A wrap up – KickStart Learning & Teaching Exchange

KickStart has been on fire!  This award-winning initiative has been getting numerous mentions around the traps and other universities are also keen to pick our brains for our key to success. However, we wanted to give staff across campus the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of both academics and students, find out about the nuts and bolts, ask the tough questions (if you don’t know about KickStart, read this previous Teche post).

If you are a unit convenor and would be interested in implementing KickStart in your Session 1, 2016 unit, please email rebecca.ritchie@mq.edu.au for more details.

Learning and Teaching Exchange for October had a great turnout to hear more about KickStart.

Image courtesy of Helen Carter

From its early beginnings in 2014, KickStart ran in 28 units in Session 2, 2015.

Swetha Vamaraju, transferred to Macquarie University after two years at another university.  She found KickStart incredibly beneficial in one of her units as the explanation of assessment and how the course would run relieved some of her anxiety about starting at a new university.  Swetha’s felt there should be more awareness of KickStart for students and that Welcome videos should be specific to the unit, rather than generally about the university.  The convenor video explained the unit requirements, which is a much easier way to understand than reading text.  Swetha recommended that  ‘every unit should have it especially for first year units’.  
Screen shot of Unit welcome video - Carlos
Convenor of Swetha’s Law unit is Dr Carlos Bernal Pulido.  Carlos
drew on the Udacity approach – adapting to new ways of learning and the problem of lack of engagement, to create engagement from the very beginning with students.  This unit is the first law unit students have to take. It is pass/fail, has seven assessment tasks and is very different from other units students may be studying. Carlos outlines the expectations of students and the requirements of the unit in his video.  He found that this approach which addressed issues normally raised by enrolled students before the start of the session, led to a sizeable reduction of email queries before the unit officially starts.
Student, Paul Marundan, shared his KickStart experience from COMP115. He liked the structure and found the early introduction of new ideas helpful, along with how the unit would be run, e.g. tutorials. Paul also particularly liked that he was able to login, have a look around and familiarise himself with the online unit and some of the content before coming to campus.  Anecdotally, Paul found that some fellow students said they had never heard of iLearn and/or KickStart, they just saw it when they logged into  the unit.
Screen Shot Matt Roberts Welcome videoMatt Roberts, convenor of COMP115, has run KickStart in both Sessions this year.  Matt was frank in his discussion of the experience, citing that it mightn’t fit the agility of units that change often.  For example, different staff teaching the unit, content and/or assessment changes.   However, he found it a good way to connect with LTC through the project, and the chance to engage with creating videos which Matt  sees as being a future requirement for lecturing.  Matt saw KickStart as a way to engage with students and get them to open a dialogue and acknowledged that it makes the department think more about what is happening across the university.
Zoe Gleeson came to study at Macquarie after attending TAFE.  For Zoe university was quite a shock, feeling anxious about what might be expected of her, she frequently contacted Student Connect to ask questions. She didn’t find out about KickStart until three days before session started.   Zoe felt that if she had of been aware at the time of enrolment that there was a KickStart package in her unit, most of her questions and fears would have been addressed. Zoe shared that her convenor, Screen Shot Ken Chang Welcome videoProf. Ken Chang really engaged the students with his enthusiasm from the get-go with his welcome video.  Ken went through the unit guide which Zoe found invaluable because she wouldn’t have understood what it was saying otherwise.  She loved the tips from past students, especially coming from TAFE where expectations are different.  Tips on study skills and approach to assessment, fun and interactive games, and an online quiz, made uni seem less overwhelming and alleviated her anxiety.  Zoe also felt that an introduction to the language or jargon would have been beneficial.
The students also saw benefits for second and third year units to go through assessment and unit guide so that it frees up class time, especially in the first lecture and/or tutorial.
For more frank discussion about the pros and cons of KickStart from the Faculty of Science, read this Teche post.  If you want to know more about what students think, find out the results of our student survey and focus groups in 2015.