Understanding independent learners’ use of media technologies

Kirkwood, A. (2003). Understanding independent learners’ use of media technologies. Open Learning, 18(2) pp. 155–175.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680510307412


Independent learners study in highly varied circumstances that impact upon the educational process. Media technologies can provide many new educational opportunities, but are context dependent. As educators, we need to develop a better understanding of learners by considering their attitudes and preferences for using media technologies in their studies. This paper reports research studies undertaken with UK Open University students aimed at developing an understanding of their attitudes to and preferences for various media technologies, both in general and, more specifically, in relation to the courses they study. It aims to provide insights into why they choose to devote more time and attention to certain media-based materials than to others; how they develop their own priorities within the curriculum and how these can change over their study career with the university. The research reported here indicates that independent learners value the richness and flexibility they derive from having a range of media components in their courses. However, decisions about the extent to which students use particular media components are based at least as much upon the perceived benefits to be gained from them, as from any intrinsic characteristic or quality of the particular materials or resources.

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