Our University has adopted a 'fourth hour' policy for first year students - inviting us to be interesting and creative with that time: to use the time to reinforce or extend student learning. I think this can be a great idea and some things that we have already thought about include:
Obviously we have not just invented peer mentoring - its been around for years; but the fourth hour does allow us to schedule time tabled time for peer mentors to meet with their mentee groups; to become better acquainted with each other and the University with its Byzantine forms and processes. We do not know quite where our peer mentor experiment will go - it could evolve from a quite pastoral system into a more formal writing mentor programme. It could be that our peer mentors become the subject of educational research by those students taking up our AniMet Challenge <http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/animation/index.html>. It could be that the peer mentors could facilitate students engagement with the next idea:
Keep a 'cultural dossier'
I was the first in my family - in my whole neighbourhood - to go to University. I took a joint honours Education and Literature degree: a University of London degree operated through North London Polytechnic - and the most wondrous experience. Contrary to popular misconception, the Polytechnic was not a Gradgrind vocational institute designed (merely) to train the engineers and teachers of the future - but an inspirational space designed to produce critical and creative thinkers. Part of our first year included visiting Magistrates Court to observe the legal system in action; going to art galleries and museums; being encouraged to go to the theatre and write about our experiences in our essays. And one thing that we could do for our students would be to 'give them permission' to be a real student - not to rush back home to do the housework - not to dash off to that job ... but to legitimately go out and about around London - having wonderful experiences and keeping a record of them in their own cultural dossier.
Another interesting idea, I believe, would be to get our students to find, engage with and reflect upon a Mass Open Online Course (MOOC). I have enrolled on such a course myself (E-learning and Digital Cultures, starting 28th January) and am really looking forward to it. If we want our students to consider lifelong and lifewide education - and to develop as empowered and digitally literate learners - what better way than for them to find, engage with and reflect upon a MOOC?
If you had a fourth hour - what would you do and why?