The Supportive Distance Learning Environment:
A Study on the Learning Support Needs of Malaysian Online Learners

Nor Aziah Alias [aziahnor@gmail.com]
Nik Suryani Nik Abdul Rahman [niksuryani@iiu.edu.my]

Abstract

This paper reports the process and findings of a qualitative research designed to explore the perception of a supportive distance learning environment and the needs of learners of an online distance learning Finance course offered by Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia. The focus of the research was the learners' own reflection of their personal, academic and social needs as they trudged into the online learning environment. Using a phenomenological approach on seven participants, this article demonstrates how online learners were able to explicate their needs through their narratives on their initial experience, the difficulties they faced and what they believe to be a supportive learning environment. It further reports the email correspondence that took place during which the data was continuously subjected to content analysis and participant validation. Building upon existing theories of adult learning (andragogy), and online learning, this research demonstrates how seven adult learners perceived their learning needs as online learners. The results shows the emerging concept of a supportive learning environment and themes of needs that revolve around (1)the instructor, (2) structured learning resources and (3) regulation of learning activities.

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Tags

e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, ICT, information and communication technology, internet, collaborative learning, learning management system, MOOC, interaction, LMS,

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