Listening and Learning? Privileging the Student Voice in E-Learning Discourses Of Withdrawal: a Qualitative Analysis

Glover, Hayley; Jones Myers, Fran; Power, Bronagh; Stephens, Carey and Hardwick, Jane (2018). Listening and Learning? Privileging the Student Voice in E-Learning Discourses Of Withdrawal: a Qualitative Analysis. In: e-LEARNING 2018, 17-19 Jul 2018, Madrid, Spain.



Along with the burgeoning expansion of online platforms for student learning in higher education have come complementary analytics tools to rate student engagement, learning, success and progression. As, in the UK, institutions embrace these tools as part of government-led attainment targets and awards (e.g. Teaching Excellence Framework), the ‘quantitative rush’ to measure and evaluate retention from the institutional perspective risks muffling the individual student voices that can be heard through qualitative approaches to their learning journeys. This is particularly relevant for introductory level students as they seek to navigate the unknown of their first year of higher education, and it is recognised that introductory students require the greatest levels of pastoral care to succeed.

Enhancements to University CRM systems have created an opportunity for the preservation of narratives of withdrawal made by students as they engage with the university to defer, reduce or cancel their studies. This is particularly important in the distance learning sector, both because these dialogues have been less visible to the institution than through traditional campus support provision, and because part time students tend to have more complex lives. These narratives have permitted a criteria of authenticity and criticality to institutionally led discourses around withdrawal. They demonstrate the importance of considering the student experience, motivation and participation with the university, rather than the privileging of institutional frames of reference.

Similarities and differences in perceptions around the meanings and values of their higher education experiences, and reasons for withdrawing have been developed thematically in this paper to better understand student motivation, and provide a useful triangulation to output from quantitative studies on retention. Key word findings from these introductory level students enrolled on Business and Law modules within a UK business school include the following: Dialogue on personal concerns, the time commitment to study successfully, and how stressors, both inside and outside of the study environment impact the student’s ability to commit, or wish to commit to their courses.

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