The Open University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 7586-7592
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.0356
Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain
The subject of this paper is the evaluation of a novel reusable pedagogy adopted on a part-time Masters in Computing offered by the Open University (OU), UK, one of Europe’s largest distance education universities. Our pedagogical imperative was to develop a professionally relevant Masters that married a deep understanding of discipline specific knowledge with a broad set of skills for application across disciplines to enhance our graduates’ employability and career progression.
This work will be of particular relevance to educators involved in open and flexible learning, particularly for a professionally oriented audience, and for programmes delivered through instrumented online learning platforms.

The pedagogy:
The pedagogy, developed by the first and second authors recognises the value added for both the practitioner/student and their organisation in locating their studies in their rich professional context, with teaching mechanisms based on the experience of the application of theory in satisfying the student’s needs within that rich context. The pedagogy combines situated learning on contextual problems, with assessment that allows a student to exercise their knowledge and demonstrate their skills on meaningful tasks in their own context of practice; and reflection thereon. We also provide research skills and opportunities to conduct and share their own independent enquiries into topics relevant to the module and their profession and/or at the leading edge of the subject, but not necessarily addressed within the module.

The evaluation:
Our Masters degree was launched in 2013; with hundreds of students per year, a wide range of data have been collected since for evaluation purposes. In our evaluation, we were interested in effects of the novel pedagogy on the development of relevant transferable professional and research skills. We looked at traditional key performance indicators as well as qualitative evidence, and for comparison selected other modules on the programme which do not use the same pedagogy.

Findings and conclusions:
Looking at individual modules, attainment data indicate no significance difference in mean values of relevant assessment scores between the modules under study and their comparators, while students satisfaction data indicate that the modules under study perform overall at least as well as their comparators. From qualitative feedback in student module surveys their learning makes a positive contribution towards their professional work and career prospects. For students that have completed the whole masters, those studying our modules appeared to perform better on the capstone project than students on the comparator Masters.

From a knowledge perspective our pedagogy appears to be no less effective than traditional pedagogy in delivering open and flexible Masters education which is relevant to professional practice, and has clear potential to improve our students’ employability and career outcomes. This is enhanced by the student delivering added value back to their organisation, making it particularly fit for application in degree apprenticeships.

From a methodological perspective, the combination of evaluation techniques developed and applied in this project can be seen as a first step towards a framework for pedagogical evaluation in the context of open and flexible distance education, which combines traditional quantitative analysis with novel, partially automated, qualitative analysis.
Pedagogical innovation, open flexible higher education, masters programme, professionally oriented courses.