Coventry University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 3835-3844
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper outlines the results of a small-scale study into the use of e-learning tools to deliver a Health and Communication Design (HCD) MA Course to mature students carried out by the Centre of Excellence for Automotive and Product Design (CEPAD) at Coventry University.

The literature shows that building a community of practice (Wenger 2007) is crucial to delivering a quality e-learning experience. Without this, isolation may ensue (O’Neill 2004) and motivation to continue may be affected. However, creating a learning community of practice is not easy and this and the notion of ‘emergent’ course design needs to be woven into thinking around delivery of such courses. (Thompson 2004).

In addition, mature students may not feel as confident as their traditional counterparts when entering higher education and may be anxious and less confident (Murphy 2003:254), due to temporal distance from educational experiences and concomitant lack of relevant skills. Further, although mature students may be confident adults in the world, their existing knowledge and experiences may not help them to negotiate the cultural norms and language of higher education, thus leading to an ‘element of alienation’ (Toynton 2005:108).Thus, they may not identify themselves as ‘learner’, although they may experience a transformation during their studies which allows them to assume this identity. This transformation may be experienced as a ‘threshold concept’, defined as:

‘…akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something. It represents a transformed way of understanding, or interpreting, or viewing something without which the learner cannot progress.’ (Meyer and Land 2003:412).

Using the above issues as a guide, two focus groups were carried with HCD students and preliminary findings indicate that building a successful community of practice at the beginning of an e-learning course is important for successful delivery, especially for mature students who have been away from education for some time. This paper will explore these issues further and produce some recommendations for discussion.

Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (2003). ‘Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines’. In C. Rust (Ed.),Improving Student Learning. Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice-10 years on, OCSLD, Oxford
Murphy, H., Roopchand, N. (2003) ‘Intrinsic Motivation and Self-esteem in Traditional and Mature Students at a Post-1992 University in the North-east of England’. Educational Studies, Vol.29, No.2/3
O’Neill, K., Singh, G., & O’Donoghue, J. (2004)’ Implementing eLearning Programmes for Higher Education: A Review of the Literature’ in Journal of Information Technology Education.
Thompson, T., Colla J., MacDonald. C. (2005) ‘Community building, emergent design and expecting the unexpected: Creating a quality eLearning experience’ Internet and Higher Education. 8.
Toynton, R. (2005) ‘Degrees of disciplinarity in equipping mature students in higher education for engagement and success in lifelong learning’. Active Learning in Higher Education. 6 106
Wenger, E. (2007) Communities of Practice Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge University Press.
E-Learning, design, community of practice.