The students’ journey across the threshold into the special world happens fairly quickly. In practical terms the crossing of the threshold is in part a matter of university regulations which stipulate the latest point at which a student may enter or leave a module. For the sake of both the teacher and the students this needs to be a short enough time to minimise any disruption to the formation of the learning community. But the threshold can be considered more importantly as a psychological gateway, the crossing of which happens when the actual teaching and learning activities begin.
Diagnostic questions for stage v):
- What symbolic act begins the students’ journey? What activity will students complete in the first couple of weeks that will enable them to feel that they have crossed the threshold into the special world? (Perhaps this might be accessing the VLE and completing a computer marked test/quiz, or preparing a couple of paragraphs of text to read in class, or forming a study group and putting a few slides together to present, etc. Something, short, simple, but useful, and preferably with instant feedback.)
- How will you know when students have ‘bought into’ the unit? When will they have put some skin in the game, so to speak? (A quick, early win can help to build confidence, but also can help students to feel that they have invested something in the unit, so have something to lose by not continuing to take part in it.)
- What role does the VLE play in the unit, and how can it be used to best effect? Do students understand the function of the VLE as you have designed it for this unit? (If class time is only a couple of hours per week, then there is potentially a lot of work that the VLE can do to extend the classroom beyond this time, and beyond the physical on-campus classroom.)
- Keep in mind that there might be other thresholds the students are crossing before they get to the unit. For example, a first-time university student might have already crossed the threshold of university accommodations and/or visited a Welcome Week or Freshers Fair. Are you aware of any thresholds like this? Is it possible to link your contents to those experiences?