Abstract

A learner centred first year transition curriculum is central to a university adapting to global shifts in higher education. Universities are under pressure to graduate highly skilled workers to cope with the demands of a highly technological society. There is a necessity for creating a transition curriculum that helps a university reach its goals. There is a rich tradition of research that concentrates on how the experiences of first year students can be improved, but only a small portion of the research centralises student voices. This thesis also argues that while past research is highly valuable, building on ideas that were developed in a different communicative, technological and social context will only provide a partial understanding of the needs of contemporary first year students. Using Facebook status updates, the experiences of first year students during four critical times were examined to understand the students’ focus during those times. Secondly, the variation of experience was explored in order to determine a set of themes that could frame a transition curriculum. Finally, the participants’ transition into the university lifestyle was considered, so that suggestions could be made about when transition success could be monitored and evaluated. The study also found that students are heavily using social network sites to navigate their way through their first year of university by building online informal learning communities. The students are opening for discussion important transitional problems, often live from within their lectures and tutorials. The family, friends, past students, and peers that are interacting with the students on Facebook are providing feedback, advice and moral support. The thesis proposed a working model for a learner centred transition curriculum that embeds a process of learning about the students in its design.

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