Work-Based Learning, Technology-Enhanced Learning And Reflection: The Case Of Open University Students

Murray, Christopher Neil (2014). Work-Based Learning, Technology-Enhanced Learning And Reflection: The Case Of Open University Students. EdD thesis The Open University.



The research reported in this thesis investigates the attitudes of Open University (OU) students towards work-based learning (WBL) and reflection in learning and practice. It also seeks to evaluate the potential of educational technologies to support work-based learning and reflection.

The research was carried out using a mixed methods approach, which yielded data amenable to both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The methods used to collect data consisted of an electronic survey sent to 788 OU work-based learners and follow-up telephone interviews conducted with 10 learners selected from amongst the 200 who responded to the survey. The paradigm of pragmatism informed the research design, data collection and analysis.

The findings of the research suggested that:

• OU students derive motivation by participating in WBL and could see its relevance and benefits to their personal, academic and career development.
• OU students had an understanding of the key concepts associated with reflection, although this understanding tended to focus on the dimension of reflection concerned with looking back at experience and learning from it rather than on surfacing tacit knowledge.
• Most work-based learners saw the value of using reflective techniques to help them to integrate work and study and to improve performance.
• Although the more established technologies of email and online discussion forums were the predominant for both work and study purposes, it was found that ‘Web 2.0’ technologies were used by many students for leisure purposes.

Provisional conclusions include the suggestion that, although there is evidence of a latent demand for using new technologies to engage in informal reflective activity, simply making these technologies available without sufficient thought being given to the pedagogical efficacy of doing so may lead to sub-optimal results; in particular, when considering the use such tools for reflective activity as part of a formal assessment.

The research also indicates that the demography, attitudes and behaviours of OU students also need to be taken in to account when integrating new technologies. There are several aspects to this, including the willingness and ability of students to use new technologies effectively for study purposes and whether the OU prescribes the technology or allows some student choice.

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