Sunday, August 10, 2014

Preparing Students for Graduate School with Online “Boot Camps”

Graduate school can be stressful for students who are unprepared for the tasks that lay ahead. As expectations rise, students may not be ready to handle the different requirements of successfully navigating graduate school at an increased performance level. Offering a graduate boot camp can help in preparing students not only for the technological skills but also the required study habits to achieve their goals. 

I read a short paper by Posey and Pintz (2013) that discusses offering an online course for helping student’s bridge the gap. Their course focuses on helping students understand the expectations of graduate school, the new writing requirements, how to search in the library and how to conduct basic research. 

 The idea presents some promise in helping students raise their caliber of performance and understand new expectations. That doesn’t mean students would be particularly interested in attending such a course. Few of them will want to complete additional work outside of their core requirements. Who can blame them?

Sometimes these courses offer a single credit or are created as a requirement that fits into the mandatory courses each student must take at the beginning of a graduate program. Each college finds whether or not such a class works and if it fits within the college’s strategy. 

Keeping students focused on the main learning requirements for successful employment is important but a basic understanding of how to write well and conduct research is important. A boot camp helps students put with in proper perspective the rest of their graduate education. 

Misalignment of student expectations with actual requirements can create dissatisfaction with their graduate experience. The student may start school thinking that the level of performance in the past will be sufficient and then become disillusioned when their grades drop, professors want work turned in on time, and they want a coherent paper with library sources. 

Narrowing the expectation-performance gap is important. Students should understand they are expected to work at a higher level and should have the basic skills to get through the library, apply information and write professionally. New expectations can be provided in a boot camp or woven into the first few courses of the program. The information presented to them prior to entering school should be accurate and still positive so as to not create a false expectation. 

Posey, L. and Pintz, C. (2013) Easing Students’ Transition to Online Graduate Education. Ends and Means, 11 (1).

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