About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 1926-1935
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.1406

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain

DISCIPLINARY DIFFERENCES AND STUDENTS’ ONLINE LEARNING PREFERENCES: IF NOT ONE SIZE, THEN HOW MANY?

J. Ellis

The Open University (UNITED KINGDOM)
The maxim ‘one size does not fit all’ is preached far more than it is practised in our field and, whilst unfortunate, this is not entirely surprising. The provision of education at scale with finite resources almost inevitably means there will be an abundance of approaches that aim to provide best-fit solutions for the subject matter, its teachers and learners. This paper considers differences in the characteristics of subject matter across academic disciplines – based on Biglan’s (1973) Hard/Soft (e.g. engineering/nursing) and Pure/Applied (e.g. philosophy/nursing) distinctions – and how those differences affect not only how subjects are best taught and assessed, but also the nature of those who are drawn to different fields, either as students or teachers. For the growing number of distance or online learners (in their pure forms, or as part of a blend), technology is having an increasing impact on their learning experiences and empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests this can represent both opportunities and threats (e.g. we like the convenience of our tablet but, faced with an academic paper to read, many of us prefer a printed copy to annotate). Many distance learning providers, especially those such as my own which serves broad or open demographic profiles, invest considerable effort into collecting survey and system information to determine the preferences, behaviours and performance of their learners. However, it can be the case that this is analysed and design decisions are made at an institutional level rather than taking into account the characteristics of learners in different disciplines – where there is now a growing body of evidence to suggest there can be quite stark distinctions. For example, in terms of online activities, White & Liccardi (2006) found that 98% of Hard-Applied students wanted more online tests but, for Hard-Pure students, this fell to just 15%; and while many Soft-Pure students wanted to access live or recorded lectures from home, 86% of Soft-Applied students did not wish to study in this way. Other researchers have noted disciplinary differences in device ownership, attitudes to social media and the extent to which students report technology can disrupt or distract from their learning. This paper sets out the essential differences between subject matter across academic disciplines and how each is best taught and assessed before then considering the characteristics, behaviours and preferences – particularly in respect of educational technology – of those who are drawn to different fields. It concludes with an initial analysis of student survey feedback from a large UK distance learning university to see if there is more recent support for the preferences reported over a decade earlier by White and Liccardi, and what the implications may be for designers and providers of distance and technology enhanced learning.
@InProceedings{ELLIS2017DIS,
author = {Ellis, J.},
title = {DISCIPLINARY DIFFERENCES AND STUDENTS’ ONLINE LEARNING PREFERENCES: IF NOT ONE SIZE, THEN HOW MANY?},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.1406},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.1406},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {1926-1935}}
TY - CONF
AU - J. Ellis
TI - DISCIPLINARY DIFFERENCES AND STUDENTS’ ONLINE LEARNING PREFERENCES: IF NOT ONE SIZE, THEN HOW MANY?
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.1406
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 1926
EP - 1935
ER -
J. Ellis (2017) DISCIPLINARY DIFFERENCES AND STUDENTS’ ONLINE LEARNING PREFERENCES: IF NOT ONE SIZE, THEN HOW MANY?, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 1926-1935.
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