Supporting First-term Students in the KUWC

Girl at computer KUWC

© Jupiter Images 2013

By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center

I am new to this blog and to blogging in general, so writing this blog post is, admittedly, challenging.    It is a challenge I am happy to accept though because the newness of it situates me in the proverbial shoes of students, especially first-term students.

At the KUWC, we serve many new or first-term students.   These students are new to Kaplan University, and they may also be new to college, academic writing, and even standard American English.  Many of them are also new to our academic support centers, tutoring, distance learning, and college-level writing assignments.   When we think about all that may be new to students, we begin to realize that they are tasked with learning how to navigate a new world where many things may be unfamiliar to them.   What does this mean for college teachers and writing center tutors?   Here are a couple ideas that come to my mind:

  1.  We cannot assume that students have certain skills.  Several years ago, I was surprised when I first began to hear from students that they did not know how to copy and paste text and images.  I was surprised because I had assumed that most students knew how to copy and paste.  It is relatively easy, but some students, especially first-term students, may not know how to do it.   I realized that a seemingly simple technological skill like copying and pasting can be overwhelming and perplexing if the first-term student has not been shown how to do it.   Now, when I hear from students that they do not know how to copy and paste, I usually show them how to do it through a screencast video, and I refer them to the KUWC Working with Microsoft Word:  Technology Tips tutorial (Kaplan login required).   This tutorial covers copying and pasting, as well as other tasks that students are expected to complete, like setting up a hanging indent in references and double spacing a document.
  2. We must provide specific and targeted feedback and directives to students.   Telling first-term students that they need to work on APA is helpful; telling them about our “APA Demystified in 5 Minutes” video may prove much more helpful to a new student who may be hearing the term “APA” for the very first time.   Similarly, as discussed in a previous blog post, “My professor said I need to learn how to write at the college level….”, we need to be specific when we suggest ways that students can improve their writing.     One resource that faculty may find especially helpful in guiding students is our compilation of first-term student resources designed to familiarize students with academic writing expectations and strengthen basic writing skills.   This collection of shorter, comprehensive tutorials covers many different areas that first-term students (Kaplan login required) may not be familiar with, such as the writing process and thesis statements.  We encourage faculty to use these first-term student resources to provide focused direction and writing guidance to students.

What are some ways that you help first-term students navigate new, unfamiliar territories?

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