Older learners and computers: identities and challenges

Peasgood, Alice (2008). Older learners and computers: identities and challenges. In: Exploring Learning Trajectories, 20-21 May 2008, Edge Hill University.


Research in e-learning is usually focused on technological or pedagogical issues and learner perspectives are under-represented in the literature. Particularly in widening participation, course-designers would benefit from an understanding of learner perspectives such as identity and control, and how these affect student choices about computer use. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, this paper is part of an ongoing project to explore students' study experiences. The participants are distance education students of The Open University, on short introductory courses in Mathematics and Arts with optional use of computers. The courses are designed to reach a widening participation audience. The paper focuses upon detailed thematic analysis of transcripts of five semi-structured telephone interviews about use of computers for study. All five older learners had home internet access. Results suggest that learners' use of computers is affected by factors such as identity, access to informal computer support and need for control over the study environment. A model is suggested that links the major themes from the data. Educators need to recognise these affective issues, to provide effective support for computer-mediated learning in widening participation.

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