In the United States, remedial programmes are common at both colleges and universities (Hart & Speece, 1998; Roueche & Roueche, 1999). Bettinger & Long (2005) argue that the goal of remedial education is to provide underprepared students with necessary skills and knowledge to succeed at universities. In other words, remedial education aims to bridge gaps in domain knowledge (e.g. mathematics, economics) and skills (e.g. reading, writing) in order to establish a smooth transition in the next step of a student’s career. In the U.S., most institutes offer some form of remedial education and recent research indicates that more than 40% of traditional undergraduates participate in at least one remedial course (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Kozeracki, 2002). The benefits of remedial education in the U.S. are heavily debated yet recent findings indicate several positive effects of remedial education (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Bettinger & Long, 2005).
While remedial programmes are common in the U.S., there is less of a tradition of remedial education in Europe. Nonetheless, in the last couple of years several European higher educational institutes have started to offer remedial education programmes (Wieland et al., 2007). A main difference with the United States is the reason to offer these remedial programmes. In the U.S., a common assumption is that remediation attracts underprepared students of low socio-economic status (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; McCabe & Day, 1998). In contrast, in Europe a large part of the transitional problems are caused by differences among national secondary educational programmes (Van der Wende, 2003) which hamper foreign students to effectively start a bachelor or master programme.
Nine different pilots were implemented at the four different partner's institutes.
|University Maastricht||University Dundee||Šiaulių Universitetas||Fachhochschule Lübeck|
In constructing their evaluations each university was given a template to facilitate their construction. In this summary we will use these heading to identify the similarities and differences encountered by the partner in undertaking the pilots.
The Scottish Pilots (Dundee University)
The first programme described is a Masters in Education Course which can be used to give students, on completion, Chartered Teacher Status within the teaching profession. Although delivered by Dundee University, because it is aligned to the Chartered Teacher Programme (Scotland), it is also Professionally accredited by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (http://www.gtcs.org.uk/). It is one of a number of Masters courses offered by the School of Education, Community Education and Social Work and all these Masters articulated into a common Post Graduate Framework, with the possibility of students choosing other modules within the framework. Basically the course consists of two core modules, 2 optional modules and a dissertation as indicated in the more detailed description later.
The second Dundee programme is a Masters in Advanced Professional Studies, relevant to a range of professions. Both programmes are part of a suite of programmes under the School of Education Community Education and Social Work called the CPD Framework. The justification for having them all operating under the one suite is that modules can be interchangeable between programmes. All programme are delivered in blended learning format using collaborative peer learning processes.
The German Pilots (Lubeck University of Applied Sciences)
The two course piloted by Lubeck (Scientific Enquiry and Internet Literacy) are online distance learning used as remedial courses to better prepare students for working at the Master’s level. They use an ‘Individualised’ model of learning, rather than a collaborative one, although students can make use of discussion forums within the Virtual Learning Environment. The learning units are driven by a series of assignments incorporating remedial feedback loops with little need for teacher preparation. As such the demonstrate a possible model of teaching generic transferable skills prior to undertaking a Masters level course
The Dutch Pilots (Maastricht University)
Maastricht University piloted three courses (Online Economics and Online Course Governance and Political Science and Finance). All of these courses were on a totally online basis and utilise virtual ‘lecture rooms’, ‘study rooms’ and ‘café for small talk’. Although students can study at their own pace they are encouraged to engage in online discussions with their peers. Although they are not ‘pre-requisite’ courses necessary for the Master course, they are summatively assessed via a number of online assessments. Past evaluations (to be discussed later) indicate that there is a correlation between attainment in these assignments and the final Masters assessments. All three courses are sub-divided into a number of learning units, with each of these learning units being assessed separately. Normal duration of each course is 6 weeks and requires about 80 hours of student effort.
The Lithuanian Pilots (Siauliai University)
Siauliai University piloted a course entitled Intercultural Communication, which focussed of transferable skills necessary for students who are working in different cultures. This fits well with the overall theme of this Minerva project in that we should be encouraging to think about studying for a Masters on a Pan-European basis. Although these transferable skills could be considered as ‘Social’ in nature, the course was delivered online with the equivalent of face to face discussions taking place in discussion forums. The course was delivered over a 15 week period, and was sub-divided into 15 topics, each with its own assignment. The course helps the students acquire skills related to time management, career management, critical thinking, information literacy and team work, but, most importantly it helps them to further reflect on the significance of having learners from different cultures engaged in a common learning environment.
Comparing all four universities
As is evident from the summaries above the pilot courses investigated by the universities varied in size from 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks and full academic session in duration. Some focussed more on generic transferable skills, whilst others concentrated on knowledge and skills development specific to distinct cognate subject areas. What was common to all was a move towards a blended learning delivery model, with greater priority given to online course delivery systems and a move from face to face delivery. Paper based delivery systems is only mentioned within two of the pilots. Another commonality, in the majority of cases, was the utilisation of collaborative learning environments, utilising discussion forums. ‘chat’ rooms and commenting facilities with eportfolio system. This would indicate a definite move towards more ‘interactive’ learning and a move from ‘content’ based delivery to process based learning. This move toward more ‘internationally focussed’ online course delivery systems also indicated a need to further explore intercultural learning and this was particularly addressed by one of the partners.
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