Students' experiences of synchronous online tuition in health and social care

Chandler, Kathryn (2022). Students' experiences of synchronous online tuition in health and social care. EdD thesis The Open University.



This study explores students’ experiences of synchronous online tuition within the researcher’s own context as a health and social care tutor at a large UK-based distance learning university. There is a lack of literature which considers students’ experiences within this context in any depth.

The research explores how students’ narratives of tutorial experiences vary, the factors that account for this variation, and the needs that drive the preferences students express. It uses the Community of Inquiry as a theoretical framework, investigating the relationships between social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence evident within the narrative accounts, and considering the proposed additions to the original framework of emotional presence and learning presence.

The study takes an experience-centred narrative approach, using the Voice Centred Relational Method to analyse diaries and interviews of 10 female students. The responses of 28 tutors to the narratives are analysed to investigate how hearing about students’ experience impacts on tutors’ reported thinking and practice.

The analysis uncovers how tutorial experiences are embedded in the social and cultural contexts of students’ lives and are fitted around their multiple caring roles. These students experience variation in tutorial design and in the tutors’ characteristics. They value friendly, empathetic tutors who enable students’ contributions and respond encouragingly. Students avoid using microphones in tutorials but enjoy taking an active part via other tools. They appreciate hearing peers’ perspectives and prefer small group sizes. A sense of community is missing, however, particularly for students with fewer supportive friends, colleagues, or family members. They long to see people’s faces and build relationships.

Insight into how students’ experiences impact on learning holds the potential to enlighten educators and invites revision of policy and practice. Opportunities to belong to enduring learning communities with an enhanced sense of social presence would benefit those learners who currently feel isolated.

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