Support Holes: Distance Students Experience of Support in a Dual Mode University

Lorraine Delaney
Dublin City University, Ireland

Mark Brown
Dublin City University, Ireland


This paper focuses on the overall supports and obstacles distance graduates experienced as they progressed through their studies in a dual-mode university. The mixed-methods case study drew on findings from an online survey (n = 126) and 17 semi-structures interviews to explore how recent distance graduates (n = 268) experienced support. Findings indicate that while support from teaching staff was noted as important to their successful completion, a lacuna in institutional supports was identified. First, systems and structures within the dualmodeuniversity were perceived as being designed for on-campus students, with little regard to the needs of distance students. Second, students perceived their employment was unvaluedby the university. There seemed little support when employment related issues impactedstudy, yet work-placement for on-campus students was a source of academic credit. Third,students felt excluded from the guidance and support available to on-campus students. Critically, they did not avail of the career service which can impact transitioning into graduate level employment. This paper argues that guidance and support for learning is multi-faceted and extends beyond teaching. Creating enabling conditions that encourage learner agency andself-direction is a job for the university as a whole. Policy makers too have an important roleto play in this regard.

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