One of the issues that comes up when I talk to academics who are my father’s generation is “We didn’t have this when I was at uni”.
To which I reply: FACEBOOK.
My colleague sent this article to me on how Facebook is altering your mind.
And it’s not only Facebook, as you know. The internet is a BIG BIG BIG distraction. While leaders have told me that they use Youtube for study purposes (there are actually a lot of good lectures out there), it’s easy to see how “studying” could turn into “time-wasting”.
That’s an advantage to a structured study group – it gets the students off the internet and away from those distractions.
(PS there are lots of other reasons we need peer learning, including recognising that my father’s generation only had the “elite” go to university, but that’s not the point of this post.)
When you’re travelling around, you talk to people who have been where you’re going. You do it to find out what it’s like, and their tips.
When you’re working, you talk to people who have done what you have to do. You do it to get their shared experience and tips and helpful points.
When you’re a parent, you talk to other parents. You do this to get their shared experiences and tips.
So with student engagement, why not set up situations where students can talk to each other and get the tips? Why is it even a question that we would do this?
Sometimes I just marvel at the responses I get when people apply to be leaders. Check this out:
Q: Why are U:PASS sessions offered in addition to tutorials and lectures?
A: First of all, U:PASS was designed specifically for first year units that have high failure rates – hence the “supplementary” assistance.
I think U:PASS is different to other forms of classes because it removes the barrier between instructor/teacher and student. Many (including myself at times), find the idea of talking to lecturers/demonstrators incredibly overwhelming and “scary”.
It’s also helpful because it gathers students who WANT to do well, rather than NEED to do well. The atmosphere of being with people who understand that in University, independent learning is key – and that involves self-motivation and doing as much as you can to achieve the best that you can. There is no competitive atmosphere whatsoever – a student who’s never done the subject and need extra assistance can come, or a student aiming for top marks can show up, and there is no sense of favouritism or disheartening/intimidating learning field.
Lastly, I think having a student U:PASS leader is what really sets U:PASS sessions apart from tutorials and lectures. They understood the difficulty of being a confused first-year with little-to-no background in the subject. That connection between U:PASS leader and student is something that I don’t believe that can be easily formed between lecturer/demonstrator and student. They understand that it’s difficult to learn when the materials are delivered in a very “dry” manner.
These factors really help in creating a comfortable atmosphere for everyone.