Over 97 per cent of respondents indicated that they found FedReady to be beneficial and would recommend the program to their friends
Federation University Australia’s (FedUni’s) FedReady program is an intensive course designed to prepare and support LSES students to get a head start in their university career. FedReady is coordinated centrally, involving strong partnership between a number of areas within the university to deliver sessions to develop skills such as time management, essay writing, referencing, and academic reading. FedReady partners with FedUni’s existing student cohort, using their experience and enthusiasm to normalise challenges faced by students when transitioning to university.
The FedReady program is coordinated by FedUni’s Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice, and partners with the following areas within the university:
- Student Connect
- International Student Support
- First Year coordinators
- academic staff members
- learning skills advisors
- Student Union
- FedUni Living
- student leaders.
Drawing on expertise from intra-university partners provides students access to a variety of knowledge which would not otherwise be available, and integrates their experience into the FedUni context.
FedReady is a HEPPP-funded program first conceptualised in 2012, with the underlying aim of enhancing skills in LSES students who are transitioning into study, to help reduce attrition. The program enables students to develop independent learning skills, and provides them with access to the student experience through the use of current students within the program. Through partnerships with other faculties within the university, the program affords students access to a broad range of information and services prior to entering tertiary study, ensuring that students are as prepared as they can be and are aware of the range of assistance available to them. This, in turn, seeks to broadly increase the participation in not only further student support programs, but also within their studies.
In 2014, FedReady extended to cover multiple campuses within Federation University Australia, from Ballarat to Gippsland, with over 300 students enrolled in the program. Sessions were delivered by partners in a lecture/tutorial format and included an interactive seminar on plagiarism, a workshop on academic reading, skills around time management, an oral presentation skills seminar and a seminar on critical thinking. Critical thinking serves as an underlying theme of the program, and is built into many sessions; as an essay topic, a practice reading (to develop reading skills) and a topic to facilitate discussion. In this way, students are encouraged to think for themselves in a rigorous, analytical and academic manner.
All content is reinforced through the participation of student leaders, who not only participate in the majority of sessions but frequently help to facilitate workshops, providing a student-to-student interaction. This not only provides students with a relaxed, collegial environment, but provides a peer that students can ask about their own experience, and receive information from individuals that have shared experience.
Student surveys conducted revealed overwhelmingly positive feedback, with over 97 per cent of respondents indicating that they found FedReady to be beneficial and would recommend the program to their friends. After FedReady, the proportion of students describing themself as confident improved from 21 per cent to 84 per cent in the area of referencing, from 35 per cent to 98 per cent for note taking, and from 26 per cent to 95 per cent for critical thinking.
The intra-university partnerships have assisted in strengthening relationships across the institution, and increasing staff awareness of support available for students. This has improved staff capacity to refer students to vital support services in a timely manner, thereby improving the student experience.
Qualitative feedback from students was overwhelmingly
“FedReady was fantastic, it helped me build my confidence, make new friends which came in really handy for first week back as I already knew people, and definitely got rid of a lot of the ‘first year nerves’. The presentations were really helpful, and it took away a lot of stress regarding referencing and plagiarism.” – student.
“FedReady was an excellent platform to get a new student such as myself on the right foot to achieving success within my degree. Along with the practical skills I learnt, I also made great friends who were like-minded and also wanted to aim high. I would recommend uni ready to any other commencing student.” – student.
Developing relationships with key partners was essential in forming the most effective framework possible for the FedReady program. As the focus of FedReady is preparing students with a wide range of study skills in a variety of areas, collaboration with partners is integral to the optimal functioning of the program. Partners are engaged with the program year-round and meet frequently to discuss ideas, raise challenges or questions and pose possible improvements to the program and individual sessions within it. Each year the program is reviewed and designed as a collaborative process, with no one faculty responsible for developing all sessions or even the overall series of programs. Instead, it is a team effort that seeks to provide students with the best combination of services and information possible within the university.
The partnership works because:
- clear parameters were set to ensure that all partners provide information within a consistent framework of support
- there is a shared goal of supporting LSES students in their transition to university
- there is a shared understanding that providing students with skills before commencing study means less pressure on academic and support staff
- there is consistent discussion and liaising between all partners
- there is freedom for partners to develop their own approach within the FedReady framework.
There is an online version of the FedReady program in development, which will be available by 2015 and aims to replicate the knowledge and information provided through the FedReady program in an online context. The modules used in this program will then be usable as individual modules that academic staff can place in course context to help support their students. The interactive student component will be replicated by using forums and reflections which will integrate students into the existing support systems.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.