Bridging the Distance: Enhancing the Success of Distance Learners


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A presentation given at 2011 EdMedia Conference.

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  • Approximately 250,000 students have studied by distance through Massey University. As a nation, New Zealand has the highest proportion of its universities in the world’s top 500 – showing the high quality of the university system. Number of PhDs, etc. We are recognized as New Zealand’s defining university and sought after throughout the world for our innovation and excellence in distance delivery.
  • Indeed the current funding model for HE is working against traditional distance learners as this recent newspaper clipping illustrates. There are currently serious questions being asked about the value and return on investment of distance education.
  • These days, with a name like Brown, I feel rather ‘hip’ with a middle name beginning with ‘e’. You could say putting the ‘e’ in learning comes naturally. On a more serious note, my reflections on e-learning are grounded in the saying that the light comes through the cracks .
  • Course choice Capacity Capability
  • Course Choice
  • Generally you need to ask: Who are the learners? Where will the learners study? What do I want them to learn? How will I need to engage with them? What resources will they have access to? What resources will I need to provide?
  • However, Stream can also be used to entrench 1960s style education on 21st century networks and the outcomes depend heavily on leadership and support for whole of system change.
  • Hopefully I’ve left enough time for questions.
  • Bridging the Distance: Enhancing the Success of Distance Learners

    1. 1. Bridging the Distance: Enhancing the Success of Distance Learners Mark Brown, et., al. Director, Teaching, Learning and Distance Education EdMedia Conference June, 2011
    2. 2. Palmerston North <ul><ul><li>Auckland </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wellington </li></ul></ul>Singapore International • Multi-campus (18,000 internal students) • Major distance education provider (17,000 students) • Approx 3500 international students • Top ranked major distance education provider in Australasia for research About Massey University
    3. 3. Bridging the Distance
    4. 4. Bridging the Distance <ul><li>Background context </li></ul><ul><li>Conceptual framework </li></ul><ul><li>Online tools and supports </li></ul>
    5. 5. 1. Background Context
    6. 6. In 2009… • almost 80% of all distance students are over 25 years of age 1. Background Context
    7. 7. In 2009… • approximately two-thirds of distance students are female 1. Background Context
    8. 8. “ A real education takes place on campus!” 1. Background Context
    9. 9. <ul><li>In 2010… </li></ul><ul><li>Publication of league tables: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>attrition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>completion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>progression </li></ul></ul> 1. Background Context
    10. 10. 1. Background Context
    11. 11. 2. Conceptual Framework
    12. 12. 2. Conceptual Framework <ul><li>• Moves away from “goulash” approach (Simpson </li></ul><ul><li>1997) to one that is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>cost effective, “on time” and “personalised” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- tailored for particular student groups/ cohorts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- focused </li></ul></ul><ul><li>• Based on review of the research literature and </li></ul><ul><li>best practice </li></ul><ul><li>• Has three main components… </li></ul>
    13. 13. Tertiary Intervention What do we do for failing students Secondary Intervention What do we do for at-risk students? Targeted/Selective Primary Intervention What do we do for specific groups of students? General/Primary Intervention What do we do for all students? Intervention Pyramid 2. Conceptual Framework Adapted from Wilson (2009)
    14. 14. Support and Intervention Framework INTERVENTIONS Student Lifecycle 2. Conceptual Framework
    15. 15. <ul><li>Appropriate course choice </li></ul><ul><li>Proactive personalised information/contact </li></ul><ul><li>Early identification of at risk </li></ul><ul><li>External support </li></ul><ul><li>Positive interactions with university </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledge of university systems, easy access to resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feel part of the university </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Academic confidence </li></ul><ul><li>Academic capacity </li></ul>2. Conceptual Framework Key success factors…
    16. 16. Intervention Plan 2. Conceptual Framework
    17. 17. 3. Online Tools and Supports
    18. 18. <ul><li>Focus on managing expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Content and tools to assist the student to make good choices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Distance learning and how it works </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considerations when choosing courses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Planning your study </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Services and resources </li></ul></ul>3. Online Tools and Supports Thinking About Study - ‘the website’
    19. 19. <ul><li>Self directed exercises </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Literacy/numeracy exercises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is distance learning for me? Quiz </li></ul></ul>3. Online Tools and Supports Thinking About Study - ‘Online preparation tools’
    20. 20. <ul><li>Thinking About Study - ‘Work/Study/Life Calculator’ </li></ul>3. Online Tools and Supports
    21. 21. Making Choices - ‘ Online course previews’ 3. Online Tools and Supports
    22. 22. First Few Weeks - ‘ Online orientation course’ 3. Online Tools and Supports
    23. 23. Progression - ‘Assignment Pre-reading Service’ 3. Online Tools and Supports
    24. 24. 3. Online Tools and Supports <ul><li>Low stakes, data driven engine </li></ul><ul><li>The system allows us to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>identify particular student groups and provide targeted assistance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>generate reports that identify individual students who might benefit from additional support </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>record actions taken by the University or the student in response to communications </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Offering students timely support: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- for all students, customising services/approaches to maximise likelihood of uptake </li></ul></ul>Progression – ‘Early intervention system’
    25. 25. Conclusion
    26. 26. Conclusion Improving retention rates in post-school education has become a focus for policy-makers and researchers throughout the western world. It remains to be seen what impact the ‘Bridging the Distance Project’ has on retention, progression and completion at Massey University.
    27. 27. Acting on usage data and student feedback… Conclusion • Total number of distance students accessing online orientation course • Total number of newly enrolled distance students accessing online orientation course
    28. 28. Conclusion In Your Own Words Research Project… • Student success audit • Learner stories – video diaries
    29. 29. “ A prudent question is one-half of wisdom . ” Francis Bacon Questions [email_address]