We offer a required FYE course for first-semester freshmen but we also offer additional study skills options.
I teach a popular, 6-week, non-credit study skills class to approximately 150 students each semester. The class meets twice a week in 50-min. sessions, just like a credit class, but there is no homework, no tests and no grades. I teach 6 sections per week and cap each one at 26-28 students per section. The course is listed on the master schedule and students register for it like a credit class, but it’s free and does not appear on their transcript.
Do students actually show up for this class?
We track attendance closely. Roughly 75% of my students attend more than half of the 12 classes, and about 60% earn certificates of completion after attending 10 out of 12 classes. I usually offer additional workshops on new topics after the first 6 weeks and many students attend these too, even if they already have their certificates of completion. So far this semester, 38 students (25%) have attended more than 10 workshops, so either they really like this class or they lead seriously boring lives J.
Why do students take this class?
Many of my students (50% in Fall semester & 80% in Spring) are on academic probation and are required to attend the class by their Dean or another administrator. These students must earn that certificate of completion to fulfill the requirement. There is no direct consequence if a student does not fulfil this mandatory requirement, except maybe a stern talking to from the Dean. A handful of students (10-15) get extra credit from a professor for completing the class. The rest of them signed themselves up, often because a friend, classmate, faculty or staff member recommended it to them. I do market the class on the college social media channels, etc. but most of them come in because of word of mouth.
Why do so many students keep coming back to class?
I have offered stand-alone study skills workshops on various topics at various times of the semester and I usually have less than 3-5 students show up for these, no matter how I market them. Student participation seriously increased when we stopped offering these as individual workshops and packaged it as a class, on the master schedule. That gave it credibility, and also made it really convenient for Deans to require it – they just add the class to the student’s schedule for the next semester. Putting it on a student’s schedule also implies that we expect them to be here and most students just get into the habit of showing up.
Students get an agenda on the first day of class that lists what workshop topics I’m covering on which dates and I tell them they can pick & choose to attend the topics that seem most relevant to them, but I ask them to attend for the first week to get a feel for the class before they start planning which days to skip. I also allow (encourage) students to shift back & forth between class sections from week to week if they need to allow for a medical appointment or any other priority that would keep them from attending class at their usual time. If a student misses a workshop, there is no way to “make up” what they missed except to attend that same topic at some other time when I’m teaching it. I don’t give PPT slides, I don’t give handouts, I don’t give lecture notes -- if you weren’t here, you missed it (so I guess I’m selectively flexible). We also post the class agenda on the portal, and students who only want to attend a workshop on a specific topic can just drop in for that one day.
Don’t cancel class
Faculty can also invite one of our staff into their classrooms to cover a specific study skills topic for 50 minutes. We customize these whenever possible, for instance, our math specialist presents a “Math Skills for Welding Students” workshop to freshmen welding classes each semester to review the specific math skills they will be using in that particular class. Unlike the “don’t cancel class” model, I feel these workshops are more effective if the professor is in the classroom when we present these workshops. If the students see us as substitute teachers, then they don’t take us or our information seriously, but when the professor is in the room (and is often taking notes during our presentation) that sends a clear message to the students that this information is important and relevant to the class and their grades. I do find these presentations to be effective and most of the faculty invite us back the following semester. Students will sometimes send me an email or stop by my office after I’ve visited their class, to follow up on a specific concern or to sign up for my study skills class, so it’s also good outreach/recruitment for our programs.
Academic Skills Specialist, Study and Enrichment Skills
Academic Success Center
Adjunct Faculty, School of Sciences, Humanities and Visual Communications
PA College of Technology
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of Julie Luekenga
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2017 10:56 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Study Skills
How do your institutions organize your Study Skill efforts, beyond a first-year course format? Do you employ tutors or specific people for this? Do you hold workshops? If so, are they well attended (that hasn't been my experience). Do you hold a "Don't Cancel That Class" type of format and, if so, do you find those effective (since mostly they are not attended by student choice)? Do you work through a Success Center? Advisors? Do you have an innovative way of delivering this to students?
I'm trying to brainstorm ways to make this available and think outside the usual box on delivery methods, hoping to make it more accessible and (dare I say) attractive/desirable for students.
Thanks for your ideas!
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