Reynolds, Cheryl, Wormald, Jane and Bailey, Wayne (2013) Vibrant and engaging online social learning: an innovative response to threatened part-time study in Higher Education. In: Enhancement and Innovation in Higher Education, 11-13 Jun 2013, Glasgow, Scotland. (Submitted)

Austerity measures and increased tuition fees place heightened pressures on universities to provide sustainable, cost effective, high quality provision. This paper analyses how a team of staff in a School of Education at a UK University are leading collaborative work with partner colleges, to deliver a model that ameliorates the financial pressures, whilst developing high quality student-centred engagement for part-time students. When face-to-face teaching sessions were significantly reduced, an online academic social network for tutors and students was introduced to encourage collaboration, peer support and ‘coffee room’ discussion. Feedback from participants through focus groups and surveys confirmed a social support network as important for engagement and was perceived as supporting achievement, even by those who were reluctant to join the network. Recommendations include: more time face-to-face at the beginning of the course, more online tutor presence and scaffolded activities to build confidence in using an academic social network.

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