The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
In every presentation of S111, there has been a percentage of students who remain registered until the end of the module but have had limited or even no engagement with the module content and assessment. In some cases, they may have never logged on to the VLE at all despite attempts from ALs and the SST in contacting these students. As S111 has a single component assessment strategy, these students are included in the final statistics for the module, resulting in a higher proportion of ‘fails’. Although this trend is recognised and reluctantly accepted, it is not necessarily understood what the reasons or triggers might be. Previous studies have indicated that PEQ, self-confidence, preparedness and student expectations are key influencing factors on students’ motivation to engage when new to study (Humphreys et al., 2015).
Passive withdrawal is not a new or unique problem. It has been a challenge to previous L1 science modules (e.g., S104, the S111 precursor) and is a known issue across the OU. Indeed, in 2011, the Student Experience Advisory Group led a pilot project that conducted an online survey of passive withdrawers (SEAG, 2011). The response rate to the survey was poor at 2.5% (4%, n=3 students from S104) and the project was cancelled.
This problem of reaching passive withdrawers is notoriously difficult to resolve, with several previous studies attempting this in a variety of different ways (see below). Here, we combine the study of data, including demographics, VLE engagement and assessment data, with information about individual student contacts (from VOICE records, forum engagement, day school engagement and interviews) and insights from ALs of passive withdrawers. We are not attempting to reach students directly and will be retrospectively reviewing passive withdrawals once presentations have ended.
This project would like to gain a greater understanding of these students’ study behaviours, circumstances and motivations. These will be considered in the context of the module study calendar, learning events, and communications received from the University (including existing interventions).
This project feeds into the Access, Participation and Success Strategy. By understanding students’ engagement (or lack of), it is hoped to gain an insight into wider issues around student registration, induction and OU communications with students, as well as potentially any pinch points that could be remedied on S111 itself.