The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
At the Open University (OU) we are still learning about the best way to support our apprentice learners in their academic study. Degree Apprentices are learners in full time employment with study funded through the apprenticeship levy and other government sources. Apprentices in undergraduate programmes in the school of Computing and Communications at the Open University study 90 credits a year in England and Wales and 120 credits a year in Scotland. They are provided with 20% of their paid time to study, about 1 working day a week. Many students use this time, during the working day as their main study time.
There were three research activities, in November 2020 a survey issued to 2/3rds of the apprentices registered on two qualifications (R24 – Digital and Technology Solutions BSc, and R40 - Applied Software Engineering BSc), of which 25 responded. From these 25 responses 6 apprentices were invited for in depth interviews in March 2021. Lastly tutorial attendance of all 60 apprentices on TTXY284 starting in October 2020 were monitored and combined with feedback collected from the module tutor about the tutorials. The survey responses were analysed using thematic coding, the interviews via a case analysis, and tutorial attendance by descriptive statistics.
Five areas are identified where it may be possible to enhance student attendance and experience of tutorials. Improved communication of tutorial content could reduce student anxiety, and the focus on how to do better in assignments is a valuable draw. Communication is most effective when it comes from a student’s own tutor. In terms of scheduling, a wide range of days and times is recommended, and if face to face learning is offered there needs to be an online equivalent for those who are not able to travel. Tutorial experience can be improved by encouraging microphone usage, whiteboards, polls and confidence building activities. Tutorials should normally be recorded, and if possible be indexed and appropriately named including a description.