First-Year University Students in Distance Learning: Motivations and Early Experiences

Aristeidou, Maria (2021). First-Year University Students in Distance Learning: Motivations and Early Experiences. In: Technology-Enhanced Learning for a Free, Safe, and Sustainable World: 16th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2021 Bolzano, Italy, September 20–24, 2021 Proceedings (De Laet, T.; Klemke, R.; Alario-Hoyos, C.; Hilliger, I. and Ortega-Arranz, A. eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer, Cham, pp. 110–121.



Acquiring new learning and assessment styles, maintaining old and creating new relationships, and learning how to function as independent adults are some of the stressors that first-year university students face. Yet, we know little about the transition of students from school/college to distance learning higher education. This study drew from survey responses of 377 first-year students, aged 18–19, at The Open University, UK. This study aimed to explore the motivations of students who join distance learning universities and to examine their early experiences. Findings showed that the main motivations for joining distance learning higher education include flexible study alongside other commitments, earning money alongside their studies, and demonstrating self-motivation. Motivations for joining were significantly different among various student groups. Further, the decision of 22% of the respondents to study via distance learning was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘Course structure’ was identified as the factor that supported them the most with their transition from school/college to a distance learning university, while ‘interactions with students’ was identified as the main area of suggested improvement. This study has gone some way towards enhancing our understanding of the expectations and needs of first-year distance learning students. The present findings have important implications for designing suitable transition and support networks in distance and online learning environments.

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