22 Jun 2016

New projects on ODL and TNE students

sparqs has recently commenced two projects that will contribute to our understanding of how students are and can be engaged across two key aspects of educational diversity. One project will explore student engagement in online and distance learning (ODL) courses, and the other will look at the engagement of students in transnational education (TNE) environments.

Our ODL project has its roots in our 2015-16 university Annual Support Visits, when four universities – the University of the Highlands and Islands, the University of Aberdeen, The Robert Gordon University and the Open University in Scotland – all expressed strong interest in working with sparqs on this issue.

sparqs recently facilitated an initial meeting of staff and student reps from those four universities, hosted by The Robert Gordon University, which explored the opportunities and challenges presented by the engagement of ODL students. Early themes to emerge included the challenges of identity, community and obviously distance and technology; while recognising the opportunities that lay in ODL students’ often considerable skills and experiences, and the potential for related engagement approaches to benefit all students.

We are currently developing a proposed workplan based on the outcomes of that meeting, but this work will not be restricted to those four universities – or indeed just universities as a whole. There will be plenty opportunities for other institutions to participate in this project in the coming academic year, and expressions of interest are very welcome.

Meanwhile, sparqs has begun conversations around a second related, but distinct, area of work on transnational education (TNE). With an increasing number of Scotland’s universities delivering courses at overseas campuses – whether run by the university itself or through a local partner organisation – there is considerable scope to explore how students at such campuses are engaged in shaping their learning experiences.

We are undertaking initial desk-based research and speaking to experienced and interested practitioners around the sector, with a view to shortly developing a workplan to shape our activity in this area. Anyone keen to contribute or be involved is encouraged to get in touch.

Expressions of interest in either our ODL or TNE projects will be gladly received – please contact Simon Varwell, Development Consultant on 07815 938966 or simon.varwell@sparqs.ac.uk

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