The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
SDK100 Introduction to health sciences, an evidence-based approach (first presented in October 2015) is the Level 1 entry module for the Q71 BSc Health Sciences pathway. It was the first core module in Science to be delivered entirely online. To build engagement and motivation, the module incorporated a range of interactive resources including videos, animations, self-assessment quizzes, skills -related activities and virtual or home investigations. Student output from many of the skills activities and investigations is linked to the formative-thresholded TMAs.
The purpose of this eSTEeM project (in June/July 2018) was to evaluate how students view and use the interactive components. Students completed a questionnaire on how they are studying online materials, how much they value different types of interactive resources and virtual/home investigations, and some of the barriers which may be preventing them from fully engaging with these interactive aspects of the module.
The survey responses indicate that in the view of most students SDK100 has succeeded in achieving a good balance between written text and interactive components. The module study workload also appears to be appropriate. Students seem quite traditional in the sense that they most value and use interactive activities embedded in the module texts, such as videos, animations and self-assessment questions, as well as resources like end of topic quizzes and the glossary that help them understand, reinforce or retain new knowledge and understanding about a topic they are interested in. Activities that develop basic maths, writing and IT skills are less well used and felt to be less helpful. Some students see these skills activities as too basic, but comments suggest there is an awareness of the range of SDK100 student abilities and an acceptance that it is necessary to go at a pace appropriate for the least experienced. The skills activities can be quite time consuming and are most likely to be the components that are skipped if students are pressed for time. This may not be too much of a problem for more experienced students, but there were also some more worrying comments suggesting that there are students who do need the skills development but don’t engage in these activities because they don’t enjoy them. This emphasises the importance of continuing to embed key development skills in topic-relevant and ‘authentic’ activities and assessment to ensure as much engagement as possible.