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Supporting students in online tuition from Access through the student journey

Within many STEM modules we have moved to an online platform for learning events, including tuition.  Whilst there are many benefits to online tuition by both tutors and students (such as remote access) anecdotal evidence suggests that STEM OU students do not actively participate in online tuition events to a degree which enhances their learning.  Furthermore, a study of OU students studying U213, (Price et al, 2007) suggested “that students would benefit from prior super-vised experience of an online tutoring environment.”

Therefore, are overarching question is: Do we build students’ confidence in online tuition? If not, might students’ confidence be enhanced through introducing students to online tuition at entry level? How can this be most effectively facilitated by the tutor?

We wish to evaluate the piloting of the introduction and support of students at the point of entry into the Open University.In particular, the high tutor-student contact model of one-to-one tuition used for Access can be used as a vehicle to introduce and support student’s understanding of online tuition. Using the STEM Access module (Y033) the project will assess and develop the skills and confidence of OU students in the online learning experience.

There are three aspects of the overarching question, which link to undergraduate qualification study:

  • Are students able to use synchronous online tuition and if not, how are students best supported?
  • Do students actively engage in tutorials? From eSTEeM project (Butler, Cook, Haley-Mirnar) students are usually passive recipients receiving information but not actually engaging.
  • Do students understand the purpose (and educational value) of synchronous online tuition?

By supporting students in engaging in synchronous online tuition, they will be comfortable with the technology and then recognise the educational benefit that online rooms bring. This may positively influence student participation and active engagement in Stage 1 STEM modules. The impact will be a richer learning experience for the student.  There is also an impact on the tutor and the way tuition is used and enhance the tutor-student relationship at Stage 1 STEM modules.

The overall outcomes for the project include:

  • Evidence for consideration of the mid-life review of Y033 regarding tuition
  • Impact on the tuition strategy within Access modules (Y033), level 1 STEM modules and leading to a hierarchical scaffolding for students within their student journey

These will affect students and/or increase knowledge by: 

  • Improved support for STEM students from entry (Y033) for online tuition
  • Improved confidence of students for Stage 1 STEM modules for online tuition, both the in the use of the technology and the awareness of the educational benefits
  • Improved attendance and participation of students for Stage 1 STEM module tuition
  • Improved tutor satisfaction for Stage 1 STEM module tuition.


Linda Price, John T. E. Richardson & Anne Jelfs (2007) Face ‐to‐face versus online tutoring support in distance education, Studies in Higher Education, 32:1, 1-20, DOI: 10.1080/03075070601004366

Related Resources: 
File Carlton Wood, Lynda Cook and Anactoria Clarke.pptx105.69 KB

Project presentation.