Centre for Scholarship and Innovation
Winner of the 4th eSTEeM Scholarship Projects of the Year Awards 2021 under the category - Enhancing the Student Experience.
An overall summary of our findings would be that:-
For OU STEM students the ideal package of study materials would be a combination of books and digital content, particularly digital quizzes and visual content such as videos, animations and recordings of lectures. Students also want the option to access the content of any books digitally, both online and offline.
1198 students on 3 different stage-2 (second year undergraduate) modules in Physics, Maths and Computing were asked to complete questionnaires around how they used the different learning resources on offer to study both their current modules and their stage-1 (first year undergraduate) modules. 225 students responded to the survey.
Key findings were that:-
b) Students who have previously studied an entirely digital module at stage-1 are less likely to find that any changes they need to make to study their stage-2 module causes them problems.
c) However, considering only students who have studied an entirely digital stage-1 module, now studying an entirely digital stage-2 module, their main concern was a desire for more books, showing that while previous experience of entirely digital study helps students with subsequent digital study, most students would still prefer to have access to books as well.
Further in-depth interviews were carried out with 12 students to explore some of these issues further. These highlighted that for STEM subjects, OU students:-
In addition, for some students, too much time spent looking at a screen does cause issues, but that is not the case for all students. This is not age related but seems to be particularly an issue for those who use a screen all day at work.
In summary, in the STEM faculty, module teams should be aware that students prefer a combination of books and digital resources to entirely digital resources, and this is not age related. Students would like more non-textual (audio-visual) digital resources, and more online quizzes. Qualification leads and module teams should be aware that students meeting an entirely digital module for the first time are likely to have problems adapting their study methods, particularly if this happens after stage-1. In addition, the impact on students from poorer backgrounds of entirely digital modules should be considered, since entirely digital modules seem to require at least two different digital devices for effective study, as well as a good broadband connection and access to a printer.