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Innovation in online student support

  • Project leader(s): Cath BrownSue Pawley
  • Theme: Supporting students
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Current
  • Dates: May 2023 to November 2024

Due to the increasing popularity of the Data Science degree, MST224 student numbers have increased significantly.  This has resulted in the employment of significant numbers of ALs, and we would like to use the resultant increase in tutorial time to offer innovative tutorials and enhanced student support within the module. We hope this will promote enhanced retention, success and satisfaction.  If the trials on MST224 are successful, this could be extended to other modules of comparable size, and elements used in modules with lower student numbers.

We plan to do this by the following two initiatives.

Differentiated tutorials

Student preferences in styles of tutorial vary; as reported by Butler et al1 whilst many showed a preference for “lecture-style” tutorials, there is also a demand for more active engagement and opportunities to work with others. Similarly, whilst some students prefer an almost exclusive assessment focus, others wish to see applications and context. Also anecdotally, some students are frustrated that the basics were not covered, whilst others complain if a tutorial omitted more demanding aspects.   By drawing together many recent eSTEeM tuition-themed projects, we aim to provide a program of tutorials which will vary in terms of differentiation, style and focus, and so increase student motivation and satisfaction and enhance student success through more targeted support.

Better preparation for remote examinations

The study by Warriner et al2 showed that OU students do not fully appreciate the need to revise for remote examinations, and also that student anxiety is reduced by the opportunity to practise.2

To address these issues, we propose to offer students the opportunity to sit an unseen mock examination replicating at least partially the circumstances of the actual examination, which will be fully marked by ALs.   Students will also receive specimen answers with commentary and be offered a dedicated feedback tutorial. In the longer term, students’ improved awareness of examination demands will promote more effective preparation in future modules, leading to improved degree outcomes.

The impact will be evaluated using appropriate data (e.g. attendance figures, comparisons in examination performance), questionnaires to students and tutors and student focus groups.

Module tuition and eSTEeM project cross over

Part of the work for this project will be funded through standard tuition delivery and module costs, however we would like to run this project under eSTEeM so we can fully analyse the benefits and issues of the initiatives, creating guidelines and suggestions around enhanced student support, feeding back to students and staff and disseminating results both internally and externally.  We would also need to fund some of the more experimental areas of the student support, e.g. mock exam marking and feedback, where some has been funded by tuition costs, but dependant on student uptake, more funding may be required. 

Butler, D., Cook, L., Haley-Mirnar, V., Halliwell, C. and MacBrayne, L. (2018), Achieving student centred facilitation in online synchronous tutorials, completed eSTEeM project, available online: Investigating factors which affect active student participation during tutorials in online rooms

Warriner, G, Whitehead B and Moorman, F. (2022) Can we reduce anxiety of students sitting online exams? Sharing best practice between SPS and LHCS, Online Seminar, 03/10/22 and current eSTEeM project Can we reduce anxiety of students sitting remote exams? Sharing best practice between SPS and LHCS 

Related Resources: 
File Cath-Brown-Sue-Pawley.pptx632.86 KB

Project poster.