New online resource will aid faculty in helping students succeed

Woman laptop computer FEATURED

Say goodbye to the feeling of helplessness when you don’t know where to refer a student who is having trouble paying rent or is struggling in class due to poor language skills. The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) has come to the rescue with its new Student Success Toolkit for Faculty.

Sean Kheraj
Sean Kheraj

The toolkit is the newest tool in the Faculty’s arsenal of methods for supporting student success. The idea grew out of the informal “tour” taken by Sean Kheraj, the Faculty’s associate dean, programs, and Catherine Salole, the Faculty’s senior director of student success & retention, to discuss student success and retention when both were new to their positions. During many of the meetings, faculty mentioned their frustrations with not knowing where or how to refer students who came to them with various problems.

“Faculty may be unaware of all the services provided at such a large institution,” said Kheraj.

The toolkit will serve as a bridge to the myriad student services that York provides.

Catherine Salole
Catherine Salole

“Given the primacy of the student-faculty relationship across the University, we wanted to equip frontline student-facing instructors with information about student success and referrals,” said Salole. “We came up with the idea of a ‘one-stop shop’ that would curate and put information about the range of student services at their fingertips.

“It’s all about connecting students to the right service at the right moment, and anyone on the front line – faculty, staff or teaching assistants – is an important conduit.”

Soon, a working group was in place to create a toolkit, a group that consisted of LA&PS faculty, student success and communications staff, Teaching Commons personnel, Division of Students staff and Professor Anita Lam, the Faculty’s associate dean of teaching & learning. The group surveyed faculty to identify some of the key concerns and needs that students raised in conversation and used the results as the basis for the toolkit. They originally planned to create a physical product, but the move to remote learning turned them, instead, toward an online solution.

The result is a website that centralizes the necessary information and is divided by broad topic: academic success & learning supports; accommodation & academic consideration; degree completion, careers & future; students in distress; and student well-being. Click on a topic and the choices become more specific, allowing the faculty or staff member to narrow down the available supports until they come to the one most appropriate for the situation.

Each page provides the link to a particular office or service that can help the student resolve the problem, links that can easily be printed or emailed to the student. Designer Nicole Glassman deliberately used cheerful patterns and colours to make the site appealing to users.

A screen capture of the new Student Success Toolkit for Faculty that was developed in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
A screen capture of the new Student Success Toolkit for Faculty that was developed in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

“We based the design on the concept of sticky notes that faculty could write on and hand to a student,” said Victoria Stacey, senior communications specialist with LA&PS. “Prior to this toolkit, there was information available, but it was a patchwork. This toolkit required a lot of conversations and collaboration, but the result is that the information people need is all in one place.

“And, this is just the beginning. We anticipate that the toolkit will grow, based on feedback from the people who use it. York has an extraordinary amount of student support available, everything from emergency bursary funds to counselling services to assistance with math comprehension, and we want faculty and staff to be armed with the information needed to direct students to the appropriate supports.”

Kheraj would love to see the student success rate improve once the toolkit is in circulation.

“If we can be more attuned to the ways we can communicate about available supports, we can certainly help a percentage of the students who are struggling,” he said, “and if we can do that, why wouldn’t we try?”

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus