This is a new category this year. Among the many nominations we received in the outreach category a number specifically focused on transition and induction, whether from school to university or from undergraduate to postgraduate study. The judges highlighted four initiatives for recognition.
Oliver Bridle: Library Assistant for Oxford Freshers
Catherine Scutt & Sophia Staves: Please Play with Your Phone during this Lecture!
Oxford’s complex library system can be confusing for new undergraduates, who may need to get to grips with up to five libraries covering their subject area, including their college library and several in the Bodleian group. For most, this will be their first experience of using a research library and they will not have come across terms such as ‘closed stack’ or ‘ibid’. Journal citations may be equally baffling.
Bodleian and college libraries alike run induction sessions in Week 0. Focus groups conducted with students have shown that these are popular and valued, particularly the opportunity to have a tour of the library and demonstrations of key tools. However, the focus groups have also revealed that students experience information overload during Freshers’ Week and that the timing of induction is problematic. Some inductions come too early, when students do not have sufficient context to understand what they are being shown, and others come too late, after students have already had to prepare a paper.
Developed by Oliver Bridle, Biology Subject Librarian, the Web-based Library Assistant app works alongside traditional inductions and offers the following additional benefits:
- It is tailored to the needs of undergraduates in their first term at Oxford
- It covers all the Libraries used by undergraduates including the Bodleian, Faculty and College Libraries
- It covers shared services (for example SOLO, IT and printing, copying and scanning) and helps students to identify which libraries cover their subject area.
- It is available anywhere, anytime, even when real librarians are sleeping.
Although the Library Assistant was designed for undergraduate freshers, Catherine and Sophia in the Bodleian Education Library use it to enhance the presentation element of the library inductions that they run for PGCE students. They now rely on online induction to provide detailed information about computing, photocopying and other services, in order that they can concentrate on subject resources which students will find useful in preparing their first essays. During the induction students are invited to use their own mobiles, tablets or laptops to access the app, making it more likely that the students would remember the information. Using the mobile Library Assistant as a prompt ensures that all the crucial information was covered, with material specific to the Education Library being provided live.
Google Analytics showed 1,692 visits to Library Assistant between 23rd September 2013 and 6th December 2013, with 4,408 page views in the site itself. As expected, views peaked around the inductions for new students in the Department of Education and Freshers’ Week. Visits then trailed off as the Library Assistant is designed primarily for new students, and once they learned how to use library services they would have less need of the tool.
Lou Sumner, Dr. Jenny Barnes, & the MPLS Bridging Programme Steering Group: Maths Bridging Programme
The one-week MPLS residential Bridging Programme was established in 2012 for students due to embark on undergraduate study in the physical sciences. However, it is not possible to accommodate all students on the residential programme, and so the Bridging Steering Committee decided to translate some of the materials into an online format for entrants in 2013. The online programme was initially made available to students reading Chemistry, Physics, Materials and Earth Sciences, but in 2014 the provision will be extended to Engineering Science.
The Online Maths Bridging Programme has been successful in achieving its aim of bridging the gap between students’ knowledge of A-level maths and Maths at University level. Around 92% of all freshers reading Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Materials and Physics accessed the programme, and the feedback from students has been very positive.
Charlotte Isaacs: Inspirational Teachers’ Award Video
The Oxford University Inspirational Teachers’ Award has been running for five years. Oxford undergraduate students in their first year who have a background of educational or social disadvantage or who have come from schools or colleges with very little history of successful applications to Oxford are asked to nominate a teacher who has inspired and motivated them. Each year over 20 teachers have been nominated with between 8 and 12 teachers winning the award per year.
For the 2014 awards Charlotte Isaacs, a student recruitment officer in Undergraduate Admissions, had the idea of putting together a short video to celebrate the achievements of the winners, and to give the students an opportunity to thank their teachers for the impact they had made on their lives. The video was launched at the Oxford University Inspirational Teachers’ Award Ceremony on Friday 2nd May to a fantastic reception.
Jane Lewis: Staircase 12
Staircase 12 is University College Oxford’s online hub of resources for students aiming high at school and thinking about applying to top universities. With the support of Jane Lewis, the college’s Access and Schools Liaison Officer, Univ’s undergraduates have contributed book reviewes and resources to help school students aged 14-18 to develop their interests, read around their subjects, and go beyond the school syllabus (now an essential for entry to highly selective universities). There are also entertaining pieces about about student life, including a day in the life of a physics student.