How do students prepare for part-time study?

Murphy, S. M. and Tyler, Sheila (2000). How do students prepare for part-time study? In: European Learning Styles Inventory Network Conference, Jun 2000, Hertfordshire, U.K..



The paper will present findings from a study of the characteristics, attitudes and learning approaches of Open University Business School students as they embark on MBA and Certificate of Management courses. The study consists of the responses to questionnaires and psychometric instruments from over 1100 students collected in January 2000.

Entwistle's Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST) was used to investigate students learning approaches. ASSIST is the latest version of the well-known Approaches to Studying Inventory (ASI) originally compiled by Entwistle and Ramsden (1981). Data was collected on various aspects of students' lives and attitudes to see how these relate to their learning approaches.

ASSIST generally distinguishes three aspects of learning approach: Deep, strategic and instrumental. Previous research at OUBS indicates that, for OUBS students, a high score on the strategic scale is closely associated with success in terms of course. A high score on the strategic scale indicates a well-organised student highly motivated to achieve. OUBS students are normally have demanding full-time jobs so good organisation and high motivation appear to play a bigger part in success and course completion than for full-time undergraduates.

The most frequently cited reasons for drop-out and failure of OUBS courses are work and family pressures. In this study students were asked if they had been offered, and more importantly, if they had asked for/arranged support from the workplace, home/family, and what use they expected to make of student self-help groups. It was expected that students adopting a strategic approach to studies (i.e. highly focused and well-organised) would have considered the potential impact of the course on their lives and arranged support and help. The study aims to find out more about these coping strategies.

Students were also asked about their motivation in terms of their reasons for choosing the course, the amount of commitment to completion that they felt and the goals they set themselves in relation to the course.

Finally, students' expectations of how they would handle and prioritise the different methods of teaching and support on offer from OUBS (course texts, face-to-face tutorials, student self-help groups, audio- and video-tapes and electronic tutor and student contact) and their anticipated time allocation when under pressure to these different options were investigated.

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