Online and Distance Learning
Kicking off in Spring 2016, sparqs is in the early stages of developing a project that will explore the engagement of online and distance learning (ODL) students.
At our 2015 round of Annual Support Visits, four universities – the University of Aberdeen, The Robert Gordon University, the University of the Highlands and Islands, and the Open University in Scotland - highlighted this issue as a key priority and something they would be keen to work on with sparqs.
So in May 2016, sparqs facilitated a day-long workshop with around twenty staff and student officers from those four universities to explore an initial outline of this project. The workshop, hosted by The Robert Gordon University, looked at the challenges and opportunities in engaging online and distance learning students in conversations about the quality of their learning experience, and identified some potential areas for mapping, research and development of materials.
More details about the project will appear on this page and in our news articles in due course, and it is intended that there will be significant opportunities for other institutions to contribute to and benefit from the work of the project.
In Spring 2016 sparqs is also commencing a related, but distinct, project relating to the engagement of students in transnational education (TNE). An increasing feature of the work of Scotland’s universities, TNE involves students studying through Scottish universities at overseas campuses which are managed either directly by a Scottish university or through a locally-based partner organisation.
Transnational education presents many challenges for universities, students’ associations and of course for staff and students at TNE campuses, ranging from the administrative to the cultural, and this is reflected in the complexity of ensuring students play a key role in shaping decisions about the learning experience.
sparqs intends, throughout 2016-17, to learn from those involved in managing or delivering transnational education and from those studying or representing students on such courses.
The early phase of the project involves desk-based research, plus a meeting with staff and students from five interested universities. This has allowed for the identification of broad themes and questions that is informing the development of what is likely to be a toolkit for universities and students' associations.
If you would like to be involved in either of the above projects, please contact Simon Varwell.