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Within Oscail – DCU Distance Education, a pilot project was carried out that utilised a virtual
learning environment (Moodle) to create a space where students began their socialisation
into the distance education context a number of months before they were formally
inducted into their programmes. The aim of this project was to identify means to increase
retention and progression in first year, undergraduate distance education students by
introducing them, at as early a point as possible, to a socialisation programme made up of
elements described by the existing literature and research as positively impacting on the
first year experience. This pilot project had a number of goals: to create a student-focused
process; to create a positive impression of the institution; to reduce anxiety for new
students; to facilitate socialisation; to inform students of their rights/responsibilities;
introduce students to academic and organisational skills; and, most importantly, to support
students in their transition to distance education. Thirty-five students engaged with the
course, exploring its contents and interacting with each other and a dedicated tutor.
Qualitative data has been gathered from a number of students, who are now at the end of
their first year on two undergraduate courses. Data collection, using a written answer
booklet that participants complete, focused on the students’ experiences of the pre-
induction socialisation Moodle course as well as their first year experiences more generally.
The data is currently being analysed using Thematic Analysis. The results of this data
analysis will inform future iterations of the Pre-induction Socialisation Moodle course.