The decline appears to be continuing and the graduation rate for 2001-2 entry students is now apparently down to around 14%. Figure 3 gives a clearer picture of the trend.
Figure 3 OU final graduation rates by year of student entry
There may be many reasons for this apparent steady decline. Certainly the earlier OU graduation rates reflected the pent-up demand from well-qualified students (mostly teachers) well-motivated to gain a degree qualification. But that does not really apply to entry after the early eighties since when the previous entry qualifications of students have remained more or less constant. Whatever the complexity of the reasons for this drop, it does not appear that the increasing introduction of e-teaching from the late 1990’s has been particularly successful in increasing student success.
The search term ‘Face to face teaching in distance education’ produces nearly 4 million hits on Google. Related terms such as ‘Blended and distance teaching/learning’ produce a similar number although with some overlap. It is quite difficult therefore to make sense of this vast range of findings. This survey has therefore tended to focus on reports of ‘meta-surveys’ - which are essentially surveys of surveys - and has concentrated on a number of different aspects as below.
It appears much OU current research is going into e-teaching. There appears to be very little OU research focused specifically on face to face teaching. For example there are few mentions on the OU’s Open Research Online and the most recent mention on the IET Knowledge Network (which closes on 30 September 2014) is a review by Burt dated 1997, ‘Face to face with distance education’ but which came to the conclusion that more research was needed. Even where blended teaching is specifically addressed (Cameron et al KN 2003) the focus tends to be on other media - video, phone and correspondence rather an examination of specifically f2f contact.
The IET PLUM (‘Programme on learner use of media’) group was closed in 2005 and it is not clear how much attention has been paid to f2f teaching in internal OU research since then. In addition the End of Module Survey issued by the OU Survey Office does not ask a specific question about f2f tutorials. However the remit in this survey was to focus on international findings on f2f teaching: it is clear that there is immense scope for further research within the OU itself.
Blended, traditional and exclusively online teaching.