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Supporting students

Supporting student academic skills development - an evaluation of an English for Academic Purposes pilot

Project leader(s): 
Jo Fayram and John Woodthorpe
Faculty: 
WELS and STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The proposed work is to evaluate the effectiveness of a current pilot project using specialist English for Academic Purposes (EAP) tutors to provide academic skills sessions to students who have been determined to be in need of them. As well as supporting the students, these sessions also support their module tutors who can recognise students needing academic skills' support, but may not have the knowledge or time to address them directly. A large body of qualitative (student and tutor feedback) and quantitative (TMA scores) data has been gathered during 2019. This has been sufficient to gain approval for extending the pilot until the end of July 2020, but a more rigorous approach to data collection and evaluation is needed to justify making it a standard part of supporting students in developing their academic English skills before, during and between modules. It will also provide evidence to decide whether to apply the same approach for developing other skills, such as maths, where the tutor may similarly lack the ability or time to address the problem themselves.

Although the pilot activity is university-wide, this submission is being made to eSTEeM because the highest uptake is from STEM (110 out of 318 students referred), showing that STEM students and their tutors have the greatest need for EAP support. This confirms the impressions gained in a previous eSTEeM project with joint leadership from John Woodthorpe of the former MCT Faculty and Jim Donohue of the former FELS Faculty, as summarised in http://www.open.ac.uk/about/teaching-and-learning/esteem/sites/www.open.ac.uk.about.teaching-and-learning.esteem/files/files/ecms/web-content/2016-05-John-Woodthorpe-Language-final-report.pdf 

Are You Ready for Your Studies - Are we Assessing Students Readiness? An evaluation of the usefulness of the Level 2 ARFY quizzes

Project leader(s): 
Soraya Kouadri Mostéfaoui and Oli Howson
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The Are You Ready for Your Studies Quizzes have recently been implemented to help students decide whether they are ready to study a module.

There are usually three parts to such quizzes, which have a varying number of questions. In Part 1 students are asked a few general questions about their previous experiences. In Part 2 students are asked more specific questions related to a set of learning outcomes. In Part 3 they are asked about how they found the test. After they are done students are given a score and a general impression of whether they are ready for the module.

The aim of this project is to evaluate the usefulness of such quizzes for the core Q67 level 2 modules. Are the quizzes really assessing the students’ readiness to start studying their level 2 modules? What impact have these quizzes had on the modules? The study will focus particularly on modules with low retention and/or students’ satisfaction such as M250, TT284 and M269. The project will investigate the success of such diagnostic quizzes, measures of success to be used are :

  1. retention and progression of students to Level 3 or other Level 2 modules on the pathways;
  2. students perceptions of their preparedness for their Level 2;

More specific aims are to: 

  1. Investigate the success of using the diagnostic quizzes and their role in preparing students for their Level 2 modules.
  2. Establish if any correlation exists between levels of student engagement and attainment  with the modules at Level 2 and success in the diagnostic quizzes.
  3. Investigate if there is any gender discrepancy in the quiz results, are male or female students more likely to appear more or less prepared based on the quiz results.
  4. Does the level of apparent preparedness follow through to the final results and/or retention?

Investigating the perceived benefits to computing students of remote pair programming

Project leader(s): 
Janet Hughes and Ann Walshe
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

Aims

Our computing students learn how to program largely individually and remotely. As reviewed in (Mark Zarb & Janet Hughes (2015) Breaking the communication barrier: guidelines to aid communication within pair programming, Computer Science Education, 25:2,120-151, DOI: 10.1080/08993408.2015.1033125)   previous research indicates that pair programming can lead to improved quality of programming, enhance programming skills and increase self-confidence when programming.  We propose to investigate the benefits to our students of engaging in remote pair programming in their learning. Our investigation goes beyond academic learning to explore community and employability benefits, both of which are relevant to NSS amongst other measures of student satisfaction.

Addressing the aims

We are currently (summer 2019) conducting a pilot project funded in Scotland to investigate the employability, social and community benefits to our students of remote pair programming.  We are comparing which of three techniques of experiencing remote pair programming brings the most perceived benefits, (i) passive (watching video recordings of tutors who are pair programming), (ii) indirect participation (watching tutors pair programming live and interacting with them at the conclusion), and (iii) direct participation with an online partner.  This project involves two tutors and five volunteer TM112 19D students in Scotland.  The objective of the eSTEeM project is to explore how these techniques can accrue these benefits for our students.

Impact

Our eSTEeM project would investigate on a larger scale (the entire TM112 19J cohort) the community and employability benefits of the remote pair programming techniques that the pilot project identified to be worthy of further investigation.Those techniques and approaches found to be beneficial will be recommended for embedding in those modules that teach programming, including TM112 (Introduction to computing and information technology 2) and TM129 (Technologies in Practice) at level 1, and M250 (Object-oriented Java programming) and M269 (Algorithms, data structures and computability) at level 2.     

The impact could extend to other institutions that teach programming remotely, e.g. University of London (https://london.ac.uk/).

Outcomes

Our eSTEeM project is designed to identify recommendations for module teams to embed feasible and manageable approaches to pair programming in undergraduate and postgraduate modules.Positive outcomes relate to student satisfaction, student confidence and self-esteem, improved student employability and improved SEaM ratings for those modules.

Hughes, J. and Walshe, A. (2019) project poster (PDF)