Last week I attended a focus group looking at the learner experience for the distance learner from point of induction onwards, I spent a lot of the time listening to the experiences of staff around the table dealing with learners different needs and thinking about how the learner experience can be made better during the curriculum design and development phase. A number of issues appeared to be linked to this area including providing materials for study (could be reading lists, amazon shopping lists, or posting resources) costing models for awards (including how study materials are costed into course costs, should they be fixed for period of study, how clear are costs communicated to learners, is this included in validation documentation?) and what online tools should be included to support distance learning - and getting the learners to understand what skills they will need when enrolling on a distance learning course. These last two points need to be considered at design stage, what is good practice (for example photos of staff online, managing expectations with online communication etc) to promote the relationship between tutor and learner. I will be keeping an eye on this work for Enable, and will be using its outputs to feed into any work we are doing.
It seems that once these focus groups are completed with staff there will be a number engaging learners after September, I have mentioned the workshop I participated in with JISC (mentioned in my last blog) and how that could be helpful with the learner experience, in particular the diary room approach could give a good idea of the learner experience changes in the time they spend studying with Staffordshire University.