Walking the tightrope: online student engagement experiences

Farrell, Orna and Brunton, James (2020) Walking the tightrope: online student engagement experiences.


Studying online is like walking a tightrope for many online students as they try to balance work and caring responsibilities with their learning. This paper reports on a qualitative case study which explored the balancing act of online student engagement experiences. The study followed twenty-four DCU Connected online students over one academic year. The research question for the study was: What themes are central to online student engagement experiences? Data was collected via participant eportfolio entries and through semi-structured interviews and was then analysed thematically. Four key themes were constructed via the analytic process, which included: the importance of community, support networks, balancing study with life, and approaches to learning. The findings indicate that successful online student engagement was influenced by a number of psychosocial factors such as peer community, an engaging online teacher, and confidence and by structural factors such as lifeload and course design.

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