Student Success Toolbox for Flexible Learners: Supporting Transitions from Thinking About Study to the First Weeks

Partner Institutions

Project Lead: Dublin City University

Project Partners: National University of Ireland Maynooth, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Sligo Institute of Technology

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Abstract

The aim of  the Student Success Toolbox is to support transitions from thinking about study to the first weeks to increase retention and completion rates particularly for flexible learners (undergraduate adult, part-time and online/distance students) as this is a significant problem in the Irish Higher Education sector.

The project plans to achieve this aim by providing flexible learners with a suite of digital tools. These digital tools will assist flexible learners by helping them assess their own readiness, provide feedback and lay the foundation for successful programme completion. The digital tools will also assist teachers and institutions in providing personalised and strategically targeted feedback to potentially at risk students for learning in the digital world.

The Student Success Toolbox  project is supported by the National Forum for Teaching and Learning Building Digital Capacity fund. It is a collaborative project involving Dublin City University, Sligo Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and Dundalk Institute of Technology.

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Primary Contact(s)

James_Brunton_001Jamies Brunton

Dublin City University

Email: james.brunton@dcu.ie

Detailed Proposal

The focus of this project is on supporting students through key transitions from thinking about study through to the first few weeks.

There are five phases to this project. The first phase involves the project establishment such as formalising the project team and agreement on the format of the digital toolkit to be produced in Phase Three.

Phase Two involves an analysis of relevant literature and current digital readiness tools available internationally to support successful transitions during initial stages of the study lifecycle for flexible learners. The main deliverable of this phase is an analysis of the digital tools adopted internationally to enhance transitions to study.

Phase Three involves building on the above synthesis to develop a strategically targeted suite of research-informed digital readiness tools. While they will have wider application across the sector, the tools will focus on facilitating adult learners who are transitioning to part-time undergraduate study. The major deliverable from this phase will be the development of a toolbox of a minimum of eight digital tools that can be used and/or adapted by other institutions in the Irish Higher Education sector to support student success at this crucial period of the study lifecycle. The final selection, precise design and appropriateness of the digital readiness tools will be informed by Phase Two. Further details on the proposed digital tools are given below.

In Phase Four of the project, the digital tools will be implemented and evaluated across the partner institutions. In the light of this evaluation, the digital tools will be adapted/augmented to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Phase Five will produce a Digital Guide for Supporting Flexible Learners, which will provide guidance for institutions and discipline teams on how to effectively deploy the suite of digital tools. Another key deliverable of this phase is a series of three workshops delivered in different HE institutions on how to support transitions for flexible learners.

The deliverables from this project will have national significance, as it is widely acknowledged that there is a need for a … support tailored to more mature learners, [as] a student group with more diverse … needs than the traditional full-time student body of school-leavers (HEA 2012, p.16).

Finally, the project deliverables (including the digital tools) will be made available to the Irish HE sector via Creative Commons. Other third level institutions will be able to adapt and repurpose the digital tools to suit their own requirements

This project involves four Higher Education institutions (DCU, Maynooth University, Dundalk IT and IT Sligo) partnering to address the problem of effective transitions and the foundations for student success during the initial stages of the study lifecycle with a specific focus on flexible learners. This problem is to be addressed through the production of a toolbox of digital tools, along with an associated digital guide to utilisation of those tools, which any institution will be able to (re)purpose to deploy for use with their flexible learners.

Specific outputs of the project

There are five phases to this project:

  • The first phase involves the project establishment such as formalising the project team and agreement on the format of the digital toolkit to be produced in Phase Three.
  • Phase Two involves an analysis of relevant literature and current digital readiness tools available internationally to support successful transitions during initial stages of the study lifecycle for flexible learners. The main deliverable of this phase is an analysis of the digital tools adopted internationally to enhance transitions to study.
  • Phase Three involves building on the above synthesis to design and develop/curate a strategically targeted suite of research-informed digital readiness tools. While they will have wider application across the sector, the tools will focus on facilitating adult learners who are transitioning to part-time undergraduate study.
  • The major deliverable from this phase will be the design and development/curation of a toolbox of a minimum of eight digital tools that can be used and/or adapted by other institutions in the Irish Higher Education sector to support student success at this crucial period of the study lifecycle. The final selection, precise design and appropriateness of the digital readiness tools will be informed by Phase Two. Further details on the proposed digital tools are given below.
  • In Phase Four of the project, the digital tools will be piloted and evaluated across the partner institutions.In the light of this evaluation, the digital tools will be adapted/augmented to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
  • Phase Five will produce a Digital Guide for Supporting Flexible Learners, which will provide guidance for institutions and discipline teams on how to effectively deploy the suite of digital tools. Another key deliverable of this phase is a series of three workshops delivered in different HE institutions on how to support transitions for flexible learners. Project outcomes will be disseminated through these workshops, a publication(s) and a project webspace.

Output: Digital Guide and Project Dissemination (workshops, a
publication(s) and a project webspace)

Implementation plan for ensuring national impact of the project.

This project will:

  • Employ open-education principles through the use of a project wiki for dissemination of regular updates on the project
  • Make the digital tools and associated guidelines produced available to other institutions through a Creative Commons Licence
  • Disseminate knowledge generated through this project via a guidance tool, three national workshops to be delivered in different HE institutions, a publication(s) and a project webspace

Other third level institutions will be able to adapt and repurpose the digital tools to suit their own requirements

toolbox