2 Aug 2018

Launch of sparqs’ online distance learning guidance

In June 2018 sparqs launched its new resource on Engaging Students in Online Distance Learning (ODL). It is a culmination of around two years’ work with a number of Scottish universities interested in ODL engagement, plus one institution in Dublin with whom we have worked as a result of our consultancy with Ireland’s National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP).

The resource aims to provide guidance, toolkits and case studies of effective practice to assist institutions to engage students who primarily study through online means at a distance from their campus of delivery.

The challenges facing institutions and students’ associations in engaging ODL students range include how in-class discussions operate in a course delivered entirely through a virtual learning environment (VLE), how formal processes such as committee meetings and reviews can include the perspectives of ODL students, and how the role of course rep can be effectively defined and supported in such a context. These questions and more have shaped sparqs’ work in the development of this resource, resulting in a document that sets out guidance in two key chapters on engagement in formal institutional structures and on the shaping of learning and teaching.

We are grateful to staff and student officers from the participating institutions: the Open University in Scotland, Robert Gordon University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Dundee University, and Hibernia College in Dublin.

sparqs is now promoting this resource and equipping institutions, including those who contributed to its development, in how to use it to enhance the engagement of their ODL students. One example of this is a session introducing the resource at a recent two-day workshop run by UHI’s Learning and Teaching Academy on creating online communities.

You can read more about our ODL project – and our related work on a forthcoming resource on engagement of students in transnational education (TNE) on our webpage on engaging ODL and TNE students. The ODL resource itself is in our Resource Library.

Should you have any questions about the resource or would like to discuss how it can be used, please contact Simon Varwell, Development Consultant, on simon.varwell@sparqs.ac.uk or 07815 938966.

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