Distance travelled: supporting women returning to STEM careers

Herman, Clem; Whitelegg, Liz; Kirkup, Gill and Chicot, Katie (2012). Distance travelled: supporting women returning to STEM careers. In: HEA STEM Annual Conference, 12-13 Apr 2012, London, UK.


This poster will illustrate how an innovative distance learning model has been used to support women returning to STEM after a career break and suggest ways that this might be taken forward into a wider STEM Employability agenda. Between 2005 and 2011 the Open University ran an online module to support women scientists, engineers and technologists returning after a career break. The background to the initiative was the UK government concerns about the large numbers of women with high level qualifications in SET subjects who did not return to the sector after taking time out. The course was aimed at those returning to all fields of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and has been studied by a total of nearly 1000 participants from across the UK and Ireland. The project has been innovative in delivery, in scope and in partnership and has used e-learning technologies to enhance social presence and networking between participants such as e-portfolios, online forums, virtual world environments and latterly collaborative wikis. Current ongoing evaluation (funded via the Open University’s eSTEeM programme) is looking at the long term impact and outcomes for participants and will be used to inform and shape new approaches to Employability and CPD within the STEM curriculum area.

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