The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
The project set out to better understand how learners in the Design and Innovation Qualification at the Open University progress in OpenStudio as they move through their qualification. OpenStudio is primarily a social learning space, in which students share their work, view others’ work and comment and engage in discussion around the work that has been shared.
The design of the OpenStudio at the OU has attempted to translate the design studio culture from a physical to a virtual space. In traditional design pedagogy, the studio model has been in place since the start of the 20th century (Webster, 2005). Problem-based learning is its signature pedagogy (Crowther, 2013). Research into design pedagogy in traditional design education shows how students develop from being novices to final year students, becoming more independent learners (Ashton & Durling, 2000), (Garner & Evans, 2012). However, little is known about how this is achieved at a distance (Jones, 2014).
The project builds on the premise that social learning is key to student success and progression in online learning (McAllister, Whiteford, Hill, Thomas, & Fitzgerald, 2006) (Hill, Song, & West, 2009). However, surprisingly little is understood about exactly which social behaviours and interactions support learners’ engagement and success in the OpenStudio. Our seminal work on social engagement in the OpenStudio (Lotz, Jones, & Holden, 2015) revealed that at level 1, there is a positive relation between viewing and commenting on the work of others and the student’s success.
To extend the validity of this finding onto further levels of study, to better understand the criteria for engagement throughout a qualification and construct a progression pathway for the Design and Innovation Qualification, the project team collected two sets of quantitative and qualitative data about engagement with the OpenStudio (work packages 1-4) and devised a OpenStudio STEM workshop to construct OpenStudio progression pathways (work package 5).
Work package 1 collected statistical data from OpenStudio usage of nearly 3000 students distributed over 5 presentations of U101, 2 presentations of T217, and 1 presentation of T317 between 2012 and 2014. Work package 2 devised a Consensual Assessment (CAT) of the quality of the work uploaded to OpenStudio by these students. Work package 3 collected qualitative data on the perceptions of OpenStudio by interviewing 11 qualification students. Work package 4 analysed the conversations around students’ uploads by some of the interviewed students qualitatively. Work package 5 was a workshop held to construct STEM OpenStudio progression pathways, which helped to devise a Design progression pathway.
The project team found valuable social engagement with OpenStudio in U101 at level 1, which did not extend to levels 2 and 3 of the qualification. Social engagement in OpenStudio at level 1 is linked to the gaining of confidence, skills development and student success, and unexpectedly, found that this is also true for students who adopt the more passive engagement approach of ‘lurking’. Engagement decreases at higher levels, which may be explained by a shift in studio culture (influenced by learning design, and activity design, student cohort and background) in these levels.
The findings have impact on efforts to improve the student experience across the qualification, including designing module specific inductions to OpenStudio, the redesign of modules and OpenStudio module activities in the qualification, and the implementation of the Student Advisory Website. A wider audience of STEM academics and LTI staff benefitted from the project findings in the workshop which took thinking beyond the implementation of OpenStudio in individual modules to think about progression strategies across a qualification. Finally, the project opened up new avenues for collaboration with external academics and bidding for external funding to investigate the design of social online learning environments in design and innovation.