Pre-arrival: bizareness, collisions and adjustments
Communication requirements shift to being more personal and individualised. It is much more about identity, what sort of a learner they will be, will they fit in and what sort of people will they mix with. Placing the new student at the centre of things, opens the imagination to how adjustments can be made in the area of pre-arrival support that works with the student to meet the challenges of a stimulating first year. At an institutional level, the requirement of this pre-arrival phase is to provide new students with accessible, relevant and meaningful information that is contextualised to them and their learning. Activities such as online enrolment and registration increase their sense of belonging. The individual student is now the audience, and the purpose is to engage, enthuse and inspire the new student through the provision of an appropriate level of study advice, more in-depth information about the course, including some introductory learning activities and an outline of what is to be expected during orientation week (Keenan, 2010). Imaginative use of online mechanisms for information giving allows students to self-manage their engagement with it. For example, the availability of an orientation website provides a helpful reference point. It is also a useful time to find out more about the new student by offering an opportunity for dialogue between the student and their tutor. New students at this stage are also forming informal social groupings through social network sites. When the arrival period finally comes, it is a time of accelerated experiences and almost a collision point between before and after. It is critical that new students are prepared for this exciting, difficult and possibly challenging period during the pre-arrival stage. The case studies in this chapter provide illustrations of how some institutions have developed initiatives to effectively support the student through the pre-arrival period. Case Study 5 by Tim May describes the development of an online system at the University of Sussex, UK, designed to simplify registration and enrolment for students which is particularly helpful for pre-arrival students. Shifting registration and enrolment to the pre-arrival phase can help the student feel a sense of belonging, as they can access a wide range of university support materials and resources. Case Study 6 from Christine Keenan takes a student-centred approach to promoting academic engagement in the pre-arrival phase at Bournemouth University, UK. Stepping Stones 2HE promotes relationship development in three key ways: between the student and their learning; between the student and their tutor; and between the student and the wider institution. The aim is to improve confidence about starting at university by providing contextualised introductory learning activities as a starting point for collaborative work in induction week. Case Study 7 by Becka Colley provides an example of the use of online social media and web 2.0 tools to provide students with information and a way of connecting with each other to form social interactions at the University of Bradford, UK. Develop Me!’s inclusive, flexible and pro-active approach is based on sound learning development and practitioner model principles. It encourages students to have ownership and control over their own development underpinned with social support that their networking provides.