A Survey of the Learning Behaviour of Open University students

Ellis, Elizabeth; Gallagher, Alice and Peasgood, Alice (2018). A Survey of the Learning Behaviour of Open University students. The Open University.


This survey forms a crucial part of research completed by the Learning Innovation team to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying study habits and learning behaviour of Open University (OU) students to inform the future development of systems, tools and platforms.

This research validates the themes that emerged from the previous report, ‘Study behaviours in an increasingly digital world: Learning habits, top tips and 'study hacks' questionnaire survey’ (Ellis, Gallagher and Peasgood, 2017). Analysis carried out on the data from that survey revealed eight possible learning behaviours that underpinned the student responses. In order to validate those original findings a new survey was designed. This report explains the findings of that survey.

The survey consisted of 55 behavioural and attitudinal statements aligned to the learning behaviours, some of which were based upon survey instruments from the literature. Survey statements were written to explore each of these on a five-point scale (‘Very true for me’ to ‘Not at all true for me’) in order to identify the concepts that describe the behaviours and preferences of OU students through a process of Principle Component Analysis (PCA). In addition, the survey included questions to inform the analysis and explore potential confounding factors: accessing OU content, access to the web, and technological self-efficacy. The technological self-efficacy statements were selected from the OU’s Digital Competency Framework for Level 1 students. The survey was peer reviewed and piloted, before being sent to a generalised student population. The overall response rate was 12.7% with 524 valid responses received.

Seven clear learning behaviours were identified through PCA, and a cluster analysis of the data was carried out. These learning behaviours are:

• Goal-setting
• Time
• Focus
• Note-making
• Digital-preferred
• Help-seeking
• Elaboration

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