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Setting first-year students up for success

An online resource that teaches important academic skills to first-year students has been expanded for use in the university’s learning management system.

The transition from high school to university-level coursework can be challenging for many students. Student Academic Success Services (SASS), a unit in Student Affairs, has worked to help incoming students prepare and adapt by creating Academics 101, an online learning resource that introduces academic and writing skills students can use to succeed at Queen’s.

Launched in 2020, Academics 101 proved so effective that SASS has now turned the resource into a series of modules that offer first-year instructors a way to integrate foundational academic skills development easily into their onQ courses. The interactive modules cover everything from academic integrity to time management, essay and report writing, and exam preparation skills.

“With Academics 101, we’re trying to level the playing field for first-year students,” says Susan Korba, Director of SASS. “We want to ensure that every student has a keen awareness of how to succeed at Queen’s and understands the academic expectations of Canadian universities, and how they may be different than what they have experienced in secondary school. We encourage all first-year students to explore the resource, and we’re pleased to be working with several units and instructors on campus to help make more students are aware of it.”

The Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) saw Academics 101 as a natural fit for meeting the needs of incoming students, so this fall they made it available to all first-year students in the faculty through OnQ, the university’s learning management system.

“As first-year students adjust to life and learning at Queen’s, it’s important for them to have resources they can access anytime and anywhere, especially if their education has been disrupted by the pandemic,” says Jenn Stephenson, Associate Dean (Academic), FAS. “Students use OnQ daily to stay organized and complete coursework. By providing access to Academics 101 there, we’re making it highly visible and encouraging them to use it whenever they feel like they need some help.”

Politics 110 has made completion of Academics 101 mandatory, and Film 110, Psychology 100, and Sociology 122 have all recommended students use it to prepare for their assignments.

Positive feedback

More than 1,300 students have taken at least one of the nine units of Academics 101 since it launched, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Academics 101 was “practical and convenient,” says one student who provided insight through a survey, highlighting the lessons learned on “preparation for exams, effective study and note-taking habits, or correctly citing passages or websites…Everything I learned within Academic 101 was immensely helpful.”

As this year’s pilot integration into courses draws to a close, SASS is planning to develop similar faculty and in-course partnerships in the future. Learn more or contact SASS on the SASS website.