Resources you can signpost students to to help them with their academic transition, including Study Smart and Life Tools.
Developing academic skills
Study Advice has a range of Guides and Videos to support students of all levels to develop their academic skills, such as academic writing, referencing and time management. We also offer a weekly webinar and workshop programme, every Wednesday afternoon, which covers these skills in more depth. Students that require individual support to develop their skills can book a 1-2-1 advice session with a Study Adviser.
In addition, we have a range of resources to support students with online and blended learning. Our blended learning guide, includes videos on organising your time and taking notes from online course content, and our top 10 tips guide offers a quick overview to support students with this way of working.
For those students with maths as part of their course, our Maths Support team offer resources to support them with the mathematical concepts they need for their studies – such as algebra, differentiation, percentages and statistics. We also have a range of guides that they can be directed to.
All students have a dedicated subject Academic Liaison Librarian who can help them to make use of the wide range of resources available to them. Students can be directed to explore key resources in their subject or book a 1-2-1 with their Academic Liaison Librarian.
Study Smart (new links for 2022 to follow)
Study Smart is our online course for all new part 1 and foundation students, developed to support them with the transition to university. A link to the course (Study Smart link) is emailed to all new students at the end of August, and they are encouraged to take this 9 hours course before they arrive. It aims to give students the best possible preparation for university by focusing on academic integrity, communicating at university and independent learning. The course is interactive with videos, articles and discussion boards which are moderated by current students. Once enrolled students will retain access to all the resources, for their entire time with us. More information, including the structure of the course, can be found in our Tutor Guide
Feedback shows Study Smart is most successful when there is strong staff endorsement. The following are suggested actions you could take to increase the uptake of Study Smart for your School (courtesy of James Lloyd, whose course has consistently the highest uptake within the University):
- Mention Study Smart in all early communication, including Welcome talks, Facebook pages and on your applicant portal (making your expectations for completion clear – see example email in applicant portal)
- Add the Study Smart link into all communications, including HoD letter, so students can directly access the course rather than searching for their email.
- Set an early deadline as to when you want students to complete the course (e.g. Week 2). There is a certificate at the end of the course which they can print/upload to evidence this.
- Set up a Blackboard Organisation where students can upload their Study Smart certificates. Use this to check who hasn’t enrolled and to send reminders.
For further information about developing academic skills or Study Smart, please contact Dr Sonia Hood (Study Advice Manager).
Life Tools programme
The Life Tools programme is a psycho-educational training programme, and it is part of the Student Wellbeing Services’ proactive strategy to support students transition to university and during their academic studies. It has been designed specially to support students’ ongoing personal, academic, and professional development. Students can access the Life Tools blog, covering topics related to the talks/webinars. For a list of the topics covered in the programme, see the link on the Life Tools page on Essentials.
This year we will continue to provide our talks as webinars. They are about 45 minutes in duration, including time for questions about the topic. There is no evaluation, and they can try them out to see what they find interesting. There are no assessments. They can check the programme and book a place at reading.ac.uk/life-tools or go through Blackboard.
Students can self-enrol on the Life Tools Blackboard organisation to access recordings of webinars, podcasts, bite-size videos, worksheets for self-guided reflective practice, and information on the Life Tools certificate. It is acknowledged in students’ degree transcripts (development annex). Participating in the programme can count towards the RED Award (training element).
Once enrolled, students receive a weekly email with the details of upcoming webinars and signposting information about other relevant support, such as (webinars or online resources provided by other Support Services such as our Study Advice team Careers’ Service).
What do students think of Life Tools?
During the academic year 2020-21, we worked on a study exploring students’ experiences of the Life Tools programme (online) during the lockdown. Students found the programme beneficial in increasing motivation and connectedness and supporting them in managing the transition to university. The study shows that students were attracted to the programme because it is research-based, has a range of topics, and has the Life Tools certificate. Students were further motivated by the safe environment and the tutor’s responsiveness to their interests and feedback.
“I thought it was just going to be some PowerPoint that someone put together, but it was a lot more than that, was actual research and thought put behind it, and someone who really knows their stuff. Which immediately built confidence and…I trusted what was being said and I really took it on board.” (Student)
Participants found the online modality beneficial as it made it more accessible, enabling them to join the programme wherever they lived. The online resources available in the virtual learning environment were an additional benefit as they could access recordings and podcasts anytime.
There is evidence from this study to show a significant improvement in students’ adaptability – the capacity to deal with uncertainty and novelty, and it has been associated with better academic outcomes.
To hear more about the programme, you can view our Life Tools video (with student feedback)
For further information about Life Tools, please contact Dr Alicia Peña Bizama , (Life Tools Service Manager, Student Wellbeing Services)