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Study Smart: tutors' guide

A guide for tutors

Introduction

The Study Smart course launched on 29 August 2017.

This guide is for staff only to inform you about the rationale, content, format and delivery of the course and assist with planning. There is a detailed outline of the course on the Course Content page. Content which we have been able to make accessible via PDFs (for articles) and URLs (for externally hosted videos) is also linked on this page. Please do not send students directly to this guide. However you are welcome to download documents and copy links for use in your teaching.

We welcome feedback via the contact form on the left-hand side of each page.

What is Study Smart?

Study Smart: Your Essential Guide for University is a short online course, developed at the University of Reading and using the FutureLearn platform. The content has been developed by the Study Advice team at the University, drawing on their experience and expertise in working with students across all disciplines to help them understand tutor expectations and develop their skills for study success. There has been input from academic tutors and current students, some of whom will feature in the course itself.

The Study Advice team worked in partnership with the University's Open Online Courses team, building on this team's successful track record of creating engaging and high-quality online courses that have reached over 800,000 learners across the globe. 

The aim of the course is to prepare new undergraduates for studying at university level, and to welcome them into the learning community at the University of Reading. The principles behind university-level study will be conveyed through a series of 'steps' including brief articles, videos, student-created animations, self-tests, and discussions with other students. There will be early opportunities to make contact with peers. Discussion boards will be moderated by staff and trained student moderators.

New undergraduates will be invited to join the course via email on Tues 29 August, and will be encouraged to complete it before starting their course at UoR. The course is in three sections. While these have been labelled as three 'weeks' in keeping with other MOOCs, all three will actually be released at the same time, so students can work through the sections at their chosen pace, completing all three on the same day if they prefer. We anticipate that each section should take no more than three hours to complete.

While we expect that many students will complete the course before arriving at Reading, it will remain open throughout their first year for them to return to to remind themselves of what they learnt. So there will be plenty of opportunities to encourage your students to complete. We are planning to monitor enrolment and hope to also monitor completion. Tutors will not be asked to undertake any monitoring, but we hope that you will encourage a culture of completion among your students.

Who is it aimed at?

Study Smart is aimed at all Part 1 undergraduate students about to commence their studies at the University of Reading, based at our UK campus. It has been designed as a transition to university resource, so all Part 1 students will benefit from taking it. We hope that students who have had perhaps less exposure to preparation to HE study (e.g. WP and international students) will find the course particularly beneficial. 

For this first year the course is open only to students based at our Reading campuses. While the principles described will apply to students in our other campuses, some of the current content is location-focused. One of our primary aims is to develop a 'sense of belonging' for students which includes familiarity with the campus itself and the services based there. This will be reviewed for future iterations. In the meantime, tutors working with students at other campuses will be able to use some of the course content with students in their own teaching.

Why has it been introduced now?

Research has shown that students lack explicit guidance on the difference between school and university when it comes to academic expectations. This lack can cause a drop in academic confidence when assessments receive a lower mark than expected, and can foster resistance in reading and responding to critical feedback. Even small points like being unsure about how to address your tutor in an email can result in students being reluctant to seek advice, and consequently failing to integrate and engage with the University community.

These issues can be magnified for international students, already getting to grips with an academic culture that may be quite different from their previous studies, and for those who feel that they do not fit the template of a traditional University of Reading student. This might include black and minority ethnic students; LGBT+ students; students with specific learning difficulties (SpLDs); mature students; students with alternative entry qualifications to A-level; student parents.

While we envisage Study Smart as an invaluable tool to encourage the best possible start to university studies for all of our students, we also hope that it will help to unite our diverse intake and promote greater integration through a shared induction into the learning community at the University of Reading.

How will it be released to students?

There is a planned programme of communications to students about Study Smart. Anticipation and awareness about the course will be raised over the summer and through Welcome Week using sources including:

  • emails and news items on the Me@Reading applicant portal;
  • an initial ‘teaser’ trailer followed by a full trailer;
  • a page on the Welcome Week website;
  • the inclusion of a banner advertising the course at the end of university email communications.

The full launch of the course will take place in an email communication which will be sent to students on 29 August. At this time, students will receive information about the course and a link to the FutureLearn platform so they can register and get started.

** Students will be contacted directly at the end of August to invite them to enrol on the course. Please note that students should not be given links to this guide, or to enrolment information. If you are informed by a student that they have not had an invitation to enrol, please forward their details to us via the contact form on the left. **

The expectation that students will engage with, and complete, the course will continue to be emphasised during central and School events in Welcome Week, and in Personal Tutor meetings. 

How can I view it?

Tutors will be able to view the course as a guest, once it has been launched. Guest access will not allow editing or commenting, but will give you the opportunity to view the content in the same format that students are accessing it.

If you would like to enrol as a guest, please email us from your university email address. We will keep a record of those interested and send an invite when the course is available. Guest enrolment will be available throughout the period that the course is open.

In the meantime we want to keep you informed about what the course will include. As the details are finalised, we will be updating the Course Content page on this guide with a list of course content, screenshots of pages, PDFs of the text used in articles, and links to external content (including videos). The page currently includes an outline of the planned three sections.

In addition, we held a series of 'Teatime Taster Sessions' over the summer where we were able to update tutors on progress, and answer questions. These took place on  7 June, 12 July and 23 Aug. In each case, a packed room of academics and other professional services staff heard about the development of the course and our current status, asked lots of questions, and ate cake. Slides for the latest session and handout are accessible via the link in the box on the left-hand side of this page.

Please do contact the Study Advice team if you have any queries about the content of the course. Contact details are located on the left-hand side of this page.