A UCOL Palmerston North pilot initiative aimed at making students feel welcome has proved successful.
Underpinned by the idea that the crucial time to really have an impact on student success is at the very beginning, the 'Kōrero initiative' pilot was run at UCOL from December 2015 for four months.
UCOL Director Māori and Pasifika Education Teina Mataira says the pilot looked to support prospective students upon very first contact with UCOL to ensure they are headed for the right course, at the right time, in the right place. "It's simply about better matching tauira to a programme of study, ensuring they are prepared, and improving their chances of success."
"The implementation on the ground was a fantastic collaboration," Mr Mataira says.
The pilot involved a range of staff from Faculties, Raukura (Māori student support), Transition Co-ordinators, Registry and Information Centre staff having a 'kōrero' with prospective students before talking programme information.
In total, over the four months, 176 prospective students engaged in the Kōrero initiative - with a focus on Māori students under 25, interested in Level 1-4 programmes on the Palmerston North campus. An evaluation of the pilot initiative involved 20 randomly selected students who had engaged in a catch-up, and six Lecturers.
"The evaluation showed that the pre-enrolment catch-up process was effective in making students feel welcome at UCOL - providing them with more information about the programme of study they wished to undertake, what it was about, what commitment from the tauira is required; and if needed, recommending other options if it was felt the tauira was not prepared for this level of study," Mr Mataira says.
"In the first instance though, as it is with our people, it is about whanaungatanga/connections. We wanted to know who the tauira was, what's their story, their aspirations, and what do they bring with them as a tauira to UCOL?"
"All of the students who took part in the evaluation stated that the kōrero process was helpful in this regard; and it was clear that apprehension around turning up to a big institution and a new environment was eased by the process. Three quarters of the group said they still remembered the names of the staff that conducted their kōrero and still had contact with them."
The kōrero are regarded as the first part of the student pathway; the process is student centric and is intended to lead to more seamless referrals of students to any support they may need, as well as to lead to recommendations about study pathways, build on the existing Māori student support process, and assist the admission process. From the evaluation group, three quarters of prospective students identified and discussed personal barriers during catch-ups and were connected with appropriate internal or external support services.
Of the total 176 students who attended a catch-up during the Kōrero initiative pilot, over 10% changed programme as the result of the process, i.e. they re-enrolled in a more appropriate level programme than what they had initially enrolled in.
Seventy percent of the students in the evaluation have been engaging and have shown good to very good attendance levels.
Mr Mataira says the Kōrero process at UCOL will continue throughout 2016 and beyond, and will be widened to target all prospective Māori students, and all students under the age of 25.
"The next step is improving the synergy among kōrero staff and other UCOL business units and campuses to promote smooth coordination of walk-in students, and information sharing for proactive planning and follow through."