Like all fellow Scottish higher education institutions, The Open University in Scotland engages in Enhancement Themes activity: three-year, national programmes overseen by QAA Scotland (the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) which cover an aspect of teaching and learning.
Enhancement Themes aim to improve the learning experience of students studying within the Scottish higher education sector.
The Themes “…encourage institutions, staff and students to work together to develop new ideas and models for innovation in learning and teaching. Each Theme also allows the sector to share and learn from current and innovative national and international practice.”
The current Theme, ‘Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience’ focusses on the use of data and evidence to enhance the student experience and covers topics that range from learning analytics to what kinds of evidence can be used or collected to inform assessment.
The Open University in Scotland is using the Theme work to support engagement with practice and evidence in all its forms to support the success of our students.
Data users for enhancement – we worked with colleagues at the OU in Scotland to identify good practice in using data to enhance the student experience.
Examples, produced in a series of postcards and posters, ranged from using data to improve recruitment of students with Higher National Certificates and Diploma qualifications from college, to analysing demand for modules and subject areas on our Young Applicants in School Scheme curriculum.
For example, Andrew Potter (right) from our Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, uses data to support OU maths tutors and their students.
Sense of belonging – as part of a collaborative project we produced a short online course, Developing a Sense of Belonging in Online Distance Learning, intended to be used as a toolkit for tutors and course teams interested in developing a sense of belonging for students engaged in online distance learning.
It contains practical suggestions for online tutors, opportunities to learn from others, a tool to help with evaluating and reflecting on Sense of Belonging and a short summary of relevant literature.
The toolkit was created by a project team comprising: the University of Dundee, Edinburgh Napier University, The Open University in Scotland, Queen Margaret University and the University of the Highland and Islands. QAA Scotland provided funding for the work as part of their Enhancement Theme Collaborative Cluster programme.
Students using learning analytics - the Open University Students Association led a Student Forum on learning analytics in autumn 2019. They produced a report detailing recommendations for improving knowledge and awareness of how the OU in Scotland uses data to enhance the learning experience.
It is apparent from the feedback that the students left with a better understanding of how their information is used, who has access to their personal data, and the potential for analytics to offer enhanced support. A copy of the report is available on request.
The previous Enhancement Theme was Student Transitions (2014-17). An overview of our work on this Theme can be found here.
Developing and Supporting the Curriculum was the Enhancement Theme for 2011-14.
Our research doesn't just benefit The OU in Scotland but has impact on learning and teaching across Scotland.