Winner of the special MEDEA Jury 2012 Prize
Flying Start is a collaborative project between over 40 Schools or departments at the University of Leeds (UK) created in 2012. It consists of a website with student and staff videos, interactive activities as well as social media channels, where information to help new undergraduate students manage the challenging transition from school or college to university education is uploaded in stages.
The aim of the resource is to help students gain a clear understanding of the importance of academic skills so they arrive at Leeds prepared for study. The resource is built around a generic core that introduces a range of academic skills throughout the 4-week period between the students receiving ‘A’ levels (exam results) and starting at university. The content is drip-fed in stages: mid-August the students can access the resource for the first time and during the next few weeks new topics are added which students are informed about through a Facebook or Twitter feed.
The showcase video of Flying Start including an interview with Carol Elston
Each topic is introduced by a video of three students, and includes a number of interactive activities designed to introduce academic skills outlining the relevance of these skills in higher education: settling in, learning independently, researching, etc. Along with the student videos, videos of staff members introducing certain topics also provide a personal connection between the university and new students.
It is hoped that the resources can ease students’ anxiety and through social media provide a forum for them to communicate with each other before arriving. In the long-term there are expectations that it might help retention and improve grades and employability.
What the judges said about this entry
The judges thought Flying Start was “an extremely well-designed resource with a variety of presentation modes and interactive exercises designed to stimulate future and new students into thinking about how they learn and how they can study more effectively, helping them in the transition from school to higher education. By presenting the modules in the context of the faculty (school) at which the students will be studying, the resource is contextualised, even if much of the material is similar. The process of providing the modules in bite-sized chunks over a short period of time is highly effective, while the fact that the resource remains available afterwards means that students came come back to it when necessary.”
About the creation of Flying Start
By introducing academic skills at the students’ transition stage we hope that they will perceive the development of academic skills as a way of enhancing their learning strategies and performance rather than as a remedial option part way through their studies.
Carol Elston, Project Manager for Flying Start, on the background of the project: “The generic activities provide opportunity for students to prepare for study with a number of interactive tutorials covering areas such as referencing, plagiarism and time management. There is also an online guide to the University Libraries providing plenty of upfront information about the facilities and the processes. The resource includes an activity to determine a personal study strategy and many Schools have requested that students bring this to their first personal tutorial. Some Schools have also included reading lists, suggested pre-course reading and in some cases discipline specific activities that can optionally be completed before the students arrive in Leeds.
Even though the materials are specifically designed for the period between receiving exam results and starting at university, the content remains relevant throughout the first year of study, and can be used again for next year’s cohort with minimal revisions. It is intended that we will provide a representative from each School or department with the skills to update their information before the resource is re-launched for the 2013/14 cohort.
As Flying Start is meant for all students starting an undergraduate or foundation degree at the University of Leeds the website is designed so that the top half of each page contains generic information, relevant to all students (and is common to every sub-site) with the bottom half including discipline-specific information. This has allowed us to also provide information supplied by academics and admissions staff from the different schools and departments throughout the university and therefore preventing repetition of work.
The interactive activities (developed using Articulate Presenter and Storyline) provide a visual and informal introduction to the range of academic skills that the students will need to enhance or develop. The benefit of using Articulate Storyline is that the resources can be viewed on a tablet device or phone.”
The project is managed and developed by the Skills@Library e-learning team. After a pilot resource, developed for the 2011/2012 cohort in which 11 Schools or departments took part, received positive results it was extended university-wide. A similar resource is currently being piloted for the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study, ‘Step up to Masters’, which is based on the same model as Flying Start but does not include the staged release of information.
About Carol Elston and Lizzie Caperon
Carol Elston is the E-Learning Adviser for Skills@Library, University of Leeds. Her role involves supporting student learning and development through online tutorials and interactive activities. Carol is the Project Manager for the Flying Start project with responsibility for all aspects of the project. The project has been funded through her recent University of Leeds Student Education Fellowship.
Lizzie Caperon is a Faculty Team Librarian at the University of Leeds Library. Lizzie was seconded to work as Project Assistant on the Flying Start project. Her role included supporting the Project Manager as well as the coordination between the Learning Technologist and the representatives from the University departments. This involved helping and encouraging the representatives from the University departments to provide timely and consistent content for their webpages. Lizzie was also involved with entering content into the website and quality assurance.
Lizzie represented this entry at the MEDEA Awards 2012 Ceremony and talked about it in further detail during a presentation at the Media & Learning Conference 2012 Brussels. During the MEDEA Awards Ceremony, that took place during this conference, Flying Start was announced the Winner of the special MEDEA Jury 2012 Prize, and received the MEDEA Awards Commemorative Medal, a Pico Projector as well as a Camtasia & Snagit software bundle.