EVALUATION OF THE ROLE OF AN INTENSIVE INDUCTION PROJECT IN ENHANCING THE FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE
In line with increasing global efforts to improve the first year experience of 3rd level education (e.g. Schrader & Brown 2008, Yazedjian et al 2007) Dublin Institute of Technology’s School of Spatial Planning undertook, in both 2007 and 2008, a 2-day Deep-End Induction project. With the introduction of modularisation in Ireland’s Institutes of Technology opportunities arose for the identification of overlaps and synergies between programmes. Within the authors’ School three honours Bachelor of Science degrees in Geomatics, Spatial Planning and Environmental Management are taught annually. The Geomatics graduates are mainly engaged in the production of maps and models on national, regional and local scale as well as the management of spatial data in Geographic Information Systems and through appropriate Land Management processes. The Environmental Managers and Spatial Planners are prime users of these datasets. All three student groups benefit from the development of an understanding of each of the other disciplines and this led to the introduction of basic modules in each of the three subject areas, delivered jointly to the three cohorts during semester one of the first year. Experience in the first year of joint delivery of modules (2006) indicated that students had difficulty understanding the relevance of these modules and the reasoning behind the joint delivery. It was also found that few students mixed outside their own cohort even when scheduled in cross-disciplinary teams for assignments and practical work.
In an effort to address this issue staff developed an induction project which placed students from the three programmes into teams and tasked them with the design of a route for a high-voltage power line. The students were given a detailed briefing (both en masse and in separate cohorts to explain the specific role of each professional in the design team), were provided with a range of online Irish mapping, environmental and planning tools, and were required to design, visit and evaluate two possible routes to match specific natural, social, engineering or landscape criteria between defined start and end locations.
The deliverables were a brief report and a presentation proposing one of the designed routes. The presentation was made to the full cohort of students and staff from across the school and was delivered as if at a Planning Consultation meeting, with each group in turn taking the role of the design team trying to convince an audience of interested local parties of the benefits of their proposal.
The real outcomes, however, were the introduction of students to their cohort and the wider grouping of students across the school, to the related disciplines of Spatial Planning, Environmental Management and Geomatics, to a range of tools (both educational, such as the Webcourses VLE, and subject specific), to staff at the school and to some 3rd level teaching methods.
Feedback from students indicated that they found the project to be a success, both from social and educational perspectives, with the Geomatics students seeing less educational and more social relevance, possibly because of the specific topic chosen for investigation. Current anecdotal evidence has shown better mixing between cohorts during joint practical and project work. The authors also intend to carry out a further evaluation of results of the induction project when the students have completed one full stage (2 semesters) of their programmes.