The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Student retention and continuation are key drivers for this project. These are both focus areas for the university at all levels of study and have particular significance on level 1 modules. High levels of retention can be hard to achieve at level 1, as for many students this is their first experience of distance learning or study with the OU. They are also arriving with a broad range of previous experience and very different lengths of time away from formal study. This is evident on MST124 (Essential Mathematics 1), a large level 1 module that provides maths tuition to students on a broad range of qualifications, both within and outside Mathematics and Statistics. As a result, it attracts students from a particularly diverse range of educational backgrounds who benefit from a broad variety of available support.
The tutor group system offers a high level of support for students, and for many students this is sufficient for them to successfully complete their level 1 modules. For some students however, increased support may help them continue with their studies and achieve a successful completion.
The aim of this project is to provide an increased level of support to students who have concerns about their ability to successfully complete the module. Some associate lecturers who teach on the module have volunteered to be personal tutors for the duration of the 23B presentation. As personal tutors, they will offer support to students from outside their tutor group, and ideally outside their cluster. This support will not be academic in nature but will focus more broadly on the student’s study. Some examples may be that the personal tutor will discuss study skills, or help students navigate university systems. They will also be able to help students with accessing additional support where needed. For students who are new to the OU, this can be a difficult process so a dedicated source of support may make it easier for them to get the appropriate accommodations.
This proposal will allow us to broaden the scope of the project to future presentations, with the potential to provide an appropriate level of personal tutor support to students on the J presentations.
This eSTEeM proposal will also allow us to thoroughly review and evaluate the project, using the methods outlined in the sections below. A full evaluation of this pilot will enable us to both adapt it as needed for future presentations but also to promote the use of personal tutors more widely, both on other level 1 modules and more broadly within mathematics and statistics.
A key part of this project includes the dissemination of the project, both during the project and also after the review stage. Our intention is to present the work at conferences, both internal and external to the OU, to ensure it reaches a wide audience and has the potential for impact across a range of departments and faculties.