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Don’t get buried by schoolwork

It's one of the hardest jobs out there and every single person who comes to SAIT is "hired" to do it.

Post-secondary students face a balancing act of classes, assignments and tests while trying to fit in jobs, family life and fun. That's why SAIT's Lamb Learner Success Centre (LSC) offers numerous services and resources to help provide some stability and support to students who need it.

Shan Robertson, Manager of the LSC, says it's not unusual for students to feel stressed and overwhelmed — but like an athlete, with the correct training they can be successful.

"Good athletes have good coaches. Students are no different. It's rare to find a natural athlete that never had a coach," says Robertson. "To be a good student, you can figure it out by trial and error, but it's a lot faster, less stressful and way more effective if you have a coach or tutor who can help nudge you in the right direction."

Finding balance

David Morales, first-year Journalism student, has been working with the LSC since he began his program in September. Throughout the fall semester, Morales not only attended school full time but worked 20 hours a week and led the SAIT Sayers Toastmaster's Club as President. Morales also has a diagnosed disability.

Accessibility Services — a branch of LSC — worked with Morales' instructors to ensure he was given the proper support during projects and exams. They also connected him with a funding advisor to help ease any financial stress.

"My biggest challenge is balancing work and school. [The funding advisors] helped me apply for loans to support my tuition payments. I don't want to be in debt coming out of school, so I work to pay my rent and buy groceries."

Morales' academic coach assists with time management strategies; he meets with his coach every other week to help keep him accountable to the goals he sets for himself.

"The idea is to sit down and organize your semester so that your work doesn't become overwhelming and you know you can complete it. If I have anything I need to work on, I start on it as soon as it's assigned because I can't always do it on the weekend due to work.

"At any point during the semester, you can go in and say ‘I have all this stuff to do and I don't know where to start' and they can help you break it down into manageable tasks."

Morales says he knows all students deal with similar challenges - he hopes more will take advantage of the services the LSC has to offer.

"There's a proverb, and I'm not sure exactly how it goes, but just when you're on the cusp of success - that's when most people quit because it's too much, and they don't realize that if they just put in a little extra bit of effort, they'd be there. That's where these services can help."

The LSC rundown

Video: PREP-145 for SAIT apprenticesHow we help new students get ready

Before classes begin, full-time students and apprentices can prepare for their studies with PREP-100 or PREP-145. These free courses offer students insight into what's ahead and strategies they can use to be successful.

"When you get to post-secondary, you need to be much more independent, the pace is a lot faster, there's a higher expectation that you come to class prepared. There's very little hand-holding," says Robertson. "What we find with both of those courses is that students start to feel more confident and comfortable. That non-cognitive piece of learning has a huge impact on a person's ability to be successful."

Subject-focused preparation courses are also available in Math and English. A condensed version of PREP — STEP into SAIT — is offered each August.

How we help current students keep on track

Because everyone learns differently, the Lamb Learner Success Centre (LSC) offers several ways to provide support for students, from evening group tutorials in challenging subjects to one-on-one academic coaching.

‘You've got a hard job, but there are people here that can help make it a bit easier," says Robertson.

Some students are taking seven or eight courses. Each of these courses has different projects due at different times. How do you keep all that in play, and then show up for your hockey practice or work or take care of kids?” asks RobertsonAcademic coaching:

Students who prefer one-on-one support can make an appointment with an academic coach, who will provide guidance on effective note taking and study techniques as well as improving organizational and time management skills.

Appointments with academic coaches can range from once or twice to weekly meetings, depending on the needs of the student. First-year students can also opt for peer tutoring, getting help from second year students in their program who have "been there, done that," and been successful.

Learning labs and tutorials:

Students more comfortable in group settings can drop in to the Lamb Learner Success Centre's free learning labs or evening tutorials.

Learning labs are available for math, communications, study skills and computer skills while evening tutorials are offered for some of the most difficult SAIT courses — accounting, math and statistics.

Getting back on track after academic probation:

The LSC reaches out to students who have found themselves on academic probation — a grade point average of 2.0 or lower. Robertson says it's not uncommon and these students shouldn't feel discouraged.

"At the end of every fall semester, approximately 900 students end up on academic probation. Most of these are first-year students. They are invited to attend a two-hour seminar that will help them reflect on the barriers and challenges that got in the way and how they can plan to get back on track.

"We have found the students who follow-up, attend the seminars and make an appointment with an academic coach are more likely to get off academic probation."

The Lamb Learner Success Centre has also implemented an early alert system in a number of programs. Instructors are trained to flag struggling students at critical periods throughout the semester and an appropriate support service will reach out to them.

"We'll contact that student via email and say ‘Hey, your instructor tells us you're having some challenges here. Would you like to come in and meet with somebody?'"

Other SAIT departments can help

LSC works closely with other departments on campus to help students succeed, including:

Dec. 17, 2014

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