Third offering of ‘University 101’ course bigger and better
The third year of the ‘University 101’ voluntary course for first-year students is over – and though it’s still early to say whether the student-retention program is having the desired effect for the University, there’s no doubt the program is bigger and better than ever.
And, Acting Director of Student Retention Susan Bens says, there’s also no doubt it’s having a positive effect on the students who participate.
The course’s third ‘graduation’ and wind-up reception was held Dec. 4.
Bens says the biggest group ever – 120 students in 11 groups – took part in University 101. For the first time there were groups of students from Commerce, Agriculture and Kinesiology, as well as the regular groups in Engineering and Arts & Science. Also, like other years there were groups of Aboriginal students.
She says the upper-year students who serve as coaches for the groups have a lot of say over which parts they emphasize in the 13-week September-to-December course.
Bens says that while analysis so far doesn’t show a better retention rate for University 101 students compared with others, she knows from comprehensive surveys of participating students that the course has a big impact on their first-year experience at the U of S.
“They report feeling much more comfortable with things like approaching instructors, studying for exams, and using the resources on campus,” Bens says. University 101 teaches skills like using resources, the importance of meeting people, and participating in campus life.
And she’s confident that the groundwork is being laid for future improvement in the retention of first-year students in the upper years at U of S. “To retain a student, we know they need both academic and social integration” on campus – and we know we’re making progress on both these fronts,” Bens says.
She says while there will likely be the same number of groups next year, she wants to get more first-year students participating, so there will be more of an effort to communication more widely about the course.