The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
This scholarship work took place to identify what Open University (OU) approved technologies (Adobe Connect and Microsoft Office 365 applications) are being used by Associate Lecturers (ALs) and explore how and why they are being used for teaching and learning. There are ALs who are not aware of Office 365 applications available to them whilst there are also pockets of innovation taking place within the AL community who are using applications innovatively, for example: using discussion forums to support practice learning; using Adobe Connect for active learning; and OneNote being used for students to keep lab notebooks or for those who just want to get better at organising ideas. The challenges and opportunities of using digital technologies for learning and the impact on the learner experience are not widely shared. Digital skills are not integrated into the day-to-day professional practice of all ALs, whatever their subject area.
A mixed methods approach was adopted with ten ALs (three in a pilot and seven in the main study) from the School of Computing and Communications completing a quantitative survey and taking part in a qualitative interview to follow up on the survey answers in more detail. The findings revealed that all ALs use Adobe Connect, as this is the only OU-supported application for running tutorials, however, not all ALs (30%) are aware of the full functionality, for example, using pods and layouts, breakout rooms, running polls, desktop sharing, whiteboard and drawing. Some ALs saw tutorials in Adobe Connect to be more ‘broadcast’ than ‘interactive’. 60% of the AL research participants did not use Adobe Connect or Office 365 tools as methods for cooperative learning or as a mechanism to motivate students. 50% of ALs advised they used technology to support students with additional needs, for example, using larger fonts in resources, using video conferencing for one-to-one support, making use of Adobe Connect functionality to provide multiple ways for students to communicate and participate, i.e. through text chat, audio and contributing to the white board. ALs reported that socialisation was primarily achieved through the use of forums and in tutorial discussions. Only 30% of ALs reported using Adobe Connect to support student reflection during tutorials. Some ALs make good use of live, interactive demonstrations where students can ‘work along’ during tutorials, for example, in a computer module, building a small program.