Successful Online Distance Learners: An Exploration of Learner Characteristics and Patterns in Online Learning

Trish Andrews
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Belinda Tynan
The Open University, United Kingdom


The rapid growth in online learning over the last two decades has led to a considerable focus on researching a range of issues that impact on the online distance learner experience. These investigations have focussed primarily on instructional or learning design, interaction and communication in learning communities and learner characteristics. Online distance learning research which has had a focus on learner characteristics has been essential over the past two decades for understanding how to support diverse learners within this mode especially given ongoing high attrition rates. While much focus has been on the types of interventions that organisations might deploy, it remains that learners cannot be easily classified into homogenous groups and there is a need to understand more deeply who they are and how they behave as individual online distance learners. With this in mind, the focus of the research reported here was ‘how do mature-age distance learners go about learning?’ by providing insight into the lived experience of individual learners. The study focused on developing an understanding of the kinds of student-centred learning experiences that support students to be successful online distance learners.

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