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Typical Support Seeking Behaviour of STEM Students, their Outcomes and Successes

Project leader(s): 
Paul Collier and Fiona Aiken
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The importance of personal, non-academic support of students especially in a distance learning environment is well documented in the literature. Main findings in an HEA report (Jacklin et al, 2007) were that the way that support is provided and organised is important and negative experiences result from delays in students receiving a response. Students indicated that it can be difficult to commence their studies and managing students' expectations versus the realities of life in Higher education can be a challenge at the start of a module. In the report recommendations it stated the importance of knowing who to contact, where to go and what support is available.  This is backed up further by Simpson, (Simpson, O., 2018) in chapter 3 he states that’ A good adviser will also use his or her experience and skill to help the student clarify and conceptualize the issue or problem, as well as challenging the student's perceptions when appropriate.’

Direct student contact occurs within Academic Services through a variety of mediums, covering a multitude of topics and at different points in time.  This project will investigate those interactions in terms of volume, nature and composition in order to understand the overall position of our dialogue with students.  To assist the focus of the work the investigation will be focused around the crucial 6 weeks to Final Enrolment Date through to the submission of the 1st TMA in a module.  With a baseline established the work can move into cutting the understanding by APS characteristics to see if they impact on the baselines.  It will be critical to understand the outcomes from this.  Given the wide nature of this work we may choose to focus on queries relating to STEM specific modules/qualifications.  This determination will need to be understood at the analysis stage so that we are not limiting the scope of our work to a narrower field.

Further, it is important to understand how these interactions impact upon the success the students have.  Success for each of the categories of interaction will mean something totally different based on the content and timing of the interaction.  This will need to be understood to ensure that we can measure the differences in outcome for students.

Based on the investigation we will develop a series of recommendations suggested to augment the directed interaction between the university and the student.  We will need to prioritise and pilot appropriate recommendations to clearly understand the impact.  Based on the impact assessment this can be rolled out more widely.

Based on research to date, at the Open University and further afield, there appears to have been limited work carried out to understand the nature of student interactions in this fashion.  This will be exacerbated by the support model at the Open University and contributes to limited evidence found in scholarship work relating to this to date.


Jacklin A., Robinson C., O’Meara L., and Harris A. (2007), Improving the experiences of disabled students in higher education, HEA report [online] available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/253525979_Improving_the_Experiences_of_Disabled_Students_in_Higher_Education (accessed 18/02/2021)

Simpson, O. (2018 ebook). Supporting Students in Online, Open and Distance Learning (2nd ed.). RoutledgeFalmer.[online] available at  https://doi-org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/10.4324/9780203417003 (accessed 18/02/2021)

Paul Collier and Fiona Aiken poster (PPT)

Theme: 

Understanding awarding gaps for disabled and black LHCS students at Level 1

Project leader(s): 
Carol Midgley and Jane Loughlin
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

The proportion of disabled and BAME students on an individual module presentation can be relatively low, so although awarding gaps are a persistent feature, they tend to be variable and difficult to analyse. It is clear that there is a consistent gap in retention between black/ white students and between disabled/ non-disabled students (particularly those with mental health issues, see data below) for the three large population 60-credit Level 1 modules that are compulsory in the qualifications supported by LHCS:

  • SDK100 - compulsory in Q71 Health Sciences (and hosted by LHCS)
  • S111 and S112 - both compulsory in Q64 Biology and Chemistry pathways, R58 Biology and R59 Chemistry (S111 is hosted by SPS and S112 by EEES)

What is proposed here is a detailed exploration of assessment scores, retention, and VLE engagement (as an indicator of passive withdrawals) for completed presentations of these modules, and of the intersection with demographic analytics data to help identify the main factors contributing to retention and awarding gaps for specific groups of disabled students and BAME students. The aim is to help improve our understanding of the student profiles and the timing in the modules where focussed/personal support could be most effective. This study will form the basis for a separate follow-up study to investigate the extent to which individual circumstances might impact on retention, which would likely involve student surveys and qualitative analysis of follow-up interviews or focus groups. In the longer term this improved understanding would feed into both L1 module and SST initiatives to help close awarding gaps for these groups of students.

Carol Midgley and Jane Loughlin poster (PPT)

Theme: 

Assessing the impact of skills development through formative assessment on student retention and success in S294

Project leader(s): 
Katja Rietdorf and Jane Loughlin
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current
Body: 

This project will investigate the impact on student performance and module results of engagement with specific question types in formative assessment and with resources designed to support skills development. Specifically, we will analyse if:

  • engaging with resources and accessing feedback affects student retention
  • students improve their ability to answer a certain type of question in successive TMAs …
  • … and if this affects the scores in the respective exam questions
  • accessing the training resources helps students with the respective questions in the exam
  • these results differ between students accessing their tutor feedback for their TMAs compared to those who do not access the feedback.

We will take a quantitative approach to analyse engagement with the formative assessment by scrutinising TMA submission rates and scores as well as individual question attempts and scores. We will also include the TMA04 and exam submission rates and scores in the analysis, and correlate all of those with data on student access of the various resources. These measures will be examined by qualification aim, study intensity and demographics including ethnicity and disability.

If our hypothesis that students who engage with the formative assessment, with AL feedback, and with the training resources provided have a higher retention, pass rate and a better module result, and, more specifically, demonstrate improved skills development, the results can be used to inform students how engaging with the formative assessment can be beneficial for their results. It will also help to evaluate the effectiveness of our resources, which, if effective, could be used in other modules.

This project could inform the design of a follow-up project to gather data on student perceptions of their skills development and the value of feedback on formative assessment opportunities, through real-time surveys of S294 students as they engage with the formative assessment and skills resources.

Katja Rietdorf and Jane Loughlin poster (PPT)

Theme: 

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