Teaching and learning in OU

Day 2: Wednesday 16 June 2021, 11.10 – 12.15

  1. Testing and Learning Digital Assistants at the OU
  2. Open University Models: Towards Enhancing Inclusive, Equitable and Quality Higher Education in Kenya
  3. Are virtual visits an effective way of engaging learners?


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Testing and Learning Digital Assistants at the OU

Selina Griffin, Massimiliano Zattera and Serge Plata

Building on a proof of concept case involving the use of Alexa (and demonstrated at the 2020 CALRG) the Test and Learn team have a staged vision of what the future for digital assistants at the OU could look like. Beginning with a “planning and baselining” phase, this has been an enormous data exercise; analysing the above 8 million of call transcripts, texts, emails and webchats that the OU receives. By performing a deep analysis of this dataset we can as a first step along this roadmap, determine the kinds of questions that students and enquirers ask that are large enough in volume but are user-blind in that they don’t require the assistant to know who they are speaking to in order to provide the requested information. With this stage now completed there are huge possibilities for the OU to make the most of this technology to support enquirers, students and staff as part of a modern, digital university offering.
This session showcases some of the findings from the analysis work carried out and shows a road map of what we could explore in the future and our next steps for summer 2021.

Open University Models: Towards Enhancing Inclusive, Equitable and Quality Higher Education in Kenya

Denise Whitelock, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Cross, Andrew Law, Fereshte Goshtasbpour, Olivier Biard 

The Kenya Vision 2030 provides the blueprint of Kenya’s journey to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It aims to transform Kenya into an industrialising, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all citizens by 2030. A major support to the Kenyan government to deliver its commitment under SDG4 is establishing the National Open University of Kenya (NOUK) to ensure inclusive, equitable and quality higher education for all.
This presentation reports on the Open University’s work in progress (under the Skills for Prosperity Project) to co-develop a NOUK model Options Paper and a relevant roadmap for Kenya. It specifically discusses the type of challenges and problems a NOUK can address and outlines a range of Open University models that have successfully addressed the discussed challenges. The models include Open Entry Distance, Open Distance, Hybrid, Micro-credentials and Catalyst models. Additionally, the strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to each model will be briefly reviewed.

Are virtual visits an effective way of engaging learners?

David Conway, Christine Gardner and Janet Hughes

Off campus visits have wide ranging benefits to students including reinforcing and expanding upon taught learning (Streule and Craig, 2016), improved ability to relate theory to practice (Claiborne et al., 2020) and enhancement of motivation (Hutson et al., 2011).

Mature students often choose distance learning (DL) due to its potential to fit around life priorities such as caring responsibilities (Rasheed, 2020). However, the reasons mature students often choose DL also act as motivational constraints which could prevent them from participating in extra-curricular activities (Roosmaa and Saar, 2006).

Advances in technology mean it is now possible to design and implement virtual insight visits for students which produce many of the same benefits as traditional insight visits.

The aim of this project was to investigate if a live virtual visit to Bletchley Park Museum using interactive onscreen technology effectively engages students and enhance their experience.

Over 100 students participated in the virtual visit, many of whom were identified as being in the lowest 50% of the index of multiple deprivation. A small number of participants completed a survey asking their perceptions of the virtual visit. Over half stated that they would normally find it difficult to visit Bletchley Park. All said they would participate in future virtual visits and that they would like to visit Bletchley Park Museum in person.

Initial results indicate that students are engaged by the concept of virtual visits and that they can widen participation in extra-curricular activities. Furthermore, virtual visits may be an alternative promotional strategy for museums to increase visitor numbers.


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