Student support has been at the core of the research interests of the practitioners and the organizations that provide distance learning services since the very beginning. Besides their individual needs and capabilities, distance learning students have specific common characteristics that are linked to the context in which they study, which differs from the traditional way of learning in an on-site campus. Therefore, Open Universities need to invest in student support constantly, to improve student experience, reduce the numbers of student retention and preserve their characteristic of "openness" to anyone who wish to study. In their previous study in academic support (Lionarakis et al., 2017), the researchers identified seven discrete categories of support for both newcomers and ongoing students at the Hellenic Open University. The practical outcome of the study was an open course (MOOC) open to all interested students through the learning management system of the Open University’s Educational Content, Methodology and Technology Laboratory. Based on the abovementioned findings, the current research aims to record the specific needs of the new students at the postgraduate program "Education and Technology in distance teaching and learning" (School of Humanities) and evaluate the role of the MOOC on their first steps of their studies. Students’ viewpoints have been gathered through especially designed focus groups and the tutors were also involved, giving their viewpoints, through individual interviews. The findings are useful to both course designers and tutors, to better understand their audience and design more direct and more effective ways to cover their needs.
Antonia Maria Chartofylaka, Hellenic Open University, Greece
Evangelia Manousou, Hellenic Open University, Greece
Ilias Mavroidis, Hellenic Open University, Greece
Ioannis Giossos, Hellenic Open University, Greece
Maria Koutsouba, Hellenic Open University, Greece