The employability of undergraduates continues to be the focus for the higher education (HE) sector. A particular challenge for non-vocational courses is how do we assist learners to link, often abstract concepts, from their discipline area to professional practice in the world of work?
It was with this challenge in mind that I, along with support from my Sheffield Hallam colleague Dr Ian Glover, developed online pre-arrival and welcome week induction activities to offer new HE learners; a short immersion in their subject area that places disciplinarity at its heart, both in how the subject is taught at Sheffield Hallam and how the tools of the discipline are used professionally. This not only supports transition into the academic aspects of their course, but also encourages early thinking about transition beyond graduation.
The pre-arrival online activity provides the (not quite) first-year undergraduate learner an opportunity to watch a very short video of the course leader introduce a theme from their discipline. The learner is then guided to a section where they can then apply the theme in a familiar hometown/city environment. These applied activities take on different manifestations depending on the discipline area. In Physics, we asked pre-arrival learners to measure gravity, while Education Studies learners were invited to take a photo that represented the purpose of education from their perspective. The theme and activities were built upon in the welcome week induction activity, but this time in the context of Sheffield to assist our brand new learners in getting to know their new city. The welcome week induction activities also provided a chance for these new course mates to bring their online activity findings and share them. It also meant that learners who hadn’t engaged didn’t miss out completely.
The link to the world of work came in the form of short films of professionals talking about how the discipline theme plays out in their day-to-day role in the online activity. In the welcome week induction activity learners shared their applied activity findings with professionals in roundtable discussions. The opportunity to receive formative feedback in the first week of their course was a real positive for the learners. The feedback from one Education Studies learner, who presented their ideas for a future education policy for Sheffield with educationalists from the city demonstrates:
…"[A] new experience of working with the academic side and using it in a practical way. The professionals gave us ideas and feedback which helped our next pitch. We received a lot of compliments [from professionals] which made us grow in confidence" - BA (Hons) Education Studies student.
- Charmaine is an Academic Developer (Employability) at Sheffield Hallam University. As part of this role Charmaine leads the Venture Matrix scheme which supports course teams to integrate real-life projects and activities. Charmaine has received sector recognition for her leadership and innovation of the Venture Matrix. She is a Senior Fellow.
Booking for Advance HE's Employability Symposium 2020: Breaking the mould is now open.