The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
A flexible start programme was introduced in July- September 2018 for the MU123 18J presentation. There was a high take up from students with just under 200 students participating, which was 43% of those offered a place, and this meant that the programme was full to capacity. Funding meant that the opportunity was only offered to those who registered early and were studying more than 30 credits in the academic year.
The flexible start programme was fully tutor supported with online tutorials and students allocated to named tutors in groups of 40. Materials were available online for the first five units and this included screencasts, computer simulations, the software for the module, student discussion forums and online tutorials and recordings of online tutorials.
Students answered questionnaires on their view of the flexible start programmes, and this included a “hindsight” survey around 3 months into their actual module study. Students were very appreciative of the Early Start opportunity and tutorials/tutor support were the most frequently flagged area the students asked us to keep unchanged. The most frequent request for change was to make the printed materials available.
The 18J project had an MSQ funding of £7,000 and MSQ funding for a 19J pilot of £7,000 has been agreed. To date there is minimal detectable difference in terms of retention for those who took part in the early start programme. This is in contrast with M140 and suggests that the choice of students offered an early start opportunity is critical.
This project was funded by the Open University More Students Qualifying (MSQ) initiatiave and relates to A Flexible Start to M140.