Learning Skills Programs Improve Grades and Retention When Delivered Early
When delivered to students early in their university experience, workshops, tutoring and training programs in areas such as writing support, study and exam preparation can have positive impacts on both student performance and retention.
However, as these types of programs tend to demand only occasional and short-term commitments from students, the impact on overall grades is relatively limited.
Two new papers An Evaluation of the Impact of Learning Skills Services on Student Academic Success at Brock University and An Evaluation of the Online Writing Skills Workshop/Essay- Zone at Brock University were commissioned by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) to examine the delivery and the impact of Brock University’s Learning Skills Service programs.
Both studies relied on data from student surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010, with the first paper also including information from focus groups and student administrative records and the second paper including results from participant testing. These papers are part of a series of 18 studies on student services commissioned by HEQCO.
Many of the students surveyed graduated high school feeling they lack the fundamental general skills needed to succeed in university and are eager for institutional support tools to improve their time management, critical thinking, study skills, writing, science and math. While the students seeking them out feel they are unprepared, participants tend to be highly self-aware, very self-motivated and among the strongest academically.
Students who took part in these programs typically saw positive results within the academic year; however their success was not tied to repeated participation. There was no connection found between multiple uses of these services and continued increases in academic performance.
The programs receiving the greatest interest also seemed to produce the strongest results. In particular drop-in programs focusing on writing and science and scheduled workshops on exam preparation, study skills and writing were the most popular and showed consistently positive academic results.
One of the more common reasons given by non-participants for their limited use of Learning Skills Services was a lack of time. In an attempt to allow for the busy schedule of students, the Online Writing Skills Workshop (OWSW)/ Essay-Zone was developed. This service used online tutorials to provide students with the basic principles of essay writing. And while the program continues to grow, measuring its full success has been difficult due to restrictions on who can access the service. The majority of participants felt the program was beneficial to their writing skills, but the percentage who thought it had a positive impact on their grades was substantially lower.
An Evaluation of the Impact of Learning Skills Services on Student Academic Success at Brock University was prepared by Learning Skills Services at Brock University, in association with Higher Education Strategy Associates. An Evaluation of the Online Writing Skills Workshop/Essay-Zone at Brock University was prepared by The Student Development Centre, Brock University, in association with Higher Education Strategy Associates.