T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

For discussions of the Open University's T214 Systems course.

Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Andrea on Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:25 pm

Trust you guys to focus on the negatives when we've had such great results! :roll:

However, I do have a dream of achieving 85% retention (no course at second level has ever exceeded this figure), so I'm also very interested in finding out why some people can't make it till the end.

By the way, as the average number of students on T214 is around the 300 mark, all the percentage figures are pretty robust. For example, I'm always amazed by how the average mark for each TMA is so steady over the years -- there really is a "bell curve" out there!

Of course, the OU has done innumerable surveys to find out why students miss out TMAs and/or drop out. The problem is always that some students that drop out don't usually respond to surveys.

From the feedback that we have got, the number one issue which repeatedly comes up is time. Quite a few people simply don't appreciate how much time part-time study takes. To bring home the point, I usually use this example: a full-time degree takes three years. If you consider full-time studying as being equivalent to full-time working, then there is an expectation that students put in at least 35 hours of study time a week. In my experience of teaching at conventional universities, that is in fact the amount of time a decent student would put into their studies. A part-time degree takes six years (i.e. 60 points a year) -- double the amount of time. So the amount of weekly study time one would expect is about 17.5 hours. However, the 'decision-makers' at the OU are a little bit more generous and recommend that we aim for 16 hours of study time a week i.e. that's two whole days of studying a week (if you're working full-time, that's your weekend totally gone, or two and a bit solid hours of studying every evening).

Unfortunately, this expectation of 16 hours of study time a week is very difficult to achieve in practice. To give you one clear example, one third of students this year didn't access the Block 2 component of the course website until just two weeks before the TMA submission date. In other words, in order to achieve the learning objectives, the students would need to cram 72 hours of studying in just two weeks! Of course, quite a few just can't cope, and therefore drop out, skip a TMA or two, or submit a half baked TMA.

The second significant reason for not submitting TMAs and/or dropping out is to do with unfortunate and unpredictable developments in a student's own life: problems with personal relationships; financial issues; health; work pressures etc. This is where part-time students are at a real disadvantage compared to full-time students at conventional universities. Full-time students are simply not exposed to such a variety of problems: many are young, have few responsibilities (work, family etc), and are able to postpone the financial pain by taking out study loans. When I took a tutoring role a couple of years ago, I've had students that were being beaten up by their partners, others that were having their home repossessed by the bank, others being unexpectedly sent to war etc etc. The OU has some support teams to help out, but in many cases there is very little we could do about these situations.

And now we come to the third reason where course team members and tutors can finally intervene -- this is when students are actually struggling with the course: how it's designed, its content, its assessment etc. After a couple of years, tutors become absolutely brilliant at identifying where the problematic areas are, so are often able to provide alternative 'routes'. And they have also become very clever at using a variety of communication tools for supporting students. A lot of tutors are now using Elluminate -- a pretty sophisticated audiovisual conferencing tool, and a range of other online tools, sometimes outside of the OU toolbox (Google tools are becoming increasingly popular). One tutor on T214 now uses podcasts to provide feedback within TMAs -- it's so nice to hear a human voice talking you through where you've done well and where you can improve within your assignment! Some course team members leave all the "fixing" to tutors, but personally, I love receiving feedback on my material and radically improving the study experience in time for the next presentation.

To note that all this is a general discussion about part-time study with the OU i.e. these are issues that students come across all courses, so these are not issues exclusively to do with T214. If anything, I think T214 is now doing much better than many OU courses :D
esse sequitur operari
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Neill on Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:30 pm

Andrea wrote:
Trust you guys to focus on the negatives when we've had such great results!

Because we genuinely want to help to make it better.
And you do not get better by looking at the good but rather at the bad.

The problem is always that some students that drop out don't usually respond to surveys

which is why I would ring them up.
With 300 students, 5% is 15.
Ring 3 a day and you have them all by the end of the week.
If someone rang me and explained that they had designed the course and really wanted to make it better, then I would take 5 minutes to explain why I left.
I am not talking about a questionnaire but a real person (who knows the course) ringing and listening to what is said.

Everything else you wrote is "general OU stuff" and you will not get to be the best by accepting the set backs every one else accepts.

tutors become absolutely brilliant at identifying where the problematic areas are,

but do they all actively contact the students and say "sorry you missed TMAxx, All is not lost. Try missing ... and ... which ... and ... Please give me a ring and we can talk this through"? or do they say "oh well!"
And yes I know they are badly paid but once again to be the best course you have to build up the best tutors.

Got to go to sport now but I am sure there will be more later - not because I am looking at the downside but looking for the way up. 75% is reachable from where you are now. 80% is just a lot more effort :-)

Neill
Neill Hogarth
Life is not a practice [www.hogarth.de]
T307-10
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Neill on Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:32 pm

Teiana wrote
clearly that's a sketch of a diagram rather than an actual one

and it is brilliant. Exactly what I was grasping for.
Thanks T

Can you get us these figures Andrea?
Neill Hogarth
Life is not a practice [www.hogarth.de]
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Karen on Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:05 am

Great retention rates and an interesting discussion.

Re people not submitting TMA01, in my group a couple of people dropped off the course after the first tutorial and I was seriously considering it, I remember being somewhat overwhelmed by the unfamiliar topics that lay ahead and thinking that I really wasn't cut out to do that type of course. I stuck with it because I had signed up so late the 21 day cancellation period covered the tutorial which I had hoped would make me feel better - it actually made me seriously concerned that I was in over my head, It was only the fact that it was the only course I could do over that time period that I didn't run away and I was too impatient to wait for the next set of courses. Because the course was on the business degree I had thought it would be associated with business - got a bit of shock. Obviously I continued and I am glad I did, but I can fully relate to people who get scared off before the first TMA, particularly if, like I could have done, they can opt out and get their money back.
B120 - 2007/8, T214 - 2008, BU130 - 2008/09, T306 - 2009, B203 - 2009/10, B201 - 2010, B301 - 2011
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Teiana on Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:53 am

there is something else, perhaps.

the last registration date for feb 2011 courses* seems to be dec 22nd.
My exam result (and probably the results of other people) won't be available until dec 17th.
That gives people who get their results on the 17th, probably less than 5 days to make a decision. That isn't long.
I could imagine some people will have different plans depending on their success or failure on certain courses.

For example, lets say 'Alex' (imaginary example person) signs for two courses to start february, one level 2 and one level 3. They are waiting for the result of another level 2.
They fail the original level 2, and decide to take the new level 2, and drop out of the level 3.
They pass the original level 2, with good results, and are confident to take the level 3, they drop out of the new level 2.
(if alex is able to wait til they've seen the material for both courses, and even perhaps met the tutors, it might swing the decision, because 'fail' for many people is about meeting expectations, not about a 'fail absolute'. What does someone do, for example, who needs a 2:1 for some postgrad plan, but only scrapes a 3rd in a course?)

Alternatively, Alex signs for two courses expecting to be able to comfortably manage both at once. They are shocked by their low exam result for the original level 2, and realise that taking both won't be feasible. They ditch the one that fits least with the subject matter, in order to concentrate, or they ditch the one that is most similar to the failed course, in order to try and change direction.

(* or 'module' as the OU are insisting we call them)
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Teiana on Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:57 am

sorry what i meant to conclude was, if you make a longer gap between result day and last chance to sign, maybe people would be better able to make the decision without panicking and signing up for stuff.
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Teiana on Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:32 am

in the open university website, there is a section called 'student services workspace'...

from time to time they run forums about things like study planning or 'start studying arts/humanities/etc'

they are weirdly sporadic, running at apparently random times of the year and only usually for 2 weeks to a month, then closing.

i can't fathom it out, because it looks to me as if the facility exists for there to be a permanent 'course choice advice forum' in this workspace. but they don't do it. i don't understand the whole 'closing' the forums and opening a new one thing.

i think, if student services ran a proper, continuous, permanent 'course choice' type forum, that would be useful, and could help retention rates. Obviously they would need to link to it from all the course registration pages to make sure everyone who signed for a course had access.

to me this doesn't look difficult, why don't they do it? or do they, and i'm missing something?
H.R.H. 8-)
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Andrea on Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:52 pm

Teiana wrote:to me this doesn't look difficult, why don't they do it? or do they, and i'm missing something?


Fear of change. That's it. That's what's stopping the OU from engaging students directly, especially those students who are willing to be critical. It took me a while to understand that. there is a critical mass of individuals that feel threatened by any change, and they actively suppress any avenue for both students and some academics from openly speaking their mind. I once explained to a prospective PhD student why it was taking so long to register them for PhD study and I describe some of the ridiculous regulations we have. I made the mistake of copying some administrators into my response. Instead of getting back to me with assurances of how they would fix the problem, I was officially reprimanded for "publicly damaging the OU brand". So, the take-home message was this: " never, ever encourage public discussions on how things can be fixed at the OU - shut up, keep a low profile, and you will be rewarded".

Luckily, things are changing very fast now. The OU can no longer control what is being said about it. External discussion forums, such as this one, are reducing the information asymmetry. So it has no choice but to fix things...... just like what we did with T214. T214 is a great course now mostly thanks to the massive pressure an external profile such as Systemsplace brings ;)
esse sequitur operari
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Karen on Thu Dec 09, 2010 11:44 pm

Do these high retention rates have no bearing on the decision to discontinue the course?
B120 - 2007/8, T214 - 2008, BU130 - 2008/09, T306 - 2009, B203 - 2009/10, B201 - 2010, B301 - 2011
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Re: T214 2010 presentation results -- amazing!!

Postby Neill on Fri Dec 10, 2010 12:05 pm

Hi Andrea!
On 2 Dec. I asked
Can you get us these figures Andrea?

I know you have a lot on but maybe this is something you could delegate.
I do not know if the OU has the chart as suggested by Teiana, but if they did I still think this would be a masive help in analysing who "drops out" where and therefore the start point for a discussion about how to stop it happening.
Neill
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