Last year AMOSSHE member The University of Edinburgh undertook a project to investigate how a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Critical Thinking could be used as a pre-arrival resource to allow further education (FE) students to proactively prepare for transition into higher education (HE). The project was supported as part of AMOSSHE Insight, our commitment to a research agenda led by our members’ priorities.
The project team, led by Dawn Smith (Community Engagement Developer) and Abby Shovlin (Academic Induction Planner) from the university’s Student Experience Project, hoped that this pre-arrival learning experience would effectively bridge the gap between further and higher education learning, and help to minimise the rollercoaster of emotions that FE students experience on their transition journeys.
The course for transitioning further education students consisted of a MOOC accompanied by group work, peer learning, academic skills and presentations. This was designed and delivered by University of Edinburgh staff and students. The university students contributed to the course design and participated in the delivery of the course as Student Tutors.
The project team started with a literature review on the use of digital tools in community engagement and transitions to HE. Then they gathered detailed feedback about the transition course from both the FE and HE students involved.
The course was successful in that the FE students said it improved their confidence, critical thinking and presentation skills, and that they would recommend the course to their peers. The involvement of current university students in the course helped to build community engagement and ease transitioning students’ anxieties.
Some of the project team’s recommendations from undertaking the project include:
- Six weeks (with weekly classes of two hours) should be the minimum timeframe for pre-arrival MOOC courses like this.
- The blend of online and offline elements was popular with, and of benefit to, both FE and HE student cohorts.
- Posting to online discussion topic forums should be made compulsory and introduced as an induction activity in order to ensure that both student cohorts benefit from the peer learning opportunities that these facilities offer.
- Any technical challenges should be dealt with in the induction session to prevent them from continuing into future weeks of the project.
Read the full project research, findings and recommendations here: AMOSSHE Insight: MOOCs in the community: a blended learning approach to FE to HE transitions.