Lost in (social) space? - Testing the transition to learning online

Myers, Fran (2013). Lost in (social) space? - Testing the transition to learning online. In: Proceedings of The 2013 International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association Conference: Exploring Spaces for Learning.

URL: https://www.hetl.org/2013-orlando-conference/


The Open University Business School has taught large numbers of students using blended learning methodologies for many years. The social networking evolution and transformation of our lives online coupled with financial drivers to provide quality at scale has led a rush by HEIs, including the OU, to embrace emergent digital learning spheres. However, the question remains, does deliberate integration of online pedagogy impact on retention rates, and if so, how should the institution respond? Additionally, can these new technologies provide data on student behavior that can assist in the development of retention strategies? This is particularly relevant for those in the UK with the backdrop of changes to student funding regimes and the rise in competition from private providers. A retrospective study examined institutional interaction with the 2009/2010 entry-level cohort of 3,000 business studies students. Both quantitative and qualitative data has been utilized, using 54,000 online postings, as well as assignment and module results, personal profiling (including age, declared disability) and student record entries of interventions recorded by tutors and support staff. Results of this and other initiatives are enabling a current 2012/2013 study using the same parameters, but automating student tracking tools. Outputs from the 2009/2010 cohort have challenged institutional assumptions on how students make the transition from social media type interaction to a learning dialogue. A secondary benefit of this research is emerging in enabling the University to use technologies to monitor student behavior, highlighting early disengagement and allowing proactive intervention as part of its retention strategy.

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