on it than they do once they arrive at Durham where the teaching is a blend of face to face and online. Most people choose to use a desktop machine or a laptop to access it and looking at the spread of users of the mobile app it was fairly even across all the departments in the trial. Four key areas were explored in the course. and we can see it [visits] matches the order they were delivered in. So students spent the most time in the first area: Preparing for Academic Study and gradually less time in the other three. We have to remember that the Digital Literacy and Preparing for your Arrival sections were not available until the third week of the pilot. It will be interesting to see if this trend of declining use is sustained when we roll out the course
across the University next year. If we dig into the content types in a bit more detail we can see some differences in the way students from each faculty engage, with those from the Social Sciences & Health faculty spending more time exploring the full features of the course: reading the announcements spending a lot of time working through the content and they were the most active in the online discussions. Again we can see these students from Social Sciences & Health spending more time looking at their grades but this was at the expense of watching some of the bespoke online materials we developed and the custom videos. Looking at these videos in more detail for a minute we’ll start with those where the lecturers were the focus and again we see an interesting pattern particularly with the Pharmacy students who were less worried about independent
learning but very keen to learn about research-led teaching. If we look at the recordings from the Careers Service we can see that the pattern of usage was fairly even across all departments But if look at the videos featuring students we can see a different pattern. Some students are watching a lot of videos discussing what will happen when they arrive at Durham and others are more concerned about the differences between school and university. Some are focusing very much on the social life what will that be like at university? and others trying to maintain a good
work-life balance. In one part of the project we used a tool called the iTest (developed by Exeter University) This is a short quiz which highlights the importance of being a digitally literate student and offers ideas about how students can
integrate more technologies into their university career. If we look at the plot of student results, these are all the Science students. The further out they are on this diagram, the more confident they are about working in these areas. Adding the Social Sciences & Health students we can see that they have very similar profiles. But when we add the Arts & Humanities students these are a bit different. They are less confident in using some of the digital technologies and show a greater preference for traditional modes of learning. We asked students to describe their experience BEFORE starting this course. and many showed a mixture between being nervous but excited. When we asked them to describe how they felt AFTER completing the course, the results were much more positive.

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