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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM

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2.1 The impact of SoTL: A case study

In the following case study, you will note how a SoTL project based in a statistics module influenced the strategies for ‘early support’ to students in other modules in the Faculty of STEM at The Open University and also in a module in another faculty.

Case study: A flexible start on a statistics module

In the Faculty of STEM at The Open University (OU), on the module M140 Introducing statistics [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , students were offered the opportunity of a flexible online tutor-supported early start, about three months in advance of the usual module start. A special website for the programme was built and this brought together a subset of the actual module materials. A SoTL project, ‘A flexible start to M140’, that investigated the effectiveness of this early start programme, found that student retention on the module improved. On the module MU123 Discovering mathematics, a subsequent SoTL inquiry (MU123 Early Start) yielded similar outcomes in terms of student retention.

Inspired by this success and based on the ethos of M140, other modules in the Faculty of STEM at the OU have provided early start and transition materials to support students ahead of the actual module start date. The S282 Astronomy module ran a programme called Headstart until it’s last presentation in 2019, which provided students with online access to a subset of the module materials, online tutorials, and tutor support through a forum. Another module, S294 Cell biology also provides early start and transition materials including an ‘Are you ready?’ diagnostic quiz for students to check their preparedness for the module. More recently, the module K118 Perspectives in health and social care in the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies has set up an early start programme based on the outcomes of the M140 SoTL project.

The aim of initiatives that have built on the M140 SoTL project has been to improve student retention by providing students with opportunities to engage with their studies prior to module start, and to build their confidence and possibly time management.

If you are interested in knowing more about this project, the details are available at: A Flexible Start to M140.

Activity 6 Enabling early start

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

In this 6 minutes 50 seconds video, Carol Calvert, who led the eSTEeM-funded SoTL project on M140 in OU’s Faculty of STEM, discusses this case study, student experiences, and the positive student outcomes.

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Video 4 A flexible start to M140
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While you watch this video, make notes of whether an early start initiative in your academic practice will help and how you would go about setting it up. Alternatively, you may like to reflect on Carol’s project and how it influenced student learning and engagement.

If you are interested in knowing more about Carol’s project, the details are available at: A Flexible Start to M140.

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In the next section, you will learn about the impact of SoTL on the SoTL practitioner, how to evaluate for impact, how to plan your SoTL inquiry with impact in mind, the strategies for generating impact while working on a SoTL inquiry and the agenda for SoTL’s impact in HE.