Generational Distinctiveness in the Time Use of Working Distance Learners

Bill McNeill, The College of Estate Management, United Kingdom


Profiling student characteristics is a necessary task in designing programmes of education and one that is more necessary but more complex for distance study involving mature students. Various ways have been used to group individuals based on their demographic but, although these have provided useful tags, it can be questioned whether these have value when considering the needs and expectations of mixed age students studying the same course.

This paper examines the generational distinctiveness of working students commencing a postgraduate course drawing upon research conducted into their use of time. It reports the main findings in respect of three generations of student - Generation W (baby boomers), Generation X and Generation Y. It examines their lifestyle, work, technology and study; and contrasts the weekly time use of Generation X and Generation Y students.

It concludes that whilst generational differences are evident these are not so significant as to require a bias toward one age group over another. The critical factor is the formative experience of each person that shapes their approach to work, life and study. It is this shift in the student characteristic and their attendant lifestyle which is significant, but often unrecognised by course designers.

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

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