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

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

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

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)

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