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In Summer 2016, ELI launched an exciting new online pre-arrival course for incoming international graduate students at the University of Michigan. This highly interactive four-week online course, called Preparing for Graduate Success (PGS), was designed and taught by ELI Lecturer IV Pamela Bogart, with support from the ELI, Language Resource Center, Academic Innovation, U-M Press, and Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT). This innovative online course enables participants to hit the ground running when they arrive on campus and transition to life as a U-M graduate student.
One main focus of PGS, according to Bogart, is for students to be able to share with others the importance of their graduate studies, while considering the identity they wish to project in various contexts. Throughout the four weeks, students practice describing the impact their work and studies have on other scholars at Michigan by creating engaging “elevator pitches” they can use when networking with others on campus. Another element of the course which grabbed students’ attention and energy, according to Bogart, was having “an opportunity to talk about the relationships that are possible between faculty and graduate students.” After watching video segments of experienced U-M graduate students discussing their relationships with faculty mentors, PGS students respond in an online discussion by asking additional questions, bringing up any concerns, or discussing how the U-M students’ experiences and expectations compare or contrast with their own. Bogart believes that this is “one of the most exciting parts of the class,” because students begin to visualize the type of mentoring relationships they will develop with faculty when they arrive on campus. “The course endeavors to equip students to hit the ground running,” says Bogart, “to be building those relationships proactively.”
Student feedback on the course pilot has been overwhelmingly positive. In an end of course survey conducted by U-M’s Center for Research on Teaching and Learning, 96% of participants found the course to be “excellent”, and 82% would recommend the course to others. In written comments, one student described the course as “a very valuable resource to a foreign student who is about to join the University of Michigan. It will help you to meet new friends and find out more about the resources the university has to offer.” Based on this initial assessment, says ELI Director Angelo Pitillo, “there is compelling evidence that Preparing for Graduate Success has the potential to transform the experience for international graduate students at U-M.”
Pitillo is especially excited that, despite meeting in an online environment, PGS students reported feeling a strong sense of connectedness to each other and the teacher, which he sees as “clearly a direct result of a well-constructed online learning experience as well as Pamela’s frequent feedback and encouragement.” This perception is confirmed by one student, who writes in her end of term assessment, “This is a great course for all international graduate students at UM. Here, you connect to other international graduate students coming to UM and learn together how to be better prepared for life ahead.” After this highly-successful initial launch, the ELI is thrilled to once again be offering PGS, taught by Pamela Bogart, in Summer 2017.