ENHANCING THE 1ST YEAR EXPERIENCE; USE OF A DIGITAL YEARBOOK AS A RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENTS
The first year college experience is probably one of the most important years in a student’s undergraduate education; more than half of all students who withdraw from college do so during their first year. It is a time of great transition, settling into a new environment, perhaps moving away from home, adjusting to the change from the structured 2nd level classroom to a scenario where attendance isn’t monitored and preparing and handing up assignments require organization skills and discipline.
The paper examines mechanisms that can be used to ease the transition from 2nd to third level. Through the use of e portfolios, we have used web 2.0 tools to allow students express their creative side and be innovative, explore in depth the course of study they are taking, work in groups which can provide peer to peer support and experience peer mentoring from students a year ahead. The expressions of learning in an e-portfolio can range from lower order thinking skills such as a PowerPoint presentation to higher order thinking skills as seen in a wiki, a blog acting as a reflective journal or a podcast. To align with learning, e portfolios offer students the opportunity to self- assess and record their learning experiences. As learners create their own portfolios, their unique voice should be evident from navigating the portfolio, reading the reflections, watching the clips or listening to the podcast. From a course coordinators perspective, we are given the opportunity to see students as they really are, recognize difficulties and acknowledge achievements. It fosters student-teacher relationships which results in deeper student reflections, student empowerment and self-esteem as students feel listened to. We pilot the use of a digital yearbook to celebrate and record class achievements and use at an award giving ceremony at the end of first year.