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Old learning habits and new technologies: the impact of choice, control and identity in the learning experiences of novice adult students using ICT

Presentation by Alice Peasgood at the CALRG 2012 conference.

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Rebecca Ferguson
19 June 2012

This study highlights the role of ICT in potentially disrupting a learner’s journey through the early stages of distance education at HE level.  Adult learners entering distance education at HE level encounter a learning environment and learner support which are increasingly technologically mediated.  In becoming university students, they are often expected to engage with ICT tasks designed around some explicit (or implicit) assumptions, which may not fit their situation or preferences.  This study combines a thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with a cluster analysis of survey responses to identify four distinct learner identity-types based upon use of ICT in daily life and for learning.  The findings suggest that experienced learners new to ICT may have well-established habits and may attempt to incorporate new technologies into their familiar study patterns.  This does not always work, and may lead learners to feel a loss of control and thus to reject the technologies in some circumstances.  The study indicates that a student who is more experienced in ICT-mediated learning has an identity that better fits the typical assumptions of learning designers.  This raises questions about the transition from novice ICT-learner to expert user and what may facilitate or hinder this process.  There is a need to recognise learner identity as an important factor that may, in some cases, increase the likelihood of non-engagement with new technologies and thus increase the risk of non-completion of the course.

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