Jock's Backroom Blog

Views from the Backroom, and the Classroom, at Oxford Brookes University

Reflections of a Freshman, Part 2: Making it to Week 1

Posted by Jock Coats on December 21st, 2011

So, having navigated the uncertain waters of applying and getting accepted, I had to get here.  Not literally of course, since I’ve been here all along, but the amount of information, instructions and bureaucracy that followed made me wonder how those who have just finished school, waited for their results, and then had to start moving away from home make it in one piece.

I recall tweeting at one point that I thought I might have a hypertensive stroke with all the stuff I had to complete, bring along, organise and so on.

With the university’s faculty reorganisation in full swing, new induction teams in the new faculties and departments were busy preparing hard copy and online materials to supply us with as much information as we could handle.  But this period, between March when I accepted my unconditional place and September when semester started was really quite sparse in terms of stuff from the university.

I had one letter from accommodation office which I could not tell to start with was from Brookes as the sheet on headed paper was the second page when I opened the envelope with no easy indication that this was anything other than an unsolicited offer of accommodation.  I had another from the disability support service asking me if I wanted to be on the lists of people they circulate to interested groups about students with disabilities.  And then not until mid-late August, when the “Applicant PIP” details with enrolment instructions were sent out did we hear much else.

Now again, it is likely different if you are a school pupil in the middle of your A Levels – you have better things to do still to ensure you get into your university of choice – than for me, but I really wanted as soon as possible to see details of the modules I’d be on, their reading lists, perhaps even get to meet, electronically, some of the others who would be on my course.  On a purely practical level, if I am going to be expected to spend lots of money on books or materials I would like to know that as soon as possible so I can persuade people to use birthdays and Christmases to buy me expensive books and so on, let alone give me a decent chance of reading them.  For many people they simply did not have access to this information before they actually got here and collected hard copies of module handbooks.

Sure, there is The Student Room with its plethora of forums and so on, but I am sure the university could capitalise on this desire of potential students for more information,  Perhaps it could convert likely “insurance” places into “firm” places or whatever the terminology is.

The induction Wiki had lots of good information, particularly about enrolment week itself, but no interaction: despite valiant attempts by Faculty of Business induction coordinators to enable it, the bizarre system sends us an ID and password which, until you actually arrive, only gives you access to the online enrolment facility and little else.  When you do arrive, you get a new student number and an account you can actually use on other university systems.

If our soon to be arrivals had access to more of our systems earlier, I hope they would interact with each other before they get here, and be more familiar with their new surroundings, their new colleagues and so on before they get here.  This really needs work, and maybe with the new Virtual Learning Environment, Moodle, that is so much of my job to get implemented at the moment, we could find a way of “releasing” accepted applicants onto various areas of Moodle so they can explore and discuss with people in their halls, with the Students Union, with their future classmates and academic advisers without resorting to outside facilities like TSR or even the UCAS YouGo! social network which seemed next to useless to me.

In the next instalment, I finally “arrive” and find out what I am supposed to be learning!

One Response to “Reflections of a Freshman, Part 2: Making it to Week 1”

  1. Paul Says:

    Your undergraduate experience is exactly the same as mine was way back in 2000 which shows there’s been little progress since in providing clear, concise and timely information for students pre-course.

    As mature students, all we want to know is when we start, where do we go and what modules are we doing so we can get going on the reading. As you point out, God only knows how an 18 year old would get through the mountain of badly organised (numerous bits of A4, some not even branded or in order) and often duplicated paperwork that new students receive.