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Proactive support for students to make the transition from print material to online study

Project leader(s): 
Martina Gibbons, Elaine McPherson and Anactoria Clarke
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current

The Science, technology and maths Access module, Y033, is designed to help students who are new to higher education or who are returning to education following a break, to develop the key skills necessary for successful university study.  The module introduces a range of STEM subjects and prepares students for a wide range of qualifications at Level 1.  As part of its remit to prepare students for further study it also provides a gentle introduction to computing and to online learning.

On Y033, the delivery of the first two blocks of materials is based around core printed texts (with only a small unit in Block 1 being online), but Block 3 is delivered entirely online.  While the move is designed to prepare students to work on other online modules at level 1, e.g. S141 (and upcoming new modules such as S111), anecdotal feedback from ALs and open comments in module SEAM returns from students, suggest that many dislike the online component and find the transition to online learning difficult. 

As there are an increasing number of modules across the University being delivered online, students are potentially being placed at a disadvantage if they are not adequately prepared for this mode of study. On the science module and qualification forums there are numerous comments from students who dislike learning online and who are struggling to work out how to study online, when all their previous educational experience involves print-based learning. Students on these forums are supporting each other in an ad-hoc way and module teams are also trying to support these students. However, resources offering appropriate support are few (in comparison to those designed to support study of print) and it is still unclear what is the most effective way to support the move to online learning.

While the University has provided some basic resources to guide and support students with online learning material [http://www2.open.ac.uk/students/help/topic/computing/category/study-skills-for-online-learning and also resources developed by CICP], this material itself is online and not necessarily the most appropriate mode of delivery for those at an early stage in their learning journey.

This project will focus on:

  • improving student retention when they move from print to online module material, including use of proactive support by ALs
  • improving students’ confidence in computing and study using online materials
  • improving student study habits to prepare them for future online study

Outcomes of this work would include information on what provides the best support for students when they first encounter online material.  Working closely with ALs who tutor on Y033 and also on Level 1 STEM subjects will help broaden our understanding of how to deliver this support most effectively.  It may identify additional issues which affect retention and progression of students, not just at Access level, but at level 1 or any level where online material is the main mode of module delivery. It should complement the work being undertaken in the eSTEeM project ‘Students’ study of online modules’ related to level 2 online Science modules.

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