I never realized there were so many types of business involved in arranging first-year experiences. Several publishers market books, ficiton and non-fiction, to be used in book reading assignments for first-year students. They offer various kinds of study guides to go along with the titles. Macmillan had many of their titles on sale. Here are some that I picked up.
Is there a pattern to these kind of books? They should be earnest, life-changing, and/or life-affirming. Should they be controversial? Showing new cultures or an American’s view of a new culture is important.
I always thought that program leaders just picked a book that they liked!
While visiting San Antanio for a Conference I took some time to visit the Alamo. In spite of the usual pictures showing the edifice, this monument is in the middle of downtown surrounded by buildings. It is very popular, with a long line of people waiting to go inside.
In the courtyard of the old mission there is a huge live oak. According to the plaque, the tree was moved there in the 1912’s by Walter Whall, in a demonstration of how trees could be moved. I can’t imagine a more highly visible, high pressure test of an arborist’s skill! He did a good job. the tree is in great shape today.
In College Success Online, Dr. Marsh Fralick, Professor Emiritus from Cuyamaca Community College in San Diego, gave some really great tips on how to prepare and deliver an effective online course. She continues to teach a totally online college success course for new students. She uses a mnemonic: VOCAL, standing for Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical, Lead by Example. In what I found to be a great tip, she records weekly videos, very simply made, explaining what the class will do each week and posts them on the course blog. Studens know exactly what has to be done and they get quick feedback on the assignments. Fralick finds that if she is relatively strict for the first two weeks the students know what is expected and will generally finish the course.
In the last presentation I attended before running out of steam, Steve Girardot, from Georgia Tech University described the new G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons. This is a brand new, $90 million, facility that has all the lecture halls and labs for first and second year science, engineering and, math courses. Geogia Tech is primarily an engineering and science school. As part of the new center a new, centralized student tutoring center has been created. It’s a one stop shop for all the students’ academic needs. The school is moving away from a sink or swim mentality, to one where students can get as much help as they need to succeed.
The center is gorgeous and has all the amenities including a Starbuck’s, many study rooms, full technology in all the classrooms, and a garden on the roof. They have had to make some administrative changes to make all this work. For example, the center is under the administrative control of the library. Faculty who teach courses in the center also have their offices there, instead of in their home departments. Students can also access the building 24 hours a day and can schedule conference rooms for group work and practice.
This has been my first time attending the First-Year Experience Conference being held this year in San Antonio. This is a huge conference with an incredible number of presenters and exhibits. Here are some highlights of the first day presentations I attended.
This Isn’t Your Daddy’s Filmstrip Presentation, Using Camtasia to Create Student Success Videos
Robert Sherfield teaches technical writing and student success courses in Nevada. He gave a lively demonstration on the use of Camtasia software to create videos. I had heard of Camtasia before and seen it used to provide a narration for slide shows or program demonstrations. It’s now easy to add a picture in picture, more audio tracks, videos, and text callouts. The editing part of the program looks a bit like iMovie, but would make sense for Windows users. I know we’ve had this package at Mont Alto. I definitely want to try it, or something like it out.
From the demonstration I think the trick is to make short videos of specific topics rather than try to record a whole lectures. And it’s easy to put everything on a Youtube channel.
First Year Students Expanding Their Boundaries Internationally by Sharie Brunk from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. UW Lacrosse has added a foreign trip experience to their first year seminar. In the first year a group of four students and two faculty toured Paris for three weeks during a winter inter-term. Brunk described the challenges of creating and staging the program. Although they had hoped to have more students, the cost, the timing, and other factors kept the number of students down. They hope to improve the program and make it a lasting part of their first-year course.
I was impressed to hear about the normal first-year seminar at UW Lacrosse. Faculty are paired with a student affair staff person to teach each section according to a standardized syllabus. They have some fun activities, including a dinner at the faculty member’s home. They also have a common book for discussion, with the author as a campus speaker. It seems like a well thought out, fun program. I think it would be great if we could have a more uniform course like this at Mont Alto. At least then the students would know what to expect.