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young person writing in workbookA single campus-wide course for all first-year students is intended to ease their transition to higher education.

Student partners support development of online first-year transition course

A new course, designed by students for students, will help first-year students transition to university.

Intended to eliminate some of the navigational barriers to finding support, it will help students identify their needs and select corresponding modules. Incoming undergraduates in all disciplines will be automatically enrolled in the online course with the ability to opt out.

The course development has been spearheaded by Chris Busch, associate vice-president, enrolment management, as a collaborative effort leveraging expertise across campus. The team includes Cindy Crump, director of the Student Success and Leadership Centre; Beth Oakley, director of the International Student Centre; Phebe Lam, acing associate vice-president student experience; and Ashlyne O’Neil, learning specialist in the Office of Open Learning.

It has consulted extensively with campus stakeholders across support and academic units, and with $74,730 in funding from the eCampus Ontario Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) grant, hired four student partners to offer their perspectives with more recent transition experiences.

Hiring students to partner in the development of the course was critical to the success of this project, says O’Neil, who is leading the effort.

“It is really important to not only listen to and amplify student voices, but to actually involve them in the creation of content and curriculum,” she says. “Not only are they our key stakeholders, but they offer valuable insights into student needs and the ways in which students engage with support programs.”

Student partner Vanessa Reka, a master’s candidate in education, reflects on the many things she wishes she had known when she started post-secondary study.

“Our aim with this course is to help answer those questions that students may not even realize they have,” Reka says. “It will act as the first steppingstone for their academic journey and is filled with information and tips that will guide them along the way.”

The experience of working on the course has furthered her own education, says Master of Education student Samantha Szcyrek.

“I have acquired more profound knowledge on accessibility and inclusivity, expanded collaborative learning experiences, and established new connections inside and outside the University of Windsor,” she says.

Watch a video providing a sneak peak at some of the course components set to pilot with new students beginning their studies in Winter 2022.

More information about the VLS projects is available on the Office of Open Learning website or by contacting openlearning@uwindsor.ca.