For new students, starting at university involves much more than just studies. Everything is new: daily life, housing, streets, locations, services, people, style of speaking, ways of studying, independence − everything. Among the students at the university, about 75% move to Jyväskylä because of their studies.
The initial stage of student life, with its intensity and wide range of experiences, is an important transitional phase. About seven percent of new university students fail to engage in the university community. The problem is that too many important things accumulate over too short a period.
The start of studies involves a lot of information, communication and instructions. Reducing this flood of input and thus avoiding information overload is possible by offering it in a new way. The idea is that before coming to the campus new students familiarise themselves with general issues that concern all students. This autumn, new JYU students are receiving the updated and comprehensive New Student’s Handbook, complemented with new presentation videos. In addition, the MyJYU mobile application is a tool for guiding new students in their activities. This enables students to learn about university life at their own pace instead of cramming in all the information during the tightly scheduled first week, on top of other important things.
During orientation week, which used to be full of information sessions, there is now more time for introducing students to their faculties. The purpose is to enhance students’ engagement in their own degree programmes and to foster their own JYU identity. Engagement in the degree programme and the university community begins when students meet teachers, education coordinators, fellow students, study secretaries and other JYU staff according to unit-specific orientation schemes. We have compiled different units’ good meeting practices and listed them by faculty. Now these practices are shared and developed together.
The initial orientation includes meeting people who provide services for students. The pop-up stands of service units are part of the orientation week’s programme to enhance student engagement. This autumn the programme is being offered as a Moodle course, with guidance by tutors.
JYUStart aims to give students a good start for their studies. It is an organised part of the Student Life development activities and the larger model for qualitative guidance and counselling as well as development of teaching at the University of Jyväskylä.
The purpose is to make the beginning of studies smoother and enhance students’ engagement in their studies as well as in the university community.
JYUStart is a three-year project, through the end of 2022. The first phase is focused on the initial orientation of new students. In the second phase, we will look at the entire study path and its other starting points up to doctoral studies. We will use a survey on the orientation experiences of beginning students of autumn 2019 to collect comparative data to be used as a basis for evaluating the impact of currently developed actions.
In JYUStart, we work together with students for their benefit. Through the development group and the project group, this work involves a comprehensive collaboration network: teaching and guidance staff from subject departments, service units and faculties, coordinators from Student and Academic Services, in addition to the local Student Union and students. The goal is for development to happen through cooperation.
Along with the project, the development of orientation benefits both students and the University. Engagement is enhanced, studies progress, the rate of drop-outs decreases, students’ sense of belonging grows, the number of graduates increases, and JYU’s reputation as a university that cares for its students is strengthened. In other words, JYUStart benefits everyone.
The University’s strategy is entitled “Wisdom and wellbeing for us all”. In JYUStart, the focus is also on people – new students. In the spirit of the words inscribed on the wall of the Old Festival Hall – Nuorison parasta tässä harrastetaan – we are enabling excellence for the future.
JYUStart Project Manager, Student and Academic Services
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