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Student recruitment and training as a whole process

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This page is under construction. Seriously: I haven't finished writing it. More seriously, I don't know what I think and want to write yet. And I haven't tried looking for related references yet. But I'm pretty sure there's something interesting hiding here though.

The glimmer of a wonderful new (to me) insight here is that there could be big gains in joining these up, in designing them as a whole.. The basic point is to consider the sequence a new employee or a new student goes through, and instead of thinking (as now) of each of these things as separate, probably done by different staff, think about their combined effect on the new person. The insight is, that retention and dropout is strongly affected by the success of these things; and that early access to a later process may help the earlier steps, and conversely if early steps do not have the desired effect then the remedy (to prevent attrition/dropout) is likely to be similar to the intended effect of earlier stages.

It came from a meeting about providing virtual (i.e. online, simulated) work experience for school leavers. Computer graphics can take the place of the visual and immersive impression that work experience or a workplace visit makes. The next step, though, could be to expose the pupils to the first training courses an employee would get; because this will often convey some of the essential nature of doing the job e.g. safety practices for train drivers, or customer handling for retail or call centre workers. Thus these materials could be made to serve a dual purpose: both for actual training of newly arrived employees, but also to inform prospective applicants of the nature of the job and organisation.

Currently typical HEIs have many different functions, usually performed by different units, aimed at different "phases" of the student process: getting school children interested in university, recruiting applicants, selecting applicants, inducting them, advising them on their course choices, giving feedback on their work and progress, and of course teaching them. There are also numerous separate enhancement initiatives e.g. retention, first year experience, PDP, assessment and feedback.

In considering a project on web support for work and careers advice at school, however, the thought occurred that many of these phases could be well served by offering pupils an advanced look at materials designed for a later phase. This is partly a hope of saving resources by using them for more than one occasion or purpose; but more fundamentally, what is "work experience" but an advanced sample of a later stage because that informs choice in a way nothing else can? And informing choice is not just an ethically preferred approach: it is also in the organisation's interest. There is no point in hiring an employee or admitting an HE student, only for them to find after a day or a week or a month that the experience is repugnant and they need to leave. The earlier their expectations are informed, the quicker they can either decide against proceeding (thus saving everyone time and effort) or else can adjust their expectations and come better prepared.

The general approach, then, is where practicable, to make "later" materials available "earlier". This is not straightforward because the materials have to be reconsidered for what sense they will make to an uniformed audience. But (the idea here is) it IS desirable.

The way forward?

  1. Look at making materials available earlier.
  2. Scrutinise them for making sense alone, although of course the "earlier" audience will not (want to) be taking away the same aspects.
  3. Put some work into considering all the separate actions, initiatives, units in relation to each other.

Past Quality Enhancement themes

Parallels between work and HE

phase Paid work HE Novel HE initiatives?
The problem Attrition/staff turnover Dropout  
The aim Retention Retention  
Careers advice School advice on universities School visits, workshops
Work experience Open days? Podcasting as samples?
Advertising jobs Advertising courses Web site
Job application UCAS application  
Induction day Induction day  
90 day Induction !90 day Induction Student mentors
e.g. Health & safety PDP, study skills, ELA First week projects
Manager interaction See tutors in a group of 20 students? The magic phone call
  Self Assessment questions  
Appraisal process? Marks and written feedback on coursework  
Probation First year exams?  

There is also an idea in the literature that HE teachers, at least, can only reflect on their role as teachers properly after about 5 years experience i.e. only then can they think how the parts of their job (e.g. research and teaching) can be integrated. Perhaps students too can't be pushed through reflection and integration faster ...

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