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Study Smart: tutors' guide

A guide for tutors

Introduction

The Study Smart course launched for the first time on 29 August 2017 and has since become an annual event to support student transition to undergraduate study at the University of Reading.

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, quizzes, and discussions with other students. There will be early opportunities to make contact with peers and discussion is encouraged. Discussion boards are moderated by trained student moderators and Study Advisers.

New undergraduates will be invited to join the course via email at the end of 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 and who is eligible?

The Study Smart course has been designed with the following aims:

  • To prepare students for study at Part 1 in the University of Reading
  • To introduce students to the range of support services available on Reading campuses (e.g. Study Advice, Library, Student Wellbeing etc)
  • To create a sense of community, identity and shared endeavour to support the transition process

Consequently, enrolment on the complete course has been limited to students entering at Part 1 who will have access to services on Reading campuses, and who will benefit from a close identification with campus-based study.

The exception to this is new Foundation Degree students studying Children's Development and Learning at partner colleges, who are effectively in their first year of study for a UoR degree.

If you teach students outside of these groups and feel that they might benefit from Study Smart materials, please contact the Study Advice team. We are happy to consult on suitability and use of Study Smart materials outside of the course, but cannot enrol students outside of the stated eligibility.

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; commuter students; 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 at the end of 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 Academic Tutor meetings. 

Enrolment will remain open until Week 6 of the Autumn term. Students who have enrolled will retain full access to the course for the whole of their first year at UoR. However, we cannot enrol students after enrolment closes. If it is necessary for your students to enrol (e.g. to be able to download the completion certificate for portfolios), please be clear in your messaging that it is essential for them to enrol in a timely fashion. This is especially important where students have started the course late or come through Clearing.

How can I view it?

To view the course outline with a list of steps and links to videos, please see the Structure and content page. Tutors can also 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.

The Study Advice team run regular sessions in the CQSD T&L programme for new and current staff on Study Smart as a transition initiative. Please do contact us if you have any queries about the course. Contact details are located on the left-hand side of this page.