MON: Simple Sense. An alternative approach to Online Tutorials (Peter Scott)
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13 January 2016
For new students beginning studies with the Open University, the range of information they are presented with can be bewildering. They are expected to develop new learning skills alongside the academic topic they are studying and for many, this will be their first exposure to academic work for many years. For these students, engagement with online activities can be challenging, there are many reasons that students fail to complete modules (Simpson, 2013), bit one key issue is difficulty in managing time between learning and the demands made on them in day to day life.
I have noted that attendance at Online tutorials on the module TU100 is relatively poor, on occasions no students turn up. I canvassed opinion within my own tutor group regarding why students chose not to attend these sessions. Typical responses to a straw poll I carried out have been: “I haven’t used it yet, solely because of not having time” (Roddis, A., 2015), “I attend … depending on my work” (Paez, J., 2016). There have been examples of technical problems with access: “I am concerned as I have unfortunately missed the online tutorial … I am in the room and there is no-one else there” (Iqbal, A., 2016). These difficulties in engagement with the OULive sessions mean the students are missing out on important academic materials and also missing out on an important online interaction with other students. Willging and Johnson(2009) cite isolation and lack of interaction as a contributory factor towards dropout from distance learning courses.
The theme of my project is Implementation and I have chosen to approach provision of an alternative for students who cannot or do not attend Online tutorial sessions. My project seeks to both address the isolation and lack of interaction and to offer both an alternative to those unable to attend and also additional resources for those who are able to take part but for who more information or opportunities to interact are desired. The project centres on the creation of a short course to be delivered via Moodle which is approached by students in the form of a Mini MOOC. Computer programs are all based on the same operations regardless of the language used, and understanding these operations and how they sit together is an authentic activity and this type of learning is best achieved in a participative environment (Sfard, 1988). The underlying pedagogy of the course is connectivist, effectively seeking to allow students to connect with each other to work on those aspects of programming they are having difficulties with.
My presentation will discuss
- The approach taken towards developing the course.
- The theory supporting the approach to the course.
- Difficulties encountered in the implementation.
- The response to the course from students
- The response to the course from fellow TU100 tutors.
- Next steps with the project.
I hope the findings will be of interest to fellow tutors, both in the STEM field and across other faculties.