Student Academic Success Service - Activity Report 2009-2011

INTRODUCTION

The Student Academic Success Service (SASS) operates a number of support services designed to improve the quality of University of Ottawa students’ learning experience – whether during their undergraduate or graduate studies, or during their transition to the workplace.

The SASS is comprised of seven different services with a common goal to help students determine their personal, academic and professional goals, so that they can find the means to achieve them.

SASS MISSION

To work in collaboration with the faculties and University services to provide all students with the resources and tools to promote academic, personal and professional success and guarantee a quality university experience.

SASS SERVICES

Since its creation in 2002, the SASS has brought together the following services for students (Click each to expand):

Aboriginal resource centre

OBJECTIVES

To develop support services to enable Aboriginal students to adapt to university life, and encourage their integration and success. To organize activities to ensure liaison with Aboriginal communities, community organizations and government agencies to promote Aboriginal cultures at the University (First Nations, Métis, Inuit).

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Individual appointments and Resource Centre
Supporting students as they integrate into University life and in their academic and professional success. Providing a place where students can work, study or take part in different social and cultural activities.

Welcoming and orientation activities
Contacting new students over the summer to inform them of activities for them that are organized by the Resource Centre and the SASS (open house, welcome banquet, u101, annual Aboriginal celebration on Victoria Island).

Information sessions and workshops
Informing students and equipping them for academic and professional success through study groups, library workshops, development of study methods, financial aid information sessions, financial assistance or employment, arts and language workshops, lunchtime lectures and other talks, meetings with elders, etc.).

Activities for awareness-building on Aboriginal cultures
Organizing cultural activities to promote Aboriginal cultures on campus.

Partnerships with faculties
Collaborating with faculties that attract Aboriginal students or visit Aboriginal communities, for example. We are involved in the following programs:

  • The Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal Program, which includes ceremonies and conferences on health and elder support
  • The Aboriginal Teacher Education program, which is designed to produce teachers to meet the needs of Aboriginal communities
  • Adventures in Engineering and Science, which includes courses and workshops given in class to young Aboriginals
  • Science Travels, which includes school or community visits, interactive scientific activities and a mentoring program for young Aboriginals
  • Native Law Program and programme pré-droit pour les autochtones (Pre-law program for Aboriginals)

Liaison activities
Recruiting students and establishing close links with Aboriginal communities, schools and colleges to promote the University of Ottawa. Taking part in career or academic fairs, visiting different Aboriginal communities and schools, and welcoming students who visit and take part in activities on the campus.

WHAT’S NEW

  • The creation of two positions, Liaison Officer and Senior Counsellor for Aboriginal Affairs, thus increasing resources dedicated to the provision of support services and collaboration with various Aboriginal communities or agencies
  • A partnership with the Careers Service to develop career orientation services to facilitate meetings with employers, Aboriginal organizations or government agencies
  • Establishment of an Elder-in-Residence program, which will enable Aboriginal students to obtain spiritual and cultural support
  • A series of talks to enable students to meet a number of leaders in the fields of Aboriginal peoples’ politics, culture and art
  • Student mentoring to provide Aboriginal students with peer support and opportunities to take part in workshops (study methods, writing, language promotion and Aboriginal art)
  • Convocation ceremonies for Aboriginal students, which take place in the Museum of Civilization and integrate rituals from Aboriginal ceremonies
  • A new partnership with the School of Nursing to develop a recruitment and retention plan for Aboriginal students and the implementation of a transition program
Academic Writing Help Centre (AWHC)

OBJECTIVES

To support students in the acquisition of writing skills and the understanding of the demands of academic writing so they can become effective and independent writers.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Individual appointments for undergraduate students
Supporting students at all stages of writing their academic work. Working to develop language skills to enable students to write in the language of their choice

Individual appointments and workshops for graduate students
Supporting students in writing their course work and research projects. Working on the development of strategies that are essential for the different aspects of writing and development of language skills — grammar, syntax and style.

Workshops and classroom presentations
Providing, at professors’ request, workshops and presentations on all aspects of academic writing, based specifically on the subject being taught.

Prevention of plagiarism
Promoting academic integrity and preventing plagiarism by providing students with the resources necessary to use source material correctly and with integrity.

Pedagogical documents and Resource Centre
Producing written or online pedagogical documents for students and teaching staff and making different resources and software available for students to use on site.

WHAT’S NEW

  • The creation of workshops on new subjects such as using the Antidote software program, reference styles, scientific writing
  • A greater presence for the AWHC in faculties’ and departments’ orientation activities through classroom presentations or workshops
  • Implementation of service designed specifically for students who write in French (Francophones, Francophiles, French Immersion Studies participants)
  • The production of a French-language academic writing guide published and launched in December 2011
  • Writing support services provided on site at Saint Paul University
  • A new online system to make it easier to book appointments
Access services

OBJECTIVES  

To ensure the implementation of adaptive measures and support the development of learning strategies to meet the needs of students who suffer from a visible, invisible or intermittent disability.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Individual appointments
Meeting with all students who register with the Access Service to deal with the required documentation, assess needs and suggest measures that promote their full participation in academic life.

Adaptive measures for exams
Coordinating accommodations during exam time, including ensuring adherence to procedures, follow-up with professors or administrative staff, the transcription of material into alternate formats, access to adaptive technologies, management of allocated areas and time, and supervision.

Welcoming and orientation activities
Providing a transition and orientation program, which invites new students to get to know the Access Service and University services as a whole. Promotion of these activities is often done through liaison activities with school boards and high schools.

Transcription of teaching or learning material into alternate formats
Providing students with teaching in alternate media or learning material such as braille, tactile graphics, electronic text, digital audio, Kurzweil, etc.

WHAT’S NEW

  • The Learning Technology Mentoring Centre enables students to acquire knowledge of the different technologies and develop effective study and work methods
  • A new edition of the Guide for Professors: Minimizing the Impact of Learning Obstacles
  • A partnership with the Student Federation’s Association for the Special Needs and the creation of an informal network of students with disabilities allowing for the sharing of information likely to be of interest to them
Counselling and coaching service

OBJECTIVES

To provide services to assist students in developing the cognitive, emotional and social skills that are crucial for their personal, academic and professional success. To support students who are dealing with short-term personal problems and, where needed, to facilitate their access to specialized psychological services that are available in the community.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Individual appointments
Supporting students who are dealing with short-term personal problems. Assessing situations in order to make recommendations for temporary exemptions on personal grounds and acting as front-line advocates should students need to be referred to more long-term psychological services provided in the community.

Psychoeducational workshops

Tackling different subjects to assist students in developing skills and strategies for solving problems such as exam-time anxiety, depression, time management, stress management, motivation, procrastination and career development.

Graduate Student Mentoring Centre
Managing the Graduate Student Mentoring Centre along with the Student Mentoring Unit and developing coaching services and workshops designed to assist students by using student mentors.

WHAT’S NEW

  • The creation of a permanent counsellor in residence position reporting to the SASS and the Housing Service
  • Counselling and coaching services provided on site at Saint Paul University
  • Presentations on Myers-Briggs and the Strong Interest Inventory as part of course EDU5473 Theories of Career Development (Master’s in Education)
  • The set-up of a team of specialized peer counsellors to provide an informal support service for students in between their counselling appointments
  • The creation of workshops designed for teaching and administrative staff to help them deal with crisis situations
  • The production of an online workshop designed to reduce exam-time stress and the posting online of resources to help understand mental health; a stress test and MaSanté Magazine
  • An evaluation of the Service to ascertain its effect on retention and student success
Career services

OBJECTIVES

To provide tools, resources and advice to assist students during their studies and up to two years post-graduation in building their career plans and getting ready for their entry into the workplace. To implement support services with an impact on different aspects of career education, in partnership with faculties and other University services.    

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Academic and professional information (API)
Providing students with the information and resources that will enable them to make a program choice in line with their career objectives. Working with SEM on projects designed for Francophone schools in the region.

Career development
Providing students with individual appointments, workshops and resources to start their career development process in their very first year of academic study — resources such as psychometric testing provided jointly with the Counselling and Coaching Service, the Career Development Guide: A Running Start and the What can I do with my studies? website.

Career education
Providing career planning workshops, including services such as CV assessment and simulated selection interviews.

Employment
Developing special relationships with employers and facilitating networking and recruitment through services including job offers, career fairs, recruitment receptions, networking activities, information kiosks and employer presentations. For example:  

  • Engineering and High Tech Career Fair (Faculty of Engineering)
  • Information Fair (Centre for Global and Community Engagement)
  • Educational and International Opportunities Fair (Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
  • Recruitment Reception (School of Nursing and the School of Rehabilitation Sciences )
  • Telfer and Engineering Recruitment Convention (Telfer School of Management)

WHAT’S NEW

  • Partnerships with the following faculties:
    • Social Sciences: My Career in Social Sciences pilot projectactive presence in the Faculty’s offices (Outboundactivities),participation in the Social Sciences "Choose Your Program" week, presentations in courses SCS1150 and SCS1550, information kiosk on registration evenings
    • Arts: Educ-action Project, including workshops in Ontario’s Francophone high schools on careers and professions in the language field (journalism, second-language teaching, French language, public relations)
    • Medicine: Career days, information kiosks, CV assessment, simulated MMI admission interviews, Medicine Admission Guide.
    • Professional networking activities (Backpack to Briefcase), enabling undergraduate students to meet professors, alumni, graduate students and experts in their study field (partners: Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, School of Social Work)
    • Diversification of services with set-up of telecounselling services, walk-in appointments, online workshops
    • The creation of LibGuide with the Telfer School of Management, the Co-operative Education Program  and the library, bringing together resources related to career development, especially existing resources in French   
    • Programs designed to meet the needs of different student groups such as first-generation students, Aboriginal students, disabled students and international students
    • A closer relationship with the Community Life Service’s Carrefour francophone to set up tailor-made workshops
    • Participation in the third stage of the Faculty of Social Science Youth Futures program, which prepares students for postsecondary studies
    • A partnership with the Alumni Relations Office to reach alumni and let them know what services are available to them for a two-year post-graduation period
  • Career Development Centre presence at Convocation
Academic support unit

OBJECTIVES

To create and implement student support and mentoring activities in partnership with the faculties, University services and senior management. To carry out screening of at-risk students and analyses of academic performance to establish the different factors in student academic success and persistence, in order to suggest different intervention methods. To carry out research into best practices and try to adapt these to the reality of the University of Ottawa.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Welcoming activities
Coordinating the implementation and promotion of welcoming activities organized by the faculties, the SASS and the Student Federation.

Network of student mentoring centres

Coordinating the implementation of teams of student mentors in student mentoring centres in collaboration with the faculties and services. Providing training for student mentors as well as support services.

Screening of at-risk students and performance appraisal
Working together with the administrative and teaching staff to assess students’ academic performance in order to identify at-risk students and intervene as soon as possible.

WHAT’S NEW

  • Consolidation of the summer orientation project in faculties in order to get new students ready for academic life before classes recommence in September (partners: Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science)
  • The organization and promotion of activities specifically designed for first-generation students and adult students
  • The establishment of a Regional Mentoring Centre and a team of student mentors that provides support for Francophone students from minority backgrounds, in partnership with SEM
  • The posting online of a student information guide on academic services in January 2012
Office for the prevention of harassment and discrimination

OBJECTIVES

To receive complaints from students regarding discrimination and sexual, psychological or personal harassment, in order to solve problems of this nature. To develop prevention policies and make the academic community aware of discrimination and harassment issues.

REGULAR ACTIVITIES

Individual consultations
Supporting students who want to discuss cases of discrimination or harassment, learn about their rights or make a formal complaint. Providing coaching for students who wish to develop problem-solving strategies.

Development of a University of Ottawa policy
Developing a discrimination and harassment prevention policy following appropriate consultations.

Training and partnerships
Working closely with other units that are in charge of dealing with complaints — the Office of the Ombudsperson and the SFUO’s Student Appeal Centre. Ensuring training for different interveners, such as teams of community advisors in residences or student mentors.

Promotion campaign
Launching a discrimination and harassment prevention campaign promoting the University of Ottawa’s policy and services available to solve problems.

Since 2009, the SASS has witnessed a number of changes in structure including the following:  

  • Creation of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, part of the SASS since August 2010, for student complaints
  • Creation of two positions that are part of both the SASS and the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost: a Senior Counsellor for Aboriginal Affairs and a Senior Officer for Accessibility and Diversity Policies
  • Transfer of the Experiential Learning Service to the new Centre for Global and Community Engagement

OTHER ACTIVITIES

Two impact studies

In May 2010, Professor Ron Melchersand his team assessed the AWHC and the Student Mentoring Program in order to ascertain their impact on student retention and academic success.

Although we have to recognize that student retention and success depend on a number of factors, evaluation of these services has enabled us to see that retention and academic performance levels are higher among students who have used the support services.

  • Retention levels: dropout levels after three academic terms are higher among students from the control group than among those having used the AWHC (3% as opposed to 2%) and among students who have used mentoring services (3% as opposed to 1%).

  • Academic success: the study of cumulative grade point averages (CGPA) after three consecutive terms shows that student users obtain a higher CGPA than students from the control group. The CGPA is actually 6.5 among students having used the AWHC versus 5.5 among others, whereas the CGPA is 6.1 among students having used mentoring services versus  5.4 for others.

Satisfaction evaluation questionnaire

Since September 2010, the SASS has been evaluating the quality of its services by inviting student users to fill out a form that they receive by email to indicate whether they agree or not with the following five statements:

  • Information and services were provided to you in a timely manner.
  • Information and services were provided to you in a courteous manner.
  • The staff were knowledgeable in the area that they provided information on.
  • Our services met your needs.
  • If a friend were in need of similar help, you would recommend this SASS service for him/her?

Participation levels in the survey vary by service, from 50 students for the Access Service to 400 students for Career Development Centre. The satisfaction level is generally high. As indicated in the table below, the percentage of students who strongly agree or agree with the statements is between 80 and 90%.

ACCESSCAREERAWHCCOUNSELLINGDISCRIM-HARASS

N = 50N = 401N = 292N = 225N = 67

Q1 – Information and services were provided to you in a timely manner.

92%

95%

96%

93%

84%

Q2 – Information and services were provided to you in a courteous manner.

88%

97%

95%

98%

92%

Q3 – The staff were knowledgeable in the area that they provided information on.

88%

92%

92%

94%

85%

Q4 – Our services met your needs.

84%

88%

85%

79%

81%

Q5 – If a friend were in need of similar help, would you recommend this SASS service for him/her?

86%

93%

92%

81%

89%



CHALLENGES

The greatest challenges facing the SASS are the increasing number of students and the ever increasing complexity of their needs. The impact of this is felt most directly on services that are generally provided individually. Students must deal with longer waiting times before they get an appointment and counsellors and specialists must therefore reduce the number of appointments and the time allocated for each student.

Impact on the Counselling and Coaching Service

  • Messages that students receive at critical periods to remind them of the availability of different services have a direct effect on the Counselling and Coaching Service, which has seen the number of students making appointments after these messages are sent increase by almost 20% — from 305 students in 2009-2010 to 365 in 2010-2011.

  • The Counselling and Coaching Service has also seen a rise in increasingly complex cases. The number of individual appointments has in fact increased by 13% — from 4,605 visits in 2009-2010 to 5,204 in 2010-2011. In addition, two students in ten find themselves referred to community professionals to receive long-term support.

Impact on the Access Service

  • The increasing number of disabled students — a rise of approximately 10% per year — has resulted in a backlog for the Access Service. Each specialist manages between 350 and 400 student files per year, but only has 300 one-hour appointments per term.

  • The situation is critical in the Access Service’s adapted examinations sector, which has to manage approximately 3,000 exams each session (representing an average of six exams per student per year). This increase has a direct effect on the work of the team, as it has to respect procedures and registration deadlines for adapted examinations, find locations, provide access to various technologies requested and finally ensure examination invigilation.
  • Midterm examinations are in fact more problematic than final examinations, because they do not have an official period or timetable and they occur all through the session. Other problems, in addition to the frequency of midterm examinations, include complexity of procedures, the number of concerned parties (teaching staff and administrative staff) and management of the available space. The Access Service sometimes has to suggest that students defer their exams when the requested accommodations are difficult to provide considering the time and space required. This is a situation that can be prejudicial to disabled students.

Effect on the AWHC

  • The increase in the number of graduate students experiencing difficulties presents very definite problems. These students, who generally do not benefit from support provided in classrooms or who only meet their supervisor from time to time, have needs that go beyond the support provided by AWHC writing advisors.

  • The increase in the number of international students also presents challenges for the AWHC because these students have needs that are not simply limited to the development of writing skills, but also include general language comprehension issues as well as adaptation to a university culture that promotes personal thinking, critical reasoning, intellectual integrity and respect for procedures and regulations.
  • It would seem that the range of services the University should make available to graduate students and international students has to be broadened and diversified.



STATISTICS

Statistics2009-102010-11

Students registered at the Aboriginal Resource Centre

120

137

Undergraduate students in individual appointments

 

 

AWHC

903

963

ACCESS

1,004

1,099

COUNSELLING AND COACHING

1,177

1,174

CAREERS

1,925

1,969

MENTORING

8,279

7,689

Graduate students in individual appointments

 

 

AWHC

154

187

COUNSELLING AND COACHING

209

255

MENTORING

134

274

Presentations and workshops given in class by the AWHC

37

73

Number of adapted exams to manage

6,231

6,522

Participants in the Access Service transition program

30

30

Students taking part in Career Development Centre workshops

1,249

1,674

Students taking part in professional networking activities or general information fairs

1,128

2,751

Employers invited to meet students as part of different activities

330

2,662

Telephone information requests to Career Development Centre

2,572

2,662

Discrimination or harassment incidents reported

N/A

79

Official complaints

N/A

3

A number of SASS services not only look at the number of students, but also the overall number of visits. Sometimes the number of students falls, as is the case for mentoring services, but the number of visits increases.

Number of visits (undergraduates)  Number of visits (graduates)  

AWHC

2,248

2,721

COUNSELLING AND COACHING

4,605

5,204

MENTORING

11,068

15,776

AWHC

456

555

MENTORING

273

529



CONCLUSION

Over the last two years, the SASS has sought to diversify its services by actions including the following:

  • Creating closer involvement with students in residence and Saint Paul University students by providing services on site
  • Creating closer involvement with faculties, departments or schools by matching services with the realities and cultures in the different faculties
  • Widening the scope of the student mentoring program to new groups of students, including Francophone minorities and first-generation students
  • Organizing services based on the needs of different groups of students, such as Francophone students, Aboriginal students, graduate students, students with disabilities and international students

The coming years will be devoted to such actions as the development of best practices for data collection and the evaluation of the impact services have on retention and academic success, so we can monitor the evolution of student needs, develop the profile of at-risk students, measure the quality of services and continue to implement innovative, effective and meaningful support measures that will be of benefit to the entire student community.

The SASS will also prioritize joint projects with the faculties, departments and schools, such as the improvement of processes regarding the management of adapted examinations, the implementation of strategies to promote SASS services, especially those regarding accessibility issues, mental health, discrimination and har0assment, in order to contribute to the development of a quality academic experience for the entire University community.

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