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Support in the ARF /Pt 2 - The Open College of the Arts

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Support in the ARF /Pt 2

Alongside the new changes to the Academic Regulatory Framework, OCA is introducing a number of new mechanisms designed to better support students.


What is the support in the ARF?


These are the Active Study Policy, Reasonable Adjustments Policy, and a revised Mitigating Circumstances Policy, and also the changes to degree pathways.


OCA research shows that pace of study is linked to the likelihood of a student completing a unit. Over 3000 records show the median average time taken for students to complete units at OCA is 13 months. The majority of students complete degrees in an average of 6-7 years. Plus there is correlation between the time taken to submit assignment one and completion of the unit; students completing studies submit a month earlier than those who go out of time or withdraw on average. 


Getting started, and remaining actively engaged throughout increases the likelihood of completing a unit. If you submit your first assignment within three months, you are more than twice as likely to complete as you are to exit. If that submission takes more than three months it is almost 50/50 whether a student will complete or exit. 


Active Study Policy

To support this faster pace of working, we are introducing the Active Study Policy. Student Loans Company and Office for Students legally require OCA to ensure students are engaged with study.


Students need to actively engage with their studies throughout. This is in any 60 day period, in a meaningful way. If you are struggling to remain engaged we will be in touch and help you plan your studies and keep on track.


Meaningful engagement is defined as submitting an assignment, attending a tutorial with a tutor, engaging with specific support at OCA, attending a study event, or OCA groupwork, updating a learning log, or applying for assessment. In other words, all of the things you normally do as a student.


OCA will monitor these forms of engagement, and where there is no evidence of activity, and we can’t get in touch with a student to confirm, students will be withdrawn from study. 


We hope however this will encourage students to be more engaged with study, from the start, and ensure that more students are completing their units. 


Reasonable Adjustments Policy

To support students with declared disabilities we are developing a Reasonable Adjustments Policy.  This details the support that is available to all students with a declared disability.  This support includes unit time, printed materials in different fonts, and alternative assignment tasks. 


All of these can be put in place when you need it, just get in touch.


It is really important if you do have a disability to engage with the Learner Support Team so they can go through the Reasonable Adjustments procedures with you and find out the best way to support your study and way of working. 


Mitigating Circumstances Policy

The revised Mitigating Circumstances Policy introduces deferrals. This is different to an extension and makes a break in study either within a unit, or between units. Getting a deferral follows the usual mitigating circumstances procedure. 


This can be for up to twelve months and you can pick up your studies where you left off. For example, if you’ve submitted assignment three, but something comes up in your personal life, then after approval from the mitigating circumstances panel take a break for four months, come back and pick up at assignment four. 


This process ensures that students won’t be classified as inactive for the purposes of the Active Study Policy. Remember though that this needs to be approved in advance; this cannot be applied retrospectively. 


Degree Pathways

Lastly, there is the changes to degree pathways. Units need to be studied in a particular order so students have the skills for the next unit. A good example of this is Photography 1: Expressing Your Vision, and Photography 1: Context and Narrative; you need to complete Expressing Your Vision to gain the experience and skills needed to complete Context and Narrative. 


This will give students more support, and a better structure for studies. 


What does this mean for me?


All of these new policies will come into effect from the 2nd January 2020. This applies for new students, and existing students.

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Posted by author: Craig Dewis

9 thoughts on “Support in the ARF /Pt 2

  • Hello, Craig, I live in the US. I cannot attend study events or other activities that occur in the UK. The only possible evidence that you can have of my active engagement in the program are my blog posts (fortuitously, it would seem, if only by my own need for tech support, posted on spaces.oca.ac.uk), my interactions with my tutor via email, my interactions with other students on forums and in FB groups, submission of assignments to my tutor which are done directly to him or her, and my submission for assessment at the end of a module (if I decide to do so). Exactly which of my activities, and of the hundreds of other students in the program, are you monitoring regularly enough to determine that I am an actively participating student?

  • I fully understand that, bound by external constraints, OCA have no option but to implement these changes, frustrating as they are to us all, but the way in which they have been announced leaves a lot to be desired, as others have inferred.

    The 60 day ‘active study’ ruling is a bit of a bugbear, but I think the blame here lies with the Office for Students and the Student Loans Company, who have not taken into account the very different circumstances of students on distance learning courses, rather than on campus. The ‘meaningful engagement’ activities listed by Craig would automatically be undertaken on a campus-based course, but most do not generally apply to distance learning. The learning log point is fine if an online blog is maintained, but if logs are only submitted with assignments, OCA has no evidence that they are updated regularly. So…assuming we cannot attend any group meetings or study events (which I suspect is the majority of us), and we are unable to submit assignments within 60 days, our only option would appear to be notify our tutor of that fact. Perhaps Craig could kindly confirm that this action will satisfy the ‘active study’ rule.

    • Hi Colin

      The intention of the study engagement activities is to encompass as many normal student activities as possible, that OCA can feasibly monitor. Some of these will become more commonplace with the introduction of the new virtual learning environment, and other initiatives that are in the pipeline.

      Fundamentally, we’re looking for evidence of engagement. An email to a tutor would constitute engagement, as would other activities such as accessing the resources on the student site, or engaging with services at OCA.

      Hope this helps


      • Thank you, Craig, yes this, and your comments in the forum, on this point are helpful. But OCA has hundreds of students to monitor over perhaps as many modes of interaction, with each student on their own time table. It seems inevitable that OCA will miss the one interaction that a student had within a 60 day period and thus be designated “inactive” and booted out. Is there a notification and appeals process in place, whereby if OCA declares a student inactive, the student can respond, pointing out their activity during that 60 day period?

      • Thanks for clarifying this, Craig. I constantly use the UCA Online Library. Is this activity automatically monitored, thereby satisfying the 60 day rule?

  • Whilst at first sight these changes to ARF appear challenging the opportunity to plan head and defer if necessary is welcome. So too are the developing virtual engagement opportunities.

    Whilst I know I should keep a close eye on and engage with Forums I do not do this enough., therefore I came across these changes by chance. I note comments by others about the apparent lack of consultation about the changes. I am sure student representatives would have been involved . Please could this be confirmed? Many thanks.

  • One of the problems I have with the idea of deferrals rather than extensions is that as a person that suffers periodically with depression the extension option has been very useful. I can’t predict depressive episodes in advance, they are something that slip slowly and stealthily into my life. Engagement, action and interest are replaced by apathy, lethargy and depression and you are again behind where you want to be. Distance learning with the OCA allows me to continue to learn and be involved with art and other artists at my own pace within a generous time structure. Can you tell me how situations such as I describe above will be treated.

  • “Over 3000 records show the median average time taken for students to complete units at OCA is 13 months”
    Could you explain what this means please? I’m familiar with the statistical constructs both ‘median’ and ‘average’ and that they describe different ways of understanding the same data set but I’ve never seen them conflated in this way. Like taking an average of a series of averages, it seems somewhat unsound so some clarity would be helpful. It would also be helpful to know what data set was used to make this calculation: all modules of one kind of course (BA Fine Art, for instance) or all undergraduate modules of whatever subject matter? I’m asking because it seems to me that there is a fundamental difference between, for instance, a writing degree which requires few resources and one involving materials that need to be sourced, worked, allowed to dry before re-working, and ‘finished’. I have some experience of both and the practicalities of the latter are far more demanding of time and space than the former which impacts on delivery in a way that the very comparable research and reflection do not.

  • I am curious what are the OCA services one needs to engage with to show active engagement with course work?
    Also for blog work to be considered activity is my blog being monitored by OCA or am I required to contact you with notification and links each time I publish?
    Many thanks

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