The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Students on the IT/computing named degree have a compulsory project to complete at the end of their studies (TM470), yet for some this is a major challenge due to the independent nature of the research, with relatively little taught content in the module. Studies have shown that informal feedback, via additional tutor support, can help improve student retention (Sharp, Wray and Maxwell, 2020). Tutor support is of particular importance when regarding student retention in distance learning (Arhin and Ekow Laryea, 2020).
A TM470 early start pilot , with a small amount of funding, was first initiated for the 20B presentation, with funding 12 students (from a cohort of about 600) to make an early start on TM470. Potential candidates were shortlisted by selecting students who had registered for TM470 at least once before, had a break in study, who were not studying any other module, and only needed TM470 to complete their degree. They were all deemed capable of passing, but would probably struggle. All TM470 students have the opportunity to engage early with the module via a project preparation forum. These students were also allocated to a tutor for early start where students could explore early ideas and reflect on feedback before module start. In effect they could ‘hit the ground running’ when the module commenced.
The main aim is to improve the experience of students who participate in early start, to potentially improve retention among this cohort and thereby improve the overall completion/ pass rate for the module. There will be a comparison of pass rates , comparing those on the early start programme with those who were identified as candidates but either declined the opportunity or could not be offered the opportunity on the small-scale project. The pass rates will also be compared to the main cohort.
Arhin, V. and Laryea, J.E. (2020) Tutoring support as a predictor of student retention in distance learning: The case of a University in Ghana. Available online at: https://search.informit.org/doi/pdf/10.3316/informit.620291631811930 (Accessed 30 July 2021)
Sharp, E., Wray, R.J. and Maxwell, R. (2020).Improving student retention through enhanced academic and pastoral support: A Case Study. Available online at: http://journals.staffs.ac.uk/index.php/ipihe/article/view/196 (Accessed 30 July 2021)