Exploring the Emotions of Distance Learning Students in an Assessed, Online, Collaborative Project

Jake Hilliard
The Open University, United Kingdom

Karen Kear
The Open University, United Kingdom

Helen Donelan
The Open University, United Kingdom

Caroline Heaney
The Open University, United Kingdom


Previous research has highlighted the importance of emotions of learners in online learning settings. However, much of this research has tended to focus on individual learning situations rather than social learning activities. The exploration of the emotional experiences of distance learners has also received little attention when compared to other student groups (e.g. full-time or blended learning students). As many distance learners are in full- or part-time employment or have other commitments, the emotions experienced and the reasons for these emotions might be greatly different to other student populations. This study investigated these issues by exploring the emotional experiences of distance learners when undertaking an assessed, online, collaborative group project. Self-report data about the emotions experienced and their causes were gathered using a structured diary at six times points during the group activity. Findings revealed that learners experienced a ranged of pleasant and unpleasant emotions before, during and after the collaborative activity. Feelings of satisfaction and relief were the most reported pleasant emotions and feelings of anxiety and frustration were the most frequently reported unpleasant emotions. To conclude this paper, implications for educators are briefly discussed and reflections on using an online diary to explore student emotions are provided.

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