Live field broadcasts: Moving from optional additions to required assessment

Collins, Trevor; Cooke, Julia; Wheeler, Philip; Maseyk, Kadmiel and Robson, Julie (2018). Live field broadcasts: Moving from optional additions to required assessment. In: The 7th eSTEeM Annual Conference 2018 - STEM Futures: Delivering Excellence Through Scholarship, 25-26 Apr 2018, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.



Historically, the OU have developed the use of broadcast media to demonstrate and engage students in STEM practical work. Recently this involved the development of interactive web broadcasts, which display a live video in a web page alongside interactive widgets that collate and display students’ responses to questions set by the presenter. Developed during the 2014 presentation of the second level Practical Science module (S288-14B) the approach taken has been for the presenter(s) to prepare a set of decision points in their presentation, where they can adapt their presentation based on the students’ responses.
The resulting system developed in KMi is called Stadium Live. The administrator interface supports the creation of events, the selection and authoring of questions from a menu of widget types, and the presentation of student activity data (such as the number of students and their interactions). With capital support from HEFCE, a teaching lab has been set up at the OU and fitted with the audio-video equipment needed to support live broadcasting. This is used across a range of STEM undergraduate modules to introduce students to practical work, relating it to the concepts and processes covered in their module.
In the context of fieldwork specifically, second level Environmental Science (S206) students have participated in a one-week field investigation each May undertaken by three lecturers at an ecology field site on the OU campus. This involves two field broadcasts and one lab broadcast on three weekday evenings lasting around 30 minutes each. During the ‘fieldcasts’ students use the widgets to identify potential things to investigate; select the form of investigation, hypothesis, sampling method and analysis method; and decide the interpretation of the results. The aims of the fieldcast activity are to model the scientific method applied in the context of field investigations, to introduce students (and widen access) to practical fieldwork, and demonstrate the practical application of environmental science.
Through an eSTEeM project, student feedback has been gathered from the fieldcast events, module forums, OU student surveys, and student interviews. The majority of students participating in these events found the fieldcasts stimulating and informative, valuing the opportunities to work with their lecturers and peers. However, the synchronous nature of live events seems to be a challenge for many distance learning students. Across the two presentations, around 10 - 15% of the cohort attended the live fieldcasts with a similar number watching the event recordings.
To date, these events have been optional additions in existing modules. However, reviewing the findings from the eSTEeM project, the S206 module team have revised the assessment strategy for 2018, so that students must either participate in the fieldcasts or watch the recordings in order to complete one of the module assignments. In this presentation we will explore how the move from an optional addition to integral assessed work is affecting the production process and the anticipated student experience, from the robustness and accessibility of the technology used to the development of contingency plans and wet weather alternatives.

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