Teaching Innovation Awards Winner

University of Kent

Natural Sciences
Dr. Alexandra Moores, Miss. Candis Roberts, Dr. Emma Hargreaves


Literature indicates that students transitioning from Further Education to Higher Education do not instantaneously identify with their chosen University and are often dissatisfied with course content and structure clarity, including the use of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). Additionally, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic has led to a lack of essential course materials not being covered prior to the start of their University course, a decrease in opportunities and resources, leaving students anxious when starting their degree programmes.

To support the transition and to increase retention of incoming students, the Division of Natural Sciences at the University of Kent have developed the Pre-Arrival Hub using the LearnSci Direct VLE. The Pre-Arrival VLE aimed to ensure student transitional success by following two core themes: Digital Connectivity and Sense of Belonging. To drive digital connectivity the Pre-Arrival Hub was designed in a format and style that emulates the VLE Moodle Pages students would use during their degree. This ensured that students felt a level of confidence in using a site that hosts all learning materials for their course, as well as support sites, such as our Skills Hub and Student Hub. Students actively engaged with the Pre-Arrival Hub, where 189 students accessed content on multiple occasions. The Pre-Arrival Hub contained essential revision and learning resources students could access prior to term starting, including a numeracy skills LearnSci Smart Worksheet to help identify students understanding of mathematical problems. With 81 incoming students attempting the numeracy Smart Worksheet, we can instantly determine the level of understanding the new cohort has before they enter the University and can help guide the curriculum to best support our students. Furthermore, students can practise using Smart Worksheets prior to their use in the curriculum, offering a preparation tool.

To promote the sense of belonging, a key theme of our Student Success project, the Pre-Arrival Hub helped students build their identity before arrival through accessing the Student Handbook, a bespoke resource outlining essential information for students starting a course in the Division of Natural Sciences. Students were able to access their Welcome Week event timetables prior to the start of term, which significantly increased the attendance at our Welcome Week events. By attending Welcome Week events, and tracking attendance, we can longitudinally track further interventions and build reports that review impact and overall outcomes. By promoting students to feel part of their academic community, and that they ‘belong’, and are in the right place, academic retention, progression, and attainment will be positively impacted. Our Student Success project develops innovative interventions and activities to help support ongoing work in closing attainment gaps between certain cohorts of students. The LearnSci Direct platform complements this initiative by effectively tracking activity and completion of interventions, therefore supporting our understanding of the new student cohort.

Overall Pre-Arrival Hub, using the LearnSci Direct platform, is an excellent tool for offering students support materials, introduction to their courses, build their confidence in academic and social understanding and track engagement all prior to students starting their course.