Online support for students on a specific programme of study

August 9th, 2006

Aside from the ePortfolio project, my other main area of current activity is in thinking about supporting students on a programme of study. Working with the Personalised Integrated Learning Support (PILS) Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), I am managing a project which explores what online things should be made available to students studying, for example, a named degree like Psychology.

Courses -vs- Programmes


The OU is completely different to conventional UK universities in the way it presents courses as the main object of study. Have a look at the OU Courses and Qualifications and then at the equivalents at, say Southampton University, Bath University and Bristol University. Notice that the emphasis is on a programme of study or a study subject. What we consider to be a course is what most students at traditional institutions would consider a ‘module’. Yet again it’s all a question of semantics. However, we want to attract more students to the OU and therefore need to speak in familiar terms. From a support point of view, programmes are a great way of providing solid and meaningful study paths. Programme based support is as much about the points between courses/modules as the courses/modules themselves.

Making things less strange

Most prospective students will be familiar with studying a degree and the way the OU does things might seem a little alien to them. So The PILS team was setup to address this need. You can find out more on the PILS website.

Web-based support

Web based support is a big part of the PILS project and we’re developing up some pilots to see how we might go about supporting students on two selected programmes – Psychology and Molecular Science.

Who’s involved

Working with faculty representatives, PILS staff, colleagues from my own team and those from Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS), we hope to create some tangible web site prototypes that can feed into the work being carried out by Harriet Buckingham and her work for the Integrated online experience. Part of this work revolves around the next version of Student Home. We hope that rather than create yet another website for students to remember, we can add contextual and relevant information to a programme view of Student Home. Our ideas, including a student noticeboard are to be discussed in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) workshop tomorrow afternoon.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on anything related to online programme based support. I will try and keep our developments posted to this blog.

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One Response to “Online support for students on a specific programme of study”

  1. Pat Atkins

    Thanks for this Guy. It’s a really interesting way of trying to engage people in what we’re doing. I hope that other people read it and want to know more, in which case they can email me (PILS Centre Director) or Jo Beard (PILS Centre Manager) or Patrick Kelly, who knows everything there is to know about learning support, or Mel Wharton, our Centre Assistant who has just been testing out our learning support as a student at residential school!