During first year engineering, a number of students will come to realize that they are struggling in one or more courses. This will be shocking and confusing to them, because they have probably never experienced it before. They have probably never had to ask for help before either. It is never our intention to “weed out” a bunch of students (that would be a waste of our time and resources), so we try to provide a lot of avenues for student support, especially in that crucial first year. Students just need to take the initiative and seek out the help that is available (since we often can’t tell who is struggling until it’s too late). Here is a brief overview of various ways to access help.
- Professors: there is sometimes time just before or after a class for a quick question. If it’s a bit more complex question, many professors have scheduled office hours where you can drop by. Don’t be afraid to use them; we like it when someone actually does drop by. On the downside, demands for professors’ time and attention is split among a lot of things, so sometimes we’re not as available or attentive as a student might need, so there are these other avenues for help too.
- Teaching Assistants: otherwise known as “TAs”, these are the people who help out or run the tutorial sessions and labs. They will have more time for individual and small group assistance, and may also have availability for questions or help outside of the usual tutorial sessions. Some are graduate students (i.e. Masters or PhD students), and some are upper year undergraduate students.
- WEEF TAs: these are all engineering undergraduate students, hired to be TAs for one of their work terms. They help out as described in #2, but are also available for drop-in help during the day (and evenings too, I think) at our Tutor Centre adjacent to the WEEF Lab in building E2. Aside from course material, they are a good source of information about co-op experiences, and being an engineering student in general. So, they’re happy to take questions and talk about anything related to UW engineering. Feel free to just drop by and say hi.
- Extra Help Sessions: there are regularly scheduled sessions for providing extra help on specific courses, for example these ones. Some instructors will organize their own extra help sessions at certain times (especially before exams).
- Tutoring in Residence: our residences have organized tutoring sessions for various courses that are common to engineering and other programs. Here is one example.
- First Year Engineering Office: the items above are mainly for coursework help, but sometimes students have more general problems, like study skills, time management, need general academic or career advice, or have more personal issues that are affecting them. This office is sort of a one-stop place, where you can get help and be pointed to the right person for the specific things you need. You don’t even need to know what it is you need, or what the options are. They will help you figure that out.
- Student Success Office: this is another one-stop help centre, set up by the University for all students, including engineering. This office has a bit broader set of resources that might be of interest too, including “Success Coaching” and connections for hiring personal tutors. It’s relatively new, so I haven’t had much experience with it yet.
- Friends and classmates: these will also be a valuable source of help for course concepts and problems (but watch out for copying/plagiarism issues!). When it comes to knowledge about university rules and requirements, they can also be a source of misinformation, so make sure you check with someone official (like at the First Year Engineering Office) before making any assumptions or doing something you may regret later.
- By invitation: after mid-term exams, our First Year Engineering Office identifies those students who seem to be most at-risk of failure. They are invited to come in and talk to an academic advisor to see what can be done to help them be successful, and to explain various options open to them. It’s a good idea to follow-up on that invitation.
So that’s all I can think of at the moment. The key thing is to be pro-active and seek the help. We can’t help if we don’t know that you need it.