Giving Voice to Distance Learners: Methodological Decisions and Challenges

Mark Brown, Dublin City University, Ireland, Helen Hughes, University of Bristol, United Kingdom, Lorraine Delaney, Dublin City University, Ireland

Abstract

This paper is set against the backdrop of growing concerns about retention and completion and reports on the experiences of distance learners using an innovative video diary approach to data collection. Video diary reflections were submitted by a purposive sample of 20 online/distance learners each week over a period of up to 16 weeks. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis method following the general principles of a phenomenological approach. Many of the key decision points in undertaking this type of research are described along with some of the methodological challenges and limitations. The lived experiences of first-time distance students are a complex phenomenon. The paper reports some of the main findings and reflects on alternative ways of studying the student experience along with the imperative of doing things better for this group of learners.

Abstract in Spanish

Este trabajo se enmarca en el contexto de la creciente preocupación existente sobre la retención y la conclusión, y detalla las experiencias vividas por los estudiantes a distancia mediante el uso de un innovador enfoque de recopilación de la información basado en videodiarios. Se pidió a una muestra intencionada de 20 alumnos online/a distancia que enviasen sus impresiones, recogidas en videodiarios, cada semana durante un periodo de hasta 16 semanas. La información se examinó utilizando un método de análisis temático siguiendo los principios generales de un enfoque fenomenológico. Se describen muchos de los puntos clave de decisión a la hora de abordar una investigación de este tipo, junto a algunas de las limitaciones y desafíos metodológicos encontrados. Las experiencias vividas en el caso de los estudiantes a distancia primerizos son un fenómeno complejo. El trabajo detalla algunos de los principales hallazgos y reflexiona acerca de maneras alternativas de analizar la experiencia del alumno junto con el imperativo de hacer las cosas mejor para este grupo de estudiantes.

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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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