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Improving and evaluating inclusivity in group project work for distance-learning engineering students

This project is about improving inclusivity for distance-learning group projects. The specific context is T229 (due for first presentation in 2020J) which is developing a group project to run during the last four weeks of part three of the module. However, the scholarship project aims to add to the wider knowledge base on inclusivity in distance-learning group projects.

The first part of the proposed eSTEeM project (April 2020 – August 2020) will use a group of students and an AL to review the developed group project, pre-presentation, in order to specifically consider and predict barriers to different student profiles. The second part of the project (June 2021- August 2021) will evaluate the project, following the first presentation, for a cross-section of students.

Part 1 of this Esteem project will simulate the group project with a team of student participants, supported by an AL. Working through the group project together, their reflection and feedback will be used to highlight specific barriers and problem areas for different student groups.

Part 2 of the project will use a survey and a small number of telephone interviews with students who have just completed the project as part of the first presentation of T229 to analyse how the group project was experienced from different student perspectives. The analysis of this information will be compared with the output from Part 1, and results from both parts of the project triangulated to develop a guideline (or set of principles) for inclusive distance learning group projects.

The outputs may also feed in to advice to the ALs supporting the group projects, and potentially to adaptations to the project for future presentations.  This thereby offers potential for student participation in the ongoing design of the course materials.

The project applies and builds on the recent report by Anne-Marie Gallen, Inclusive group work for module designers, and draws on insights from a recent OU MRes thesis on students’ anxiety (Hilliard, 2017).