The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
Fieldwork is a fundamental part of the curriculum in undergraduate biological, environmental, Earth and geographical sciences, but not all students are able to participate in authentic field activities. The nature of online and distance learning means that students are more likely to find fieldwork problematic in terms of understanding the importance of such activities to their learning, having the confidence and self-motivation to participate (particularly the first time) and being able to make the time to travel to the site(s).
Undergraduate students studying S206 Environmental Science at the OU are given the chance to attend one or more of a series of non-compulsory field-days with a tutor as part of the tuition programme within the modules. However, as well as students who do not wish to attend, there are clearly some students who are unable to attend for a range of practical, social, confidence and motivational reasons. In 2016, we designed and delivered a series of interactive live fieldcasts to support students who could not attend the S206/SXF206 tutor-organised field-trips. Through the OU’s Stadium Live system, students used interactive widgets to make observations, generate hypotheses and design a field investigation, which was carried out and analysed live. Feedback from those who participated was very positive.
This project aims to carry out a detailed evaluation of the fieldcast approach in the context of the core tuition activity it seeks to support, namely tutor-organised trips. We aim to understand how fieldcasts can be used to support, enhance and widen access to authentic fieldwork experiences like the tutor-organised trips. We hope to use the knowledge we generate to improve our practice of live fieldcasting and better understand how this tool can be deployed in other contexts within the OU and beyond.