Campus - 10.09.2021 - 00:00 

StartWeek 2021: additional learning formats and technical options

About 1,800 newcomers will start their Assessment Year on 13 September 2021 and experience the HSG’s campus life for the first time. They can look forward to an exciting introductory week with a variety of learning formats. For the second time, the new students will experience their start at the HSG with alternating teaching.
Source: HSG Newsroom

10 September 2021. Originally introduced as a consequence of the pandemic, the use of a central digital platform with relevant information, livestreams and learning videos has stood the test of time. In keeping with the core mission of the StartWeek, students’ start at the HSG will become even more diverse and colourful – “thanks to the additional technical learning formats and extended didactic, methodological and organisational options,” says Roman Capaul, Academic Director of the Assessment Year and the StartWeek. What remains central is the guiding principle of “by students for students”, for the bilingual StartWeek was and is also a student project to a large extent. Older students welcome the younger ones, look after them and contribute to their arrival on the campus. Personal encounters provide a bridge between the academic-stream secondary school and the university and enable the newcomers to establish initial new contacts, friendships and learning communities for their university years.

Physical and online elements  

“This year, too, there will be certain limitations, which is why we are working with so-called ‘alternating teaching’,” says Daniel Fuchs, a member of the StartWeek core team. Half of the 60 groups will alternatingly work on the campus and online from home. The community experience and getting mutually acquainted will remain central aspects of the first week of the new students’ university life. Owing to the pandemic, demands made on the University and students have increased. Particularly in the Assessment Year, the large plenary lecture room sessions will increasingly dwindle. The alternating teaching practised in the StartWeek will prepare students for remote learning and working in spatially separated teams, which has increasingly become a reality both in university and professional life. Students and the HSG’s infrastructure are better equipped today. Thus online elements such as livestreams and videos about the input courses can be followed from home and in private study. The “Closing Event”, the highlight of the StartWeek, will be broadcast from a newly designed television studio.

All in all, three StartWeek core scenarios were drawn up: besides alternating teaching, also a variant with full physical presence and one with pure online participation. A flexible changeover between the three scenarios would be possible at any time, even if this would greatly intensify the workload, explains Miriam Mrisi, the Head of the StartWeek. “Since the value of personal contacts, the formation of groups and work on case studies are central and substantially contribute to the newcomers’ organisational and social arrival in the new university environment in St.Gallen, it is our goal to prepare the freshers for their forthcoming studies on site on the campus during the week. We will only use two thirds of the capacity of each room.”

Informal teaching in group formats will also be accorded sufficient room in future StartWeeks. In the context of this year’s topic, “Artificial intelligence”, newcomers are intended to conduct an analysis, develop and present project ideas based on an AI application, which will make for learning in a variety of different ways, says Roman Capaul. The digital tools which will enrich group work range from Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Canvas to Kahoot, Slido, Miro, Menti, Trello and Padlet. The learning platform Canvas can also be used in the follow-up to the StartWeek since a great deal of relevant information can be retrieved until the end of the first academic year.

Special support function

The team is in agreement: the StartWeek continues to be of great importance to newcomers. Owing to the still applicable restrictions caused by the pandemic, uncertainties about what the first university year will look like are still greater. Accordingly, the demands made on supporting tutors who guide the groups of 25-30 freshers through the academic and social programmes are also greater. The tutors’ commitment and creativity are overwhelming every year, says Daniel Fuchs, “they always go the extra mile.” Since during the last StartWeek, restaurants, bars, clubs and other leisure facilities were only open to a limited extent and many students wanted to avoid large-scale gatherings, new types of evening events emerged, such as meetings by the Drei Weiheren, getting-to-know-each-other games through digital tools and team suppers in various flat-sharing communities. Roman Capaul clarifies: “The tutors don’t only become important reference persons with more experience during the StartWeek but also have the informal function of a godfather/godmother during the Assessment Year.” In the future, it is intended to reduce the group size to approx. 20 new students in order to guarantee an optimal support ratio.”

Link to the StartWeek