An embedded approach to learning to learn online: strategies to increase student retention through developing subject-based competence
MacKeogh, Kay and Lorenzi, Francesca (2006) An embedded approach to learning to learn online: strategies to increase student retention through developing subject-based competence. In: EADTU Annual Conference 2006, 20-24 November 2006, Tallinn.
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Increasing student retention on elearning courses is a matter of great concern to providers. One of the strategies employed by Oscail – the National Distance Education Centre has been to address the preparedness of students to learn online, and ways in which student expectations can be ascertained and managed (see Lorenzi & Mac Keogh, 2006; Stevenson, Mac Keogh & Sander, 2006; Mac Keogh and Lorenzi, 2005; Lorenzi, Mac Keogh and Fox, 2004). Oscail’s SPEL programme is a preparatory course for students intending to enrol on an undergraduate BA programme and represents the ‘embedded’ approach (Wingate, 2006) to developing skills for learning. However, on tracking the performance of students transferring to specific subject programmes, it has become evident that a generic, once-off, elearning study skills programme is insufficient to prepare students for learning within a disciplinary culture. Even students who have successfully completed the SPEL module drop out when faced with the obstacle presented by the first subject-based assignment. As students discover, each discipline has its own unique method of enquiry, discourse and language, and reference system, which is often implicit rather than explicitly stated. This paper will review the outcomes of the generic SPEL programme in terms of progression and retention. It will then outline the way in which the SPEL approach has been embedded in the foundation modules in arts and social science subjects, where students are introduced to the subject, while being led through a series of online tasks designed to develop the skills necessary to succeed in mastering the subject.
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