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LeaRN to Pilot New First-Year Course This Fall at UW

June 24, 2019

The University of Wyoming’s Learning Resource Network (LeaRN) is piloting a new first-year experience (FYE) course for freshmen this fall. The course offers guidance in academic success, campus engagement and self-exploration for new students.

April Heaney, director of LeaRN programs, spearheaded the FYE course in 2017. In 2018, the LeaRN office created a website to connect first-year students to resources on campus, which is located at Soon after, Project Coordinator Mollie Hand recruited instructors to create an engaging and effective transition-to-college course.

Ten sections of the FYE course, “STEP 1102,” are planned this fall, including one section that will be offered after the Early Alert system identifies students who may need extra support four weeks into the semester. Each section has an enrollment cap of 20 to allow students to “get to know one another well and to form stronger bonds with each other and their instructors,” Hand says.

Academic advising professionals on campus will teach six of the 10 sections, providing unique experiences for students to explore majors and careers in these sections.

April French, a senior academic advising professional in the College of Health Sciences, who will teach one section of the FYE course, is excited about the opportunity.

“I am looking forward to connecting the students in my section to each other, to a deeper self-knowledge and to the wonderful resources available at UW,” French says.

This one-credit course is optional for students, with each section meeting twice per week, ending by Thanksgiving break, Hand says.

UW initially offered a freshman transition course as part of its 1991 University Studies Program requirements. UW’s answer to the first-year experience was the University Studies’ “Intro to University Life.” That class was a one-credit graded course that included visits to various areas around campus, an introduction to academic skills and alcohol awareness training. The first-year University Studies course was discontinued in 2003 for a more comprehensive orientation in the summer, Heaney says.

A new freshman course, the first-year seminar (FYS), was introduced in 2015 into the University Studies requirements. Its focus was different from the 1991 freshman seminar. Rather than an introduction to academic skills and campus resources, the learning outcomes for the 2015 FYS emphasize critical and creative thinking, communication and research skills.

“The FYE course has a different and unique focus on the mindsets, habits and experiences that are sometimes invisible to new college students,” Heaney says. “Our goal is to help students put the puzzle together quickly and with a supportive network of students, staff and faculty.”   

LeaRN will evaluate this pilot program with student surveys, performance in first-year courses and college persistence to sophomore year, she adds.

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