Access, Retention and Course Choice in Online, Open and Distance Learning

Ormond Simpson
The Open University UK, The Open University in the East of England, Cambridge CB2 1PF
This paper was shortlisted for the 'Best paper award' at the
Third EDEN Research Workshop, Oldenburg, Germany, 2004


Course choice is an important part of the progression of transforming a potential student into a successful undergraduate. Yet the processes and materials of course choice have attracted little attention, it being assumed that the activity will involve an adviser discussing choices and directions with a potential students using course descriptions. Such discussions are expensive and there is evidence that potential students do not always take advice. In any case vulnerable students are often the least able to access guidance and tension between the recruitment and retention functions of course descriptions may make a course appear more accessible than it is.

This paper argues that course descriptions are inadequate to describe a course and that other materials are needed. These other materials are diagnostic, preview or 'taster' materials and students' views. Such materials have a vital role to play in ensuring that students get onto the right course for them thereby increasing their chances of retention. Courses will need such a 'set of competing perspectives' to describe them to any degree of accuracy.

There is also evidence that such materials have a demystifying effect on potential students' perception of courses, enhancing their self confidence in the possibility of their ultimate success.

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e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, MOOCs, ICT, information and communication technology, collaborative learning, internet, interaction, learning management system, LMS,

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