I submitted the following proposal to eSTEeM:
Many OU courses suffer from poor retention. Folk wisdom is that exams and the end-of-module assessment represent a significant hurdle to students, who appear to be deterred by perceived difficulty and do not submit. On the other hand, CMAs and particularly iCMAs are typically attempted by most students.
Can retention therefore be improved by offering part of the end of module assessment in the form of an iCMA?
The specific context to be explored is T184 Robotics and the meaning of life, a 10-point 10-week course with currently a mid-course iCMA and a final written EMA. From 2011E the final assessment will be take the form of a further iCMA (corresponding to short-answer questions in earlier ECAs) and reduced written EMA (retaining programming and essay questions). Students will obtain detailed feedback on their iCMA after cut-off, rather than the anodyne performance profile currently provided three months later.
The hypothesis to be tested is that this change will result in improved engagement and confidence, feeding through to improved retention and progression measures.
Measures to be looked at:
• standard OU stats on submission, retention and progression (for comparison with pre-intervention presentations);
• online attitudinal survey;
• follow-up email contact (structured questions) with non-completing students.
Another course, TM190 The story of maths, is making the same change to its end of course assessment while other companion courses in the Relevant Knowledge programme (eg T183, T189) are not changing assessment. This provides points of comparison for completion measures although it is not planned to survey students on these other courses.
This has been put into the category of ‘interesting and may be worth following up’; will see what transpires.
The intervention is going ahead regardless, so the issue really is how best to evaluate it to capitalise on the opportunity. Unfortunately I missed the chance to survey previous presentations (ie before intervention) and a combination of low numbers and already very good retention/progress may make it difficult to spot any effect. Suggestions for how to proceed welcomed!