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Educational technology and passive withdrawers - Jan Jones


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Based on a recent project for L185: English for Academic Purposes in which a series of telephone interviews were conducted, Jan Jones (IET) reports on the experience of passive withdrawers’ use of educational technologies, most of whom did not have English as a first language.

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Educational technology and passive withdrawers - Jan Jones

  1. 1. Technology and passive withdrawers Wide Open Symposium 1/11/11 Jan Jones, Learning & Teaching Development IET
  2. 2. Background <ul><li>Part of a project to explore retention on L185: English for Academic Purposes Online </li></ul><ul><li>To obtain a rich picture of the reasons why students ‘passively withdraw’ from L185 </li></ul><ul><li>Passive withdrawers are students who had submitted no more than two TMAs </li></ul><ul><li>New and/or BME students were targeted </li></ul>
  3. 3. Methodology <ul><li>Passive withdrawers identified by the team </li></ul><ul><li>Email invitation sent to sample available at </li></ul><ul><li>the end of Block 5 </li></ul><ul><li>Special attention was paid to the language </li></ul><ul><li>used in the invitation </li></ul><ul><li>Semi-structured telephone discussions (x9) </li></ul><ul><li>Discussions were recorded and transcribed </li></ul>
  4. 4. Passive withdrawer interviewees <ul><li>7 were from BME backgrounds </li></ul><ul><li>6 were EAL students </li></ul><ul><li>4 males and 5 females </li></ul><ul><li>Age range 29 to 54 </li></ul><ul><li>6 new and 3 continuing OU students </li></ul><ul><li>5 had submitted 0 TMAs, 4 had submitted 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Previous qualifications varied widely </li></ul>
  5. 5. Expectations of an online module <ul><li>3 withdrawers hadn’t realised that the module </li></ul><ul><li>was ‘entirely online’ </li></ul>I didn’t realise that L185 was entirely online, so I wasn’t prepared for it. I have done an entirely online course with LearnDirect, but that was different. With LearnDirect when you returned to the website, it took you straight back to where you left off. It was a lot easier….
  6. 6. Preparation for an online module The advice was that you need to be used to computers and my answer is ‘yes, I am used to computers, I do emails, I can write using word processing and I do spreadsheets and everything, but not something like that….the description was okay but it was the delivery of the materials. Using a computer in this way is different from how I usually use it. Maybe in the description it could say a bit more about what you have to do. It’s not the materials; it’s the technical aspects that were difficult for me.
  7. 7. Navigation With this course if the computer crashed or you couldn’t remember where you were, then you have to log back in again and you have to go through it page by page to find out where you were. My computer crashed several times. You have to remember what unit, what block, what page number and all on that. I don’t believe the course is easily accessible. That is the main problem I had. I need someone to show me. I found it difficult to follow the course online. It’s very hard to find your way around. It would be a lot easier if it took you back to the page where you last started when you log back in. I was surprised that was not the case. It was very annoying.
  8. 8. Accessing the online tutorials I’ve not been able to get to the online tutorials because they are at a certain time when I wasn’t available. The teacher did try to explain to me how to get there, but it didn’t sink in. I still don’t know how I can get to the online tutorials, where to click…. I spoke to my tutor once or twice and had a few emails with her. But I would like to have been shown how to get there. I still need some face-to-face tuition.
  9. 9. Using the online tools <ul><li>78% students use a laptop all/most of the time </li></ul><ul><li>73% found the module website easy to use </li></ul><ul><li>73% said Elluminate is easy to install </li></ul><ul><li>85% students said the drag and drop activities </li></ul><ul><li>were easy to use </li></ul><ul><li>71% were confident in using all the </li></ul><ul><li>technologies required for the assignments in </li></ul><ul><li>L185 so far (i.e. at the end of Block 5) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Accessibility and online study <ul><li>Some students with disabilities struggle to </li></ul><ul><li>study ‘entirely online’ materials. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, those who have a vision- </li></ul><ul><li>Impairment and those with arthritic </li></ul><ul><li>or joint mobility problems that affect the </li></ul><ul><li>wrists </li></ul>
  11. 11. Help and support in using technology <ul><li>I was very concerned so I went twice to the office in Camden </li></ul><ul><li>but no-one could explain me anything. I am sorry to have to </li></ul><ul><li>say this. Then I spoke to my tutor….she was very nice, but she </li></ul><ul><li>thinks that other sections of the University have to resolve my </li></ul><ul><li>computer problems. She told me to ring the Computer Helpdesk. It’s hard for someone to explain it on the phone. If I could talk </li></ul><ul><li>to someone who could show me how to go through it step by </li></ul><ul><li>step then maybe I could do it…..It is complicated to switch from </li></ul><ul><li>the course materials the online… </li></ul>
  12. 12. Digital literacy <ul><li>These findings suggest there is a difference </li></ul><ul><li>between level of confidence in using a </li></ul><ul><li>computer and using the technologies that </li></ul><ul><li>are embedded in an entirely online module: </li></ul><ul><li>e.g. Elluminate and online audio recording </li></ul><ul><li>tools, electronic TMA submission and </li></ul><ul><li>complex navigation </li></ul>
  13. 13. Studying online v printed materials <ul><li>I prefer a book because I can read beyond a given topic to get more knowledge. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Studying online and widening participation – is there a conflict? <ul><li>The Learning & Teaching focus area means improving </li></ul><ul><li>pedagogy and reducing costs </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding and improving the student learning </li></ul><ul><li>experience in this context suggests that some </li></ul><ul><li>print-based materials and some face to face tuition </li></ul><ul><li>should be available </li></ul><ul><li>Should L185 be a ‘key introductory’ Level 1 module </li></ul><ul><li>given its role in improving writing and literacy skills? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Positive trends in the survey results <ul><li>87% satisfied with the teaching materials (60%) </li></ul><ul><li>82% satisfied with their study experience (73%) </li></ul><ul><li>84% were enjoying the module (69%) </li></ul><ul><li>81% would recommend this module (75%) </li></ul><ul><li>82% the module is meeting its learning </li></ul><ul><li>outcomes (78%) </li></ul><ul><li>96% satisfied with the tutor support provided (86%) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Widening participation in an online context – what can we do? Offer IT support through volunteer ‘module champions’ or peer mentors Offer some face-to-face tuition or a podcast to show how the technologies work 1 2 3 Ask tutors to be more pro-active in contacting WP students
  17. 17. References <ul><li>Cull, B.W. (2011) Reading Revolutions: Online digital text and implications for reading in </li></ul><ul><li>academe, First Monday , Volume 16, Number 6. Online at: </li></ul><ul><li>Goodfellow, R. & Reedy, K (2010) Learn about Digital Literacy (EPD Guide) </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Jary, D. & Jones, R. Widening Participation: Overview and Commentary, HEA. </li></ul><ul><li>Jones, J. & Kirkup, G. (2010) Report on Widening participation case studies for FELS </li></ul><ul><li>language programmes </li></ul><ul><li>Jones, J. & Kirkup, G. (2010) The Experience of Widening Participation students on FELS </li></ul><ul><li>Foundation Course 2009-2010: </li></ul><ul><li>Watson, D. (2006) How to think about widening participation in UK higher education, </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion paper for HEFCE. </li></ul><ul><li> Jan Jones, </li></ul><ul><li> Learning and Teaching Development, IET </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>