Developing ‘Preparing to study’ sites


‘Preparing to Study’ sites have the potential to strengthen the learning community in your department by building positive initial relationships from the start. These sites can be important tools in supporting student orientation and reducing some of the anxieties that go with starting a University degree. ‘Preparing to Study’ sites can be used to welcome registered, incoming students into your discipline and to begin the 'Preparing to Study' to academic study. It is therefore vital that the development of ‘Preparing to Study’ sites is led by academic staff. 

 Some areas you may choose to include:

  • Outlining the value of this discipline to the student and society  
  • Introducing students to the department community, expectations and aspects of culture in an engaging manner
  • Outlining teaching and learning approaches.
  • Signposting subject skills primers and catch-up materials the students could engage with prior to arrival.
  • Creating communication channels to staff and current students 
  • Addressing pre-arrival anxieties eg.  describing a day in the life of a student in your dept.
  • Orienting students for arrival including: departmental induction week information; reading lists; department administration tasks;  other essential discipline-related information such as special health and safety matters or fitness to practice.

Students will receive lots of information about the university, campus, colleges, welfare services, societies and the city via other means so avoid repeating information. Focus on socialising students into your world and your discipline.

Postgraduate Taught

Application, offer and acceptance timelines are very different for UG and PG students. Evaluation suggests incoming PG students are much less interested in general “student life” than UG students. Greater emphasis should be placed on what the department has to offer, the benefits of the course for employability, alumni stories and links to businesses / industry.

Access should be given to skills development materials as these students may not have been in formal education recently or UK higher education at all and will have a much shorter period to adjust to the expectations of study.

Emphasis should be given to supporting overseas PGT student cohorts with integration into the department community.

Communicating with students before they arrive

  • Many departments alert students to the presence of departmental 'Preparing to Study' sites through their initial letter and e-mails immediately following confirmation of a place at York. 
  • Use interactive communication tools within the VLE to create spaces for students to introduce themselves and ask questions of department staff and current students. 
  • Staff blogging through the VLE can help incoming students stay up to date with news pre-arrival and help familiarise them with staff and the department.
  • The VLE’s announcement and E-mail tools can both be used to send direct e-mails to all incoming students enrolled on 'Preparing to Study' sites. 
  • Consider ways in which department-led and student-led communication activities (ie social media) can be aligned.

Promoting active learning

Ideas to consider:

  • Podcasts, videos or other learning resources to introduce initial modules and their module lead;
  • Challenging reading, pre-arrival tasks or projects that will be incorporated into module work 
  • Academic skills and digital literacy activities - signpost to The Skills Guides
  • Diagnostic or revision quizzes / tests  (e.g. for Maths skills )
  • Sample academic materials or exemplar student work with commentaries 

Top tips

  • Involve current students in the design and development of your site – this “keeps the tone right, and ensures info is relevant”
  • Sites should be simple, user friendly and focus on the essential “need to know” information These should not be additional handbooks.
  • Motivate, challenge and excite students by focussing on activity and the benefits of your site
  • Promote your sites effectively to students – publicise your sites early, often and through as many different media as possible