Comparative Study of the Effects of University 1010 at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, 1997 - 2000
Budd Tucker, Shelly Walbourne, Dr. Paul Wilson
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College
Memorial University of Newfoundland
October 26, 2001
The study was designed to test the efficacy of University 1010 at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in improving student retention and academic performance. There were 234 undergraduate university students included in the study. Of these 117 had completed University 1010 and 117 students were chosen as matched subjects who had not completed the course. These matches were based on age, gender, program of study, high school average, and home location. The data on grade average, number of courses taken and number of courses passed, before, during, and after University 1010 were recorded and compared using cross tabulations and chi squares. A telephone satisfaction survey was conducted of those students who had completed University 1010.
The results of the survey show that students taking the course were by and large satisfied and felt that the course was a significant help. Students reported high levels of satisfaction and felt that the course had a positive effect on their university success. However, results from the matched subjects design show that there was no significant overall difference between students who completed University 1010 and those who had not completed the course on measures of academic performance. However, one of the three subgroups studied, those who had taken the course in their second semester of university study, did improve on their first semester performance.
These results did not support the hypothesis that University 1010 would increase students’ level of academic performance or their retention in university studies. On the contrary, this study found that those who had not completed University 1010 were more likely to continue in university study.
Comparative Study of the Effects of University 1010
As universities became more accessible and admitted students with more diverse backgrounds, they depended more and more on various “transition” programs designed to help students adjust to the demands of university study. Prominent among these programs is the University 101 approach, which was developed at the University of South Carolina, and is now widespread throughout North America.
Over the years, Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) has implemented many programs designed to assist students with their studies. These have ranged from one-shot seminars to highly integrated programs of study. The creation of the Junior Division in 1967 was designed to place all entering students in the appropriate entry-level courses with much tutorial assistance. Junior Division, or Junior Studies as it had then become known, was phased out in 1987 and replaced with the Academic Advising Center, which is still in operation.
At Memorial’s Corner Brook campus, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College (SWGC), the university attempted to assist students with courses that ranged from the Basic Academic Skills program, a highly integrated package of regular credit courses and academic skills programs (Sullivan & Wilson, 1980), to one-shot seminars. Currently, the college provides a broad range of academic support programs at its Learning Center, as well as the services of a Senior Academic Advisor.
In 1997 the College introduced University 1010, a course modeled very much on University 101. University 1010 was designed to ease the transition from high school to university and has become quite popular with students. However, University 1010 was open to students at any point in their degree programs.
Memorial University of Newfoundland’s 2000-2001 academic calendar outlines University 1010 as follows: “the course introduces students to different modes of enquiry that one finds in university, the interrelatedness of knowledge and the role of the University in society. It also provides students with tools and techniques of study and research that can lead them to academic success and a fulfilling career” (110).
These efforts at SWGC fit well within the tradition of offering students academic support services, which in North America can be traced back at least to the late 19th century. In 1888, the University of Boston developed an academic support system in the form of a freshman seminar, which focused on extended orientation (Fitts and Swift as cited in The Freshman Year Experience, Barefoot & Fidler, 1994). This type of orientation course was adopted by the University of South Carolina in 1972 and became known as University 101 (Gardner, 1980). According to Gardner, University 101 is taught to small classes (approximately fifteen to twenty-five students) and consists of three credit hours. Faculty teaching the course are required to complete a thirty-six hour training workshop to prepare them with the necessary skills to convey the course material in an appropriate manner.
Throughout this orientation course, students learn to improve their attention; acquire academic, personal and social survival skills; become more involved in all aspects of university life; adopt a positive outlook towards themselves and teachers, as well as the learning process itself, which develops and improves the teacher/student relationship; become more aware and knowledgeable of the support systems available at the university; determine long term goals; discover or enhance values and increase self-esteem; improve verbal communication skills and create new friendships to aid in solving problems typically faced by freshmen, making the transition into university an easier one (Gardner, 1980). In other words, University 101 is an attempt to help students learn to cope with the challenges of university life and the changing world around them (Gardner, 1980).
Some of the topics and themes discussed in University 101 include: time management, goal setting, career planning, peer relationships, reading and writing skills, study habits (note taking, chapter outlining, test taking, etc.), sexuality, culture, and ways to reduce boredom (Gardner, 1980).
Involvement in University 101 is positively correlated with an increased attention span in freshmen, even if they were initially less academically qualified than others (Gardner, 1980). University 101 is also significantly associated with an increased use of student support services (Gardner, 1980).
Astin (1984) believes that “a highly involved student is one who, for example, devotes considerable energy to studying, spends much time on campus, participates actively in student organizations, and interacts frequently with faculty members and other students” (297). These are all characteristics that University 101 tries to enhance and develop. Astin’s (1984) Student Involvement Theory focuses on each student’s motivation and behavior. According to this theory, a more involved student will excel in both learning and development. Therefore, if University 101 or University 1010 can increase students’ level of involvement, then it should also increase their ability to successfully complete a university education. This proposes a causal relationship and not merely a correlational one.
Although all of these propositions are widely accepted and promoted, relatively little empirical data has been collected to demonstrate the effectiveness of such freshman courses using fairly rigorous methodologies. Despite this, as many studies suggest, University 101 has still been adopted by many different colleges and universities in many countries since its inception at the University of South Carolina. Many post secondary institutions in Canada, such as the University of Prince Edward Island, have adopted similar programs. Memorial has adopted this model, but uses the course title “University 1010" to conform to its course numbering protocols, but still retaining very similar goals and objectives.
This study was designed to provide self-report data, which was obtained from students who had completed the program, as well as to determine the academic impact of completing University 1010. The self-report section of this study was obtained through a telephone survey during which each participant was asked a series of questions about University 1010.
The quantitative section of the study consisted of a matched subjects design, in which each person who completed University 1010 was matched with a similar student who had not taken the course. Students were matched on campus attended, age, gender, admission average, home location, and declared degree.
A Brief Literature Review of the various types of research reports
Several different types of research have been conducted on the University 101 program, including anecdotal, analytical, and self-report studies. Gardner (1980) reported research on University 101 at the University of South Carolina (USC) and claims that the course improves both the teaching and learning experience. He describes the course as “an academic, continuing, orientation, elective, pass/fail course, restricted to freshman” (4).
University 101 provides students with the orientation needed to adjust to higher education at each particular university. Faculty teaching the course are equipped with the necessary skills to communicate with and help freshmen adapt to their university and become more aware of the services offered. Students taking University 101 have been found to successfully complete significantly more semesters and have more knowledge of the services available at their university than those students who do not participate in the course.
According to Gardner (1980) the faculty and staff of USC also benefit greatly from University 101. Each faculty member must complete a thirty-six hour training workshop before teaching University 101. These workshops instill faculty with the ability to recognize the needs and problems faced by freshmen students. Recently, however, most faculty and staff members have taken part in the workshops because they enjoy developing their relationships with faculty and staff from different departments throughout the university.
Shanley and Witten (1990) presented analytical data in their longitudinal study of University 101, which looked at the persistence, retention and graduation rates of those students who have completed the course (participants), compared to students who have not completed it (non-participants). There were 2,776 students included in this study, 781 who had successfully completed University 101 and 1,995 who had not completed or not registered for it. The U.S.C. database was used to collect student records for both University 101 participants and non-participants. The data collected included students’ academic history for the 1979 fall semester in which University 101 was taken, and each semester following, until the 1986 spring semester.
Shanley and Witten’s (1990) results indicate that after seven years participants had significantly higher graduation rates (56%), retention rates (69%), and persistence rates (59%), and significantly lower dropout rates (31%) than non-participants’ graduation (51%), retention (53%), persistence (44%), and dropout (47%) rates. They also noted that students enrolled in University 101 had lower mean SAT scores and predicted grade point averages (GPA) than non-participants upon entering U.S.C.
Shanley and Witten (1990) offer five explanations for their results: a) small classes with an emphasis on student and teacher interaction may increase each student’s overall satisfaction with university, b) the students enrolled in University 101 may be more interested in being involved in extracurricular activities, which establishes an attachment to the school and increases the chance of retention, c) considering that University 101 is not a very intense course, those students taking it do not have such a heavy course load as those students taking more academically challenging courses, which in turn allows their GPA to remain fairly high, d) use of campus services, as recommended in University 101, may increase students’ retention during succeeding semesters, e) significantly more female students living on campus were enrolled in University 101, demographic factors highly correlated with an increased retention and academic standing (350-351). The extent to which the high number of females living on campus was responsible for these outcomes was not reported.
Stupka (1992) conducted a well-controlled study of a three-semester student success course for freshman students. Forty pairs of students were matched, and each pair included one student who had completed the course (treatment) and one who had not (control). The criteria for the match included reading level, writing level, highest math course completed, and number of hours worked while attending university. Stupka (1992) found that students in the treatment condition attempted and completed more credits than those in the control group. For example, students enrolled in the success course had a grade of “C” or above in four times as many math courses, three times as many writing courses, and twice as many reading courses, than students who did not enroll in the success course. The treatment group also had lower dropout rates than the control group. However, there was no difference in the GPA of either group.
Self-report data was presented by Litwin (1973) following his analysis of a student satisfaction survey, which was conducted at Bowling Green University. One hundred and twenty students who were enrolled in the Modular Achievement Program (MAP) and 150 students who were not enrolled in MAP participated in the survey. The Modular Achievement Program includes “small classes, a student oriented staff, career workshops, a curriculum built around critical thinking, the investigation of values, problem solving, etc.” (Litwin, 1973). The program examines issues and concepts similar to those covered in University 101, but these issues are incorporated into almost all classes during the freshman year, not just one course.
Litwin’s (1973) questionnaire contained five sections, class-related items, involvement, sources of difficulty and help, alienation, and student perceptions of change. MAP students found classes more interesting, less “rough going” than non-MAP students, and as enjoyable as they expected them to be. Regarding the involvement section, MAP students were engaged more in class discussions, and took advantage of the counselling services and residence activities more. MAP students had fewer financial problems than non-MAP students, but tended to have more difficulty choosing a major. MAP students viewed counsellors and faculty as being helpful more often than non-MAP students. When asked questions about perceived change, MAP students felt their personal responsibility, academic objectives, and personal values had not changed much. Yet, they did feel their worldview and personal philosophy of life had developed, more so than non-MAP participants. Regarding feelings of alienation, MAP students felt more involved, able to speak out in class, in control of their university life, and that faculty cared about their well-being, than non-MAP students.
Overall MAP students tended to feel more incorporated into their education and general university experience, and to be in tune with their life ambitions. Incorporating such an involved program into the freshman experience allows these students to get used to university life, and to take advantage and enjoy everything that their school and teachers have to offer.
Data from 234 undergraduate students’ records were obtained. Of the 117 students who had taken University 1010, 41% were males and 58% were females, with an average age of 22.13; 48.7% lived in an urban town, 39.3% lived in a large rural setting, and 12% lived in a small rural setting. The other half of the sample did not take the course, but acted as a matched group of subjects. This group consisted of 41% males and 59% males with a mean age of 21.73. It should be noted that both groups were very close to the typical 40/60 male to female split found in first year.
Data for the 117 students who completed the University 1010 course were obtained through the student registration database (Banner). For each of these students, the demographic data (age, gender, program of study, high school average, and home location) were obtained. Once this information had been collected, researchers obtained a match for each student who had taken University 1010 using a program developed by the Office of the Registrar to identify matches. However, given the unstable nature of students “Declared” degree program in first year, and the large number of degree programs involved, it was sometimes difficult to match on this variable. The matched students were added to the database.
Each student’s academic performance (number of courses taken, number of courses passed, semester average, cumulative number of courses taken, cumulative number of courses passed and cumulative average) prior to, during, and after University 1010 was recorded.
Once this information was obtained Chi-Squares and cross tabulations were used to analyze the data and determine the statistical significance.
A phone survey was conducted on the students who had completed University 1010 in an attempt to measure their level of satisfaction and perceived course effectiveness. Phone numbers were collected for all of the 117 students who had completed University 1010. Of the 117, 68 students were contacted; the other 49 students could not be reached.
Sixty-eight of the 117 people who had completed University 1010 could be reached by phone and were included in the survey. Repeated attempts to contact the other 49 were not successful. The results of this survey are shown in Table 1.
Frequency distribution of survey results
Definitely Somewhat Definitely
1 2 3 4 5
1) Was University 1010 enjoyable? 0 0 4.3 28.6 67.1
2) Did the professor do a good job
conveying the material? 0 0 2.9 27.1 70.0
3) Did the course help to improve
your writing skills? 2.9 1.4 31.4 35.7 28.6
4) Did the course help improve your
study skills in general? 1.4 2.9 18.6 35.7 41.4
5) Did the course help to improve
your memory? 4.3 8.6 40.0 32.9 14.3
6) Did the course help to improve
your reading speed? 8.6 15.7 44.3 21.4 10.0
7) Did the course help to improve
your reading comprehension? 5.7 10.0 31.4 34.3 18.6
8) Did the course help to improve
your ability to take notes? 1.4 0 10.0 40.0 48.6
9) Did the course help to improve
your ability to prepare for exams? 1.4 2.9 14.3 42.9 38.6
10) Did the course help to improve your
ability to successfully complete exams? 1.4 4.3 20.0 41.4 32.9
11) Did the course help to improve
your research skills? 2.9 4.3 15.7 38.6 38.6
12) Did the course help to improve
your ability to use the library? 2.9 7.1 10.0 21.4 58.6
13) Did the course help to improve
your ability to reference papers? 1.4 0 12.9 41.4 44.3
14) Did the course help to improve
your ability to relax? 5.7 12.9 24.3 31.4 25.7
15) Did the course help to improve
your ability to handle stress in
your life? 7.1 15.7 30.0 34.3 12.9
16) did the course help to improve
your knowledge of the benefits of
exercise and a good diet? 24.6 10.1 18.8 30.4 26.1
17) Did the course help to improve
your ability to make appropriate
career choices? 5.7 4.3 32.9 30.0 27.1
18) Did the course help to improve
your ability to understand the role
of professors at the university? 2.9 5.7 18.6 32.9 40.0
19) Did the course help to improve
your ability to understand the
differences between a university
education and a community college
education? 8.6 7.1 10.0 18.6 55.7
20) Did the course help to improve
your social skills (communication,
interaction with others, etc)? 2.9 8.6 24.3 34.3 30.0
21) Did the course help to improve
your time management skills? 5.7 10.0 21.4 40.0 22.9
22) Did the course help to improve
your ability to organize your money? 20.0 12.9 24.3 21.1 15.7
23) Did the course help to improve
your ability to become a critical
thinker? 4.3 2.9 24.3 44.3 24.3
24) Did the course help to improve
your ability to set and follow
through with your goals? 2.9 1.4 20.0 51.4 24.3
25) did the course help to improve
the skills you need to succeed in
university? 2.9 2.9 11.4 37.1 45.7
On the first two questions there was a very high approval rating with over 90% of the people agreeing that University 1010 was enjoyable and that the professor did a good job conveying the material. There were also high ratings (80% to 89%) indicating that the course helped to improve the ability to take notes, ability to prepare for exams, ability to use the library, ability to reference papers, and the skills needed to succeed in university.
There were moderately high ratings (65% to 79%) indicating that University 1010 helped somewhat to improve writing skills, study skills in general, ability to successfully complete exams, research skills, ability to understand the role of professors at the university, ability to understand the differences between a university education and a community college education, ability to become a critical thinker, and ability to set and follow through with goals.
There were moderately low ratings (50% to 64%) indicating that the course did not particularly help improve reading comprehension, ability to relax, knowledge of the benefits of exercise and a good diet, ability to make appropriate career choices, social skills (communication, interaction with others, etc), and time management skills. There were low ratings (40% to 49%) indicating that the course did not help improve memory, ability to handle stress, and ability to organize money.
Finally there was one very low rating (less than 40%) indicating that the course had almost no impact on reading speed.
Academic Performance Results
Of the 117 students who completed University 1010, 50 (42.7%) of them had taken the course in their first semester, 45 (38.5%) had taken the course in their second semester, and the other 22 (18.8) took the course at some point in their 3rd to 8th semester. The mean number of courses taken, before, during and after University 1010, for students who had completed the course in their first semester and those who had not taken the course is shown in Table 2. As this table shows there is no significant difference in the mean number of courses taken, passed, and grade average of students who completed university 1010 and those who had not completed the course. However, students who had not completed university 1010 in their first semester took more courses, passed more courses, and had a higher grade average.
Mean number of courses taken, courses passed, and grade for Students who completed University 1010 in their first semester and their match during (D) and immediately after (A) University 1010
# Taken # Passed Grade%
D A D A D A
50 Univ 1010 students 4.3 3.8 3.3 3.1 56.5 58.9
50 matched subjects 4.5 3.9 3.9 3.5 58.5 61.7
Table 3 reveals that students who completed the course in their second semester did so after a poor first semester in which they passed an average of 2.3 courses with a 46.8 semester grade average. They improved considerably in the semester when they took University 1010, and caught up to their matches in the semester following completion of the course. It does appear that the completion of University 1010 may be effective for students who do not perform well in their first semester of study. It should be remembered that participant students and their matches had very similar high school records.
Mean number of courses taken, courses passed, and grade for Students who completed University 1010 in their second semester and their match before (B), during (D), and after (A) University 1010
# Taken # Passed Grade%
B D A B D A B D A
45 Univ 1010 students 4.2 4.1 3.9 2.3 2.9 3.4 46.8 53.9 63.2
43 matched subjects 4.6 4.2 3.7 3.5 3.4 3.3 57.0 57.4 63.0
As shown in table 4 those who took university 1010 beyond second semester were relatively weak compared to their matches with very similar high school records. Their performance in the semester in which they took University 1010 is improved, but there is no further improvement in the subsequent semesters.
Mean number of courses taken, courses passed, and grade for people who completed University 1010 beyond their second semester and their match before (B), during (D), and after (A) University 1010
# Taken # Passed Grade%
B D A B D A B D A
22 Univ 1010 students 3.6 3.5 3.3 2.4 2.7 2.7 50.3 54.8 54.6
18 matched subjects 3.6 3.8 3.3 3.0 2.8 2.7 60.5 54.9 58.7
Table 5 shows the Chi squares on the cumulative courses taken, passed and grade average for those who completed University 1010 and their matches. The only significant difference was between the numbers of courses taken in post semester 1. In this semester the students who had completed University 1010 took more courses than the matched sample.
Chi square results between those who took University 1010 and their match for the cumulative courses taken, cumulative courses passed, and cumulative averages.
Cumulative courses Cumulative courses Cumulative Semester
taken passed average
Current semester .388 .250 .128`
Post Semester 1 .02* .196` .630
Post semester 2 .407 .540 .416
Post semester 3 .714 .248 .498
Post semester 4 .408 .354 .431
Post semester 5 .342 .283 .371
* p < .05
` p < .20
Table 6 indicated that retention was higher in the matches than in those who completed University 1010. Attrition in both groups is very high, but what difference there is, favours those who did not complete the course.
Percentage of sample that completed semesters after the current semester.
Current Post Post Post Post Post
Semester Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3 Semester 4 Semester 5
Treatment 100% 60.4% 36.0% 26.1% 7.8% 4.4%
Matched Group 100% 78.4% 54.1% 40.6% 21.6% 11.7%
Table 7 shows the mean cumulative number of courses taken and passed, as well
as the mean cumulative grade averages for those who took University 1010 and
their matches. For each semester, including that in which University 1010 was
completed, the matched group attempted more courses, and passed more courses
with a higher cumulative grade average. This table provides little evidence
of any long term efficacy that accrues after taking the university 1010
Mean cumulative number of courses taken and passed and the mean cumulative
semester averages for the entire sample.
Semester University Cumulative number Cumulative number Cumulative semester
1010 courses taken courses passed average
Current Yes 7.5 5.2 53.7
Semester No 7.8 6.2 57.3
Post Yes 10.3 8.0 57.0
Semester 1 No 11.0 9.2 58.6
Post Yes 14.3 10.8 55.6
Semester 2 No 15.3 13.0 59.5
Post Yes 16.7 14.0 60.0
Semester 3 No 18.7 17.1 60.6
Post Yes 20.9 17.1 59.0
Semester 4 No 22.8 19.4 60.5
Post Yes 22.5 19.8 52.5
Semester 5 No 26.4 22.4 59.8
These results do not support the hypothesis that University 1010 would improve the level of academic performance of those who complete the course. It is evident that by and large students who complete University 1010 “enjoy” the course and believe it to be relatively effective in development of academic and personal skills. However, their actual academic performance suggests that only one sub-group, those who took the course in their second semester, show any significant gains. Even in this case, the gain is a catch-up after an academically weak first semester. That is, the course seems to be effective for those who have not made a successful transition to university study in their first semester. There is no evidence that even this group goes on to surpass its match.
The data presented suggest that the students who take the course are relatively weak prior to starting their university studies. With few individual exceptions the course does not seem to be effective in improving academic performance.
Those who took the course in their first semester did not do well. Participation is voluntary and we can only speculate why these students opted to take university 1010. It is likely that some were encouraged to do so prior to attending university, but their actual motivations are unknown.
On the other hand, we can reasonably speculate that many of those who took University 1010 in their second semester did so because of their poor academic performance in their first semester. It is also probable that they would have been encouraged to do so by their faculty advisors. At the very least University 1010 provided them with a course that was designed to improve their poor academic performance in the first semester.
Those who took the course later in their academic careers may also have been advised to do so. Their prior academic performance was not strong and they may well have been hoping that this course would provide them with an improvement in various skill areas. Some may have taken the course as an “easy” elective, but we do not know that this is the case.
With individual exceptions aside, only the group that took the course in their second semester seemed to have derived any significant benefits.
The 68 people who were surveyed reported that the course was enjoyable, and they believed that it was a benefit in their academic skills. The majority of the students interviewed also felt that the course had given them improved social skills and allowed them to interact better in university life. The course has a high intrinsic value, with almost everyone giving it a positive rating.
The survey results concur with those of Litwin (1973) who found that students tended to feel more incorporated into their education and general university experience, and to be in tune with their life ambitions. For instance, the majority of the students who had completed the survey responded that the course was not only enjoyable, but that it also improved many of the skills that they needed to succeed in a post-secondary setting.
However, this study failed to replicate the results reported by Shanley and Witten (1990) which looked at the persistence, retention and graduation rates of those students who have completed the University 101 (participants), compared to students who have not completed it (non-participants). The present study revealed a higher drop out rate among the students who had completed University 1010 than was found among those who had not.
In conclusion the results of this study supports the anecdotal impressions that students both enjoy the course and believe it to be beneficial. However, an examination of their academic records does not reveal an academic “boost” in performance except for the remedial or catch-up effect noted for those who completed it after a poor academic performance in the first semester.
Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25, 297-308.
Barefoot, B. O., & Fidler, P. P. (1992). 1991 National survey of freshman seminar programming. The Freshman Year Experience, 10.
Gardner, J. N. “University 101: A Concept for Improving University Teaching and Learning,” paper presented at Fourth Annual Conference on Faculty Development and Evaluation, University of Florida, Orlando, Florida, February 29, 1980.
Litwin, J. L. “A Survey of Student Experiences”, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, October 1973.
Shanley, M. G., & Witten, C. H. (1990) University 101 freshman seminar course: A longitudinal study of persistence, retention, and graduation rates. NASPA Journal, 27, 344-352.
Stupka, E. “A Longitudinal Study of the Impact a Student Success Course Has on the Academic Achievement and Persistence of Newly Matriculated Students,” paper presented at The National Conference On Student Success Courses, Chicago, Illinois, November 1992.
Sullivan, A. M., & Wilson, P. (1980). A successful academic upgrading program: Follow-up over five semesters. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, X-2.