Supporting New Students and Developing Communities
A small team (led by Prof Patsy Cullen, Trustee, and comprising Gareth Dent (OCA CEO), Jane Horton (Director of Curriculum), John Umney (OCASA preseident), and Carol Smith (OCASA rep – student voice)), reviewed all available data to create a set of manageable interventions that will improve the student experience:
Our focus was providing community support, with emphasis on helping new students get started:
- Most students drop out during their first course, with many not even reaching the first assignment: Different up-front information, tweaks to course structure and earlier support will allow more students to successfully complete their courses.
- Many of you said you found distance learning isolating, but also found it hard to get going with connecting in the forums: Community support can make all the difference.
- Students returning to study, or studying at degree level for the first time have many questions that they don’t feel they can ask their tutor, but still need support with: Lowering the barrier to asking questions will help students get started faster and better.
Based on this the team made a proposal to the board that has just been approved. The interventions will include:
- Two new HQ bases Specialist Course Support Advisors. These advisors will be available to students to discuss course materials and what it means to study at degree level. They will also help to establish communities and get students into the habit of sharing work and discussing ideas:
- They will create student pseudo-cohorts, such that new joiners will be able to meet each other and the course support advisor via google hang-outs.
- They will also set up regular Crit sessions delivered by Google Hangout: so that any student can sign up and take part, or watch/ listen later to learn from their student colleagues.
The role is under development, and will be piloted first with Visual Arts and Photography.
We should see the first Specialist Course Support Advisor in September 2014.
- The structure of the level 1 courses will shift slightly to put the first assignment right up front (instead of after a series of projects and exercises). This has already been done on the Vis Comms course with good results, and will be rolled-out to other courses: it allows tutors and students to get connected quickly, and for the tutor to better guide the student.
- Explanatory videos at the beginning of each course will help students to get started, and special videos on the public site will allow prospective students to better understand what degree level study is about before they begin.
We are delighted that these proposals have been approved, and look forward to the positive impact they will have on the student experience and the development of our OCA community.