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SDK125 Student Intentions and Retention Study

  • Project leader(s): Basiro Davey
  • Theme: Supporting students
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Archived
  • Dates: July 2013 to July 2014

SDK125 registrations have increased from <400 students in 2007 to a combined total of >2,000 in dual presentations in 2012/13, but in the last two years, retention has inexplicably fallen from previous sustained levels around the Science average rate. The main period for drop-out appears to be before the first TMA cut-off date, with another dip before TMA02 and again just before the exam. Feedback from ALs to a recent questionnaire on the fate of their 2012J groups suggests that engagement with F2F and online tutorials has also fallen. There is a general view that current students are attempting too many OU modules concurrently and dropping out when they can’t keep pace with the workload.

A further consideration comes from Saroj Datta’s (Faculty of Science) comparison of demographic data on SDK125 students in 2011J, 2012J and 2013B. She identified a clear shift towards younger students who are new to the OU, with lower previous educational qualifications and from lower socioeconomic groups, who are registered for at least two concurrent modules. This shift is likely to be driven by the Q-world funding regime so we can expect it to be sustained in future.

This project aims to obtain and evaluate quantitative and qualitative data from the 2013J cohort of SDK125 students to gain insights into what support strategies have worked for students who study the module successfully and to illuminate the reasons for dropping out of those who fail to progress.

The overall intended outcomes are to inform strategies for:

  • helping student support teams guide students towards appropriate module choices and
  • enabling the module team to ‘design in’ improved pedagogic approaches to teaching difficult concepts and a tuition strategy that maximises retention and progression for the students we are currently losing.

This is particularly important given that SDK125 will be replaced in 2015J by a 60-credit module (SDK100) addressing similar curriculum areas and skills development, but with greater emphasis on virtual scientific experimentation and scientific literacy.

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