Exploring how to use subject websites to support students throughout their study.
The original aim was to provide students with a virtual home - equivalent to being part of a department on a real campus - but being able to go off and explore other departments too.
The rationale for what was included in the sites was based on the knowledge that most students want a qualification, are interested in a career and want help choosing the order to study the individual course modules in. A prototype website was developed and students were asked to complete an online survey giving us feedback on what they liked, didn't like and what else they would like to see. The redeveloped sites were advertised to relevant students and staff and have attracted around 14,500 first time and 7,000 repeat visitors during 2008. PILS has also piloted the use of short articles on the website's noticeboard, written by associate lecturers on subject related topics that they think will interest students.
Online surveys were conducted in 2006 and 2007. Initial feedback has been very positive, suggesting that the sites enhance students' sense of identity with the University and with the subject area. Students say they value being able to find everything in one place and appreciate the wealth of information the sites contain. They also like the use of mixed media, online conferences, and the links to other OU sites and external sites relevant to the subject area.
Websites for students have now been developed by the social sciences and the arts and humanities subject areas. The molecular science subject website has now been expanded to cover the broader subject area of science.