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Alan Cayless et al, Learning Logs in SXPS288. eSTEeM Final Report.pdf (951.9 kB)

Learning Logs in SXPS288 – Employability skills for remote experiments. eSTEeM Final Report

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posted on 2024-06-19, 12:46 authored by Alan Cayless, Arabella Nock, Stella Bradbury, Mark McJury

Within the physical sciences curriculum, employability and skills development elements are being incorporated into modules in order to address the Open University Employability Policy and also to address the employability and careers development requirements of Institute of Physics (IoP) accreditation for named degrees in the physical sciences.

First presented in 2019J, SXPS288 Remote experiments in physics and space is the mainstream experimental module at Level 2 on the physical sciences pathways. With employability elements including personal development planning (PDP) and skills development having previously been addressed at Level 1 in the modules S111 Questions in science and SM123 Physics and space, the 2019J rewrite of SXPS288 provided the opportunity to integrate employability by design into a module at Level 2. SXPS288 was the ideal module for this, being the first of the Level 2 physical sciences modules to receive a major rewrite at this time, and being based around practical, skills-based activities including experimental projects and groupwork. SXPS288 is also a required module on both the astronomy/planetary science and the physics pathways at Level 2, meaning that students on both strands would encounter the module during their studies, helping the degree pathways to meet the IoP accreditation criteria.

Skills development weeks were introduced to SXPS288, working in parallel with the experimental investigations. To enable students to document and reflect on their progress in developing these skills the module makes use of Learning Logs, which are a student-led tool based around familiar forum technology. These Learning Logs, which are personal to each student, had previously been used successfully on engineering modules, but SXPS288 was the first module to use them in the physical sciences. In each of the Skills Weeks there are activities and case studies relating to careers and employability. As part of these activities, students are encouraged to use the Learning Logs to document their skills development acquired both during the experimental work and in the Skills Weeks themselves. Reflective questions in the assessments (three TMAs and the final EMA) refer to these activities and require students to present and discuss evidence from the Learning Logs as part of the assessment.

The purpose of the present study was to assess the level of student engagement with the Learning Logs and to identify potential changes to increase participation and make the Logs and their associated exercises meaningful and relevant to all students including those without immediate career aspirations.

VLE and PowerBI analytics were used to quantify student interaction and student surveys to obtain both targeted and untargeted feedback. The analytics showed that the majority of students did engage with the Learning Logs to some extent, although a significant number interacted only marginally or not at all, indicating scope for improving participation. The concentration of Learning Log interactions in the assessment weeks indicates either that participation was largely assessment-driven or that students were making return visits to refer to previous Log entries in those weeks. Analysis of posts by category showed that the types of information recorded in the Learning Logs correlated strongly with the assessment questions again suggesting a link with assessment.

Responses to the survey questions included student requests for more guidance on the purpose and functionality of the Learning Logs and more instructions and examples of their use. Recommendations to this effect have been passed to the SXPS288 module team for possible inclusion in future presentations. Within the physical sciences, Learning Logs are currently only used on SXPS288 with other tools used on other modules. Tighter integration between the various personal development tools and more consistency across modules, should be considered.





  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Regional/National (Staff Tutors and Student Experience Managers)
  • Academic - Related

Institutional priority category

  • Employability and Career Progression


  • Employability

Subject discipline

  • Science

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