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Online journal clubs in distance higher education: an opportunity to develop skills and community?

Project leader(s): 
Fiona Moorman and Karen New
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Archived
  • Anecdotal and informal evidence from Associate Lecturers (AL) suggests that some staff in first-line line contact with students, find that many students lack confidence/skills associated with digital and information literacy and have low confidence in an online environment. Furthermore, evidence from scholarship projects and internal quality control processes indicate that student attendance in online tutorials is decreasing and, where students attend, there is a reluctance to fully participate.  This, coupled with the fact that face to face tutorials are diminishing and concerns that ALs are increasingly adopting a didactic approach to their online tutorials, may result in fewer opportunities for rich peer-peer online interaction, increased sense of isolation and lower student satisfaction.  This project aimed to provide student online journal clubs (OJC) to attempt to develop online / digital skills, build online confidence and develop an academic community.
  • We created a dedicated OJC platform, accessible to students and colleagues across the University to serve as a ‘one-stop shop’ to support skill development and preparation for clubs, which included an online room for OJC events and a space for development of an OJC community. OJC events were flexible and were run in a variety of ways, e.g. intra-module, -level, -qualification and cross-disciplinary. Clubs were ‘facilitated’ rather than ‘run’ by ALs and had a student-centred, informal and supportive ethos. Participation was optional and events were not recorded or assessed. Thirty-four students prepared and delivered a presentation during OJC events. Survey feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive; students enjoyed the friendly and supportive environment, felt that their presentation skills and online confidence had improved and valued the opportunity for peer-peer interaction and a sense of community. 
  • Key findings from our focus group for our AL facilitators indicated that their teaching was positively impacted by the OJC experience resulting in their tuition becoming more facilitative with a student-centred approach, rather than a top-down, tutor-led approach.  We tentatively suggest that OJC may offer the opportunity for ALs to enhance their own academic currency and deepen connections with other ALs as part of an academic community.
  • Overall, we propose OJC as a vehicle to develop core competencies, including critical evaluation, communication and collaboration, for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.  The student-led approach of OJC may empower both Associate Lecturers and students and offers a mechanism for increasing student ownership for their learning within the context of a rich online academic community. Furthermore, participation may motivate and encourage transition to further modules, thereby aiding retention. Communication and critical thinking skills are highly rated by employers and through development of transferable professional skills, OJC may also enhance student employability.

Related resources

Moorman, F. and New, K. (2020) Online journal clubs in distance higher education: an opportunity to develop skills and community? eSTEeM Final Report (PDF)

Fiona Moorman and Karen New presentation (PPT)

Scholarship Series - Fiona and Karen discuss their eSTEeM project which aimed to provide student online journal clubs (OJC) to attempt to develop online/digital skills, build online confidence and develop an academic community.

Video length: 16 mins 49 secs

OJC Starter Resources

Online Journal Club (OJC) is a novel, transformative experience for students, offering the potential to create community among different groups of students while developing their online confidence and skills. Over the past two years, Karen and I have enjoyed running various models of OJC for different cohorts of students. We would like to open the experience out to a wider audience, so have created these OJC starter resources for colleagues interested in setting up OJC.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any queries or would just like to discuss your plans for OJC.

Fi (fiona.moorman@open.ac.uk) and Karen (k.j.new@open.ac.uk)

1. OJC process (Word)

2. Facilitator guide (Word)

3. Advertising (Word)

4. OJC participant communication (Word)

5. OJC skills and resources flowchart (PDF)

6. Facilitators OJC slides (PPT)

7. Optional template for use in OJC (PPT)