ICDE Report: Student Success in Open, Distance and eLearning

The ICDE Student Success Working Group has recently released the results of a 2014 survey into best practices for encouraging and increasing student success rates in 53 open and distance institutions. The results are published in a final report together with an appendix of research findings.

The report provides a framework of practice to support student success:

  1. pre-study information, advice, guidance and admission
  2. curriculum or programme design for student success
  3. intervention at key points and response to student need
  4. assessment to support learning as well as to judge achievement
  5. individualised and personalised systems of support to students
  6. information and logistical systems that communicate between all relevant participants
  7. managing for student success

I will focus on the discussion on the aspects around learning support for students during their programme of study:

Curriculum or programme design for student success

  • Curriculum relevance is important (including the link to labour market trends).
  • Effective learning design supports a positive engagement between the learner and the programme of study.

Intervention at key points and response to student need

  • Stages: pre-study; in-course (early contact, first assignment, mid-module, progress check, exam preparation); and through qualification.
  • Interventions should be universal (when all students need support) and individual (when a student is not making progress).
  • Learning analytics has potential to support success but is not yet widely practiced.
  • Information collected should be used to improve the student experience (e.g. module design).


  • Frequent and shorter assessment tasks which support student engagement and diagnose learning at shorter intervals.

Personalised support

  • Responding to the learner as an individual (from tutor, counsellor etc).
  • Communication and support through online communication, social media, networks.
  • Individualised support costs increase with student numbers so requires budget planning.

Information and logistical systems

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) framework for integrating materials, assessment and learner support.
  • Learning Analytics – requires management of privacy and confidentiality issues and associated ethical and legal concerns.

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