The University launched a first ever Small Private Online Course (SPOC) in December 2017 to all provisionally accepted first year students for 2018. The course, entitled “At the Starting Line: Gearing up for Tertiary Education” is a fully online student preparation course that assists prospective students to develop of a range of skills for the demands of tertiary studies. The content of the course is focused on skills such as goal setting, time management, note taking, study skills and academic reading. Information also includes tips on how to prepare for university, administrative information of UP as well as the full scope of expenses students have to keep in mind when planning their university careers. The mode of delivery held other benefits for the students: the non-facilitated, stand-alone online course demonstrated to the new students that they will have to take full responsibility for their own learning at university, while the use of Blackboard OpenEducation as delivery platform prepared them for their use of clickUP.
Each of learning units was structured to contain an introductory video; information sites and sheets; a quiz; a practical activity and a review of the learning unit. The students had to complete the quiz, practical activity and rate the theme to receive a badge for that theme. Students could decide on the sequence in which to do the learning units.
The university invited all provisionally accepted first year students to participate over the holiday period (December 2017 – 31 January 2018). A total of 1 636 students enrolled in the module, of which 14.43% received the final badge (i.e. completed the whole course). This completion rate is higher than is usually expected from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). A total of 233 students completed the end of course survey. Feedback indicated that it was the first ever fully online course that 85.4% of the students completed. The majority (94%) agreed that they felt more prepared for their studies after completion of the course and that they plan to implement what they have learnt. General comments on the course ranged from students who thought they already knew most of the content, “I felt that it bored me and did not add value to my learning experience at all”, to others who indicated the course added value to their preparation for university: “Great preparation course”, “I enjoyed this course. it help me to start focusing again and help me improve myself and my study surroundings.”, “Thank you for the opportunity to learn and improve.”, “Overall it was a truly enriching experience. Thank you.”
Students who completed the course, and enrolled at UP for their degree, received recognition for their efforts and were exempted from parts of the 2018 UPO course that overlapped with the SPOC content. The University plans to send out the invitation to participate earlier in 2018 so that prospective students can use the information already during their preparations for their final Matric examinations.