The virtual path to academic transition: enabling international students to begin their transition to university study before they arrive.
In, 10th European Conference on e-Learning (ECEL-2011), Brighton, GB,
10 - 11 Nov 2011.
Institutions receiving international students for postgraduate study are now committing time and energy to the development of online transition resources to enable students to prepare for the demands of a different academic culture before they arrive. Important questions underlying such initiatives are identifying what kind of digital resources will both engage international students and be of most use to them in preparing for this transition, and how to effectively reach students. Current institutional initiatives are taking several forms. A popular model is to offer browsable advice/tips or FAQs about life and study at a particular institution together with, for example, video clips of other international students describing their experiences there. These may be open and web-hosted or accessible through a password protected area on an institutional website or VLE. Less commonly found are video and other media embedded in learning resources developed in the form of ‘learning objects’ which have been designed to offer key information through structured interactive learning activities supported with answers and feedback. Importantly, these also offer opportunities for language improvement at the same time since they are supported by help, feedback and transcripts.
This case study focuses on a project to develop and deliver a pre-arrival online course of interactive learning resources for all incoming international students to one UK institution. Building on five years of experience in delivering pre-arrival, tutored online courses to pre-sessional course international students, the project team developed institution-specific learning objects and incorporated open resources from the website, ‘Prepare for Success’, developed by the same institution. The project seeks to deliver a self-access online course with three strands to it to address students’ concerns and needs. These are to prepare international students for the location in which they will be living and studying (the city of Southampton - its key features and amenities); to introduce them to practical aspects of British life and culture (e.g. setting up a bank account, shopping in a UK supermarket) and to familiarise them with key study skills and other aspects of UK academic culture which may present challenges for them (e.g. academic writing conventions; dealing with course reading lists).
This paper will be of value to institutions embarking on similar ventures. It will describe the rationale for the online course; refer to the pedagogic approach taken; showcase course content, and report on the first phase of its delivery which begins in late spring 2011
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