The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Highly Commended at the 3rd eSTEeM Scholarship Projects of the Year Awards 2020 under the category – Enhancing the Student Experience.
There is significant evidence that incorporating active learning in STEM teaching programmes results in higher scores and pass rates than traditional lecturing (Freeman et al., 2014). Alongside this there is significant evidence, including anecdotal evidence from tutorial observations, that online tutorials have a tendency towards traditional lecturing (Anderson, 2003; Ng, 2007; Butler, 2019), which may have been exacerbated by the higher online attendance numbers we have seen at times during the introduction of Group Tuition Policy (GTP).
We investigated techniques for increasing active learning in online tutorials using Adobe Connect, by assessing the effectiveness of three specific interactive techniques in online maths tutorials: polling, asking academic questions (to be answered by microphone, in the chat box or on the board) and on-screen activities such as moving or matching objects on the board. We collected both quantitative and qualitative data, from recordings of 11 designated tutorials, student and tutor surveys following each of these tutorials, 9 in-depth student interviews and a tutor focus group.
Our results were encouraging with high student engagement in all types of activity, and students reporting that they found them both useful and enjoyable. Some differences were apparent between the different types of activity, with chat-box activities being less favoured. Lack of time and confidence were given as the main reasons for not participating, and perceived benefits of engaging included the ability to attempt similar questions and benchmarking against other students.
We also found that technological problems remain significant, and that the demands on tutors are high. Further AL staff development is necessary to encourage more wide-spread use of these tools for active learning in online tutorials in Adobe Connect; our results provide motivation and practical tips.