Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: YU START: York's Online Transition Program
Year Submitted 2017
Awarded Second Prize (Open Category)
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Ross McMillan Director, Student Engagement & First Year Experience
Dr. Martha Rogers Professor and former Associate Dean in the Faculty of Health
Brendan Schulz Executive Director, Student Success Centre
Lara Ubaldi Director, Student Advising and Academic Services
Greg Langstaff Coordinator, YU START
Rob Finlayson Manager, Learning Technology
Rose Orlando Project Manager, University Information Technology Office
Name of Institution York University
Office Address S172 Ross Bldg
4700 Keele St
Toronto, Ontario M3J1P3
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Telephone: 4167362100 x70720
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Gary Brewer
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President Finance and Administration
Office Address 946 Kaneff Tower,
York University
Toronto, Ontario M3J1P3
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Telephone: 416-736-2100 x 55160
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Responding to the identified need for a more comprehensive, efficient and effective way to enrol, transition and orient incoming students, York University created YU START. Piloted in 2012 and launched in its current form in 2015, YU START is an online transition tool that offers new undergraduate students an Online Enrolment Tutorial, an interactive University 101 platform, a series of student-leader facilitated Facebook groups, a campus tour program and culminates in -person on York Orientation Day.

As the largest collaborative service offering for students in York’s history involving 10 academic Faculties and over 60 non-academic offices, YU START has rapidly expanded since its inception. Starting with one program and 700 students, YU START now houses 111 programs and over 9,400 students.  In May 2017, YU START will be available in French to incorporate York’s bilingual  Glendon College, as well as the Faculty of Graduate Studies, which will bring the participation in YU START to approximately 11,000 students.

With over 7,000 of the 9,400 completing their first year course enrolment online using the YU START Online Enrolment Tutorial, York has restructured the advising process, allowing academic advisors to primarily focus on students who need in-person assistance.  Completion of the University 101 program for which students receive a certificate on their Co-Curricular Record allows students the flexibility in a user-specified manner, to explore York during the summer and seek out the information most important to them before their arrival on campus.

The 33 Facebook groups, organized by academic program, resulted in over 12,000 posts and comments in 2016. New students connected with each other and received support from trained upper-year mentors. Students were able to ease anxieties by arranging to connect with their fellow students before orientation or the first day of class.

The campus tour program allows students to receive their student card and find their classrooms before orientation.

Finally, York Orientation Day has nearly 7000 students participate in a rotating 6 hour program that engages them in their program of study and connects them to key first year resources to help them be successful for their first year.   

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

From its early stages as a series of blogs, email blasts, and Facebook posts, to today’s dynamic, custom designed, Moodle-backed platform, YU START, has served as a model for a successful online transition which could be vastly beneficial to many post-secondary institutions. For any college or university with a high volume and complex  course enrolment process, the Online Enrolment Tutorial is an effective tool for guiding students in their course selection and enrolment, enabling them to enroll from any location at any time.  The guiding documents and video tutorials at the heart of the program are easily replicable. Of course, the peer support of an academically clustered Facebook group is already widely used to ease apprehensions and build excitement for the coming school year, and the YU START model of centrally training and supervising the peer mentors in those groups, has provided quality support which any school could adapt and implement.

Quality Impact

The quality of academic advising, as well as in-person orientation, has been enhanced since the creation of YU START. For students who enrol in courses online, YU START provides them with the ability to learn to enrol at their own pace from the comfort of home. The resources teaching students to enrol remain available to them throughout the summer and into the school year, should they need to go back for reference. Allowing the majority of students to enrol from home has allowed advising offices to restructure their programs to provide quality service to students who need personal assistance in their enrolment and to support upper year students. Covering topics and tasks which the students have deemed most important (such as finding classrooms, getting student card, and submitting financial aid paperwork, as determined by 5 years of assessment) during the summer, online and on-campus in our summer tours, students are mentally available to benefit from more detailed, higher-level preparation offered at on-campus orientation.

Productivity Impact

YU START, as a whole, has demonstrated to have a positive correlation with first-to-second-year retention.  According to a study by our Office on Institutional Planning and Analysis  participants in YU START are persisting at a 1.35% higher rate than non-participants.   Online course enrolment has increased productivity in two significant ways. Advisors are able to support more online enrolment appointments per week, and high school students are able to enrol in May and June without taking time off school. This has led to more students enrolling earlier in the summer, which gives the advisors more capability to support upper-year students and late admits in July and August. For example, in the Faculty of Health, prior to YU START, the average number of new students to enrol in a week was 100-150 for May and June. Through the online enrolment tutorial, they are now able to enrol between 250-300 students per week. Additionally, in the University 101 platform, YU START has streamlined the on-campus orientation registration process, putting the RSVP for Academic, Social, Mature Students and International Students in one single form. This has minimized the confusion of being invited to multiple orientations, and made the transition into one seamless process for the incoming students.  Finally, participating on York Orientation Day has grown significantly from 2015 to 2016 with a 13% increase in RSVPs and 11% increase in attendance.


By fully integrating the University’s Student Information System into YU START, we have been able to identify exactly who each student is and customize the user experience to contain specific content for that student, including content for International Students, Varsity Athletes, Mature Students, Residence Students, and Graduate Students. YU START’s utilization of usage data and qualitative assessment have allowed for strategic improvements each year, creating content and delivery methods more focused on the incoming students needs and learning style. This has included the expansion of instructional videos, and interactive activities, and a heavier focus on Financing Education, Career Opportunities, and Academic Success Tips.

Supporting Documents