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Through the Looking Glass: Supporting Student Transitions in the 21st Century

By Penney Upton and Tim Jones


Today’s student body is radically more heterogeneous, and has different expectations, to previous generations. Universities must adapt to ensure inclusive provision; many have attempted to enable effective transition through tutoring systems. However, the most effective approach to tutoring continues to be debated. This workshop tackles pertinent questions such as should the tutorial system be mandatory, or should students be allowed to opt out? Since the turn of the 21st century, higher education has undergone unprecedented change. Greater diversity in learner background and experience has resulted in a student body which is radically more heterogeneous than in previous generations. Today’s learners enter higher education with very different expectations and assumptions about their experience compared with previous cohorts. Furthermore, increasing fees mean that students anticipate receiving the maximum return on their investment. Universities therefore need to adapt quickly to ensure inclusive provision, and to guard against disengagement through issues of alienation and/or poor decision-making. To assist students effectively, new strategies must be implemented that will enable effective transition, thus ensuring student engagement both academically, and within the wider university community. A strategy commonly employed by universities to facilitate this transition is the academic or personal tutor system and many institutions have recently revisited these systems in order to ensure they are as viable as possible. However, there continues to be much deliberation surrounding the role of the tutor and the most effective means of engaging students. A number of questions need to be addressed including ‘should the emphasis be on academic or personal?’, ‘How can students be signposted without feeling they have been abandoned by the tutor?’ ‘ Should the tutorial system be embedded in the curriculum or timetabled separately?’ ‘Must involvement in the system be mandatory or should students be allowed to opt out?’ This workshop intends to tackle these and other pertinent questions through a series of anonymous scenarios

Topics: LB2300, BF
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