Being a first-year student at university level is a big adjustment from high school, and to help students make that transition smoothly was the aim of the launch of the student development project called the First-Year Student Experience (FYSE) which took place at the Department of Journalism, DUT City Campus, this week.
The DUT Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has designed a tutorial which forms part of the FYSE. The purpose of this project is to provide academic and psycho-social support and development to first-year students by nurturing and supporting them through the transition phase from high school to university.
Poor decision-making, incorrect choice of friends, low self-esteem, uncertainty as to career choice, difficulty with aspects of the academic programme, homesickness and lack of pre-university preparedness are some the many problems facing first-year students. The FYSE programme integrates the expertise of staff and departments from across DUT to assist students with these issues and provide a stable foundation and support structure for their academic and personal development and progress.
Prof Thengani Ngwenya, DUT CELT Director, reiterated that the project is essentially aimed at equipping first entry students with necessary knowledge and skills to adapt successfully to an alien and sometimes alienating environment. “All the FYSE interventions revolve around the total experience of first year students in DUT. In terms of the formal curriculum, the focus will be on essential academic skills such as information and digital literacies, academic literacies, etc. The FYSE programme is therefore an integral part of the formal and hidden curriculum of the university,” he said.
Prof Livingstone Mokondo from CELT said the FYSE launch at department levels is a significant step towards providing sustainable student living and learning environments at DUT in line with the first DUT strategic focus area. “This equips our students who are mainly first generation university entrants. This initiative also equips students with skills and strategies of getting integrated into university life, thereby enhancing their chances for success against the backdrop of the current national dropout rates of around 30% at first year level,” said Mokondo.
The general consensus from the workshop was to develop an understanding of the importance of the FYSE programme amongst the Journalism students. Seminars will also be held once a week with students. “We will also facilitate a visit to the SABC and a lecture with a DUT graduate in August. During September, we intend to invite parents and guardians to develop an awareness of what their children experience as first years at DUT and in the Journalism Programme. Students are also going to make presentations on the challenges that they are facing as first years as well as possible solutions to these problems,” said CELT’s Doreen Mheta.
– Waheeda Peters
Pictured: CELT’s Doreen Mheta addressing Journalism students at the launch of the First-Year Student Experience (FYSE) at DUT.