How do ‘WP’ students differ from others in their engagement with eLearning activities?

Towards the end of last year I started working with a colleague, Rita Tingle, on developing a student survey on the uses and perceptions of online resources and tools offered in a first year course. One direction this work has taken is to look at sub-sets of students asking do students see the tools as properly integrated in the course? Do students see the technology as helpful and relevant? How does student use of each, and cumulatively, change during the course?

Anlaysis is currently under way but we’ve already identified one possible outlet for a sub-set of our work – the Open University’s Widening Participation in the 21st Century Conference (24-25 June 2009). Here’s the poster abstract Rita recently submitted:

How do ‘WP’ students differ from others in their engagement with eLearning activities?
Tingle, R. and Cross, S.

Our study aims to explore the patterns of participation in, and attitude towards, eLearning activities by students considered to belong to the ‘widening participation’ group. This represents a group who can be considered to have overcome the initial barrier of gaining access to ICT – often portrayed as a key enabler to participation by less advantaged students and for widening participation – and who are now experiencing eLearning. Does the experience of these students differ from other students (Jones and Cross, 2009) and should this be interpreted as representing a continuing gulf in educational access? Are trends, such as those observed by in relation to student educational qualifications and completion and pass rates, also evidenced in relation to breath and complexity of engagement with online course resources?

These questions touch both upon research that recognises the challenge to widening participation as multi-dimensional and complex – where social, economic and cultural factors such as motivational issues, prior encounters of eLearning, and level of understanding of the learning process, augment technical ones; and on critical reflections on the gulf between rhetoric and reality of ICT-based adult education which suggests that access to ICT is not a magic bullet but can only go some way to altering patterns of participation in education for some individuals (Selwyn and Gorard, 2003).

This poster presents some initial results from a recent study of 120 students who completed a Level 1 Computing course at the Open University which, as well as printed study materials, had a significant number of computer based activities many of which required internet access.  Part of the questionnaire used in the study asked about students’ patterns of engagement with activities which involved significant use of online resources such as forums and online quizzes. 

> Link to our conference poster

Jones, C.& Cross, S. (2009), ‘Is there a Net generation coming to university? ‘ in ALT-C 2009 “In dreams begins responsibility”: Choice, evidence and change, Manchester, UK, 8-10 September 2009. (

Selwyn, N.& Gorard, S. (2003) ‘Reality bytes: examining the rhetoric of widening educational participation via ICT’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 34 (2), pp. 169-181.


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