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Transforming the student experience at a distance: Designing for collaborative online learning

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Author(s): Lindsay Jordan

Journal: Engineering Education
ISSN 1750-0044

Volume: 4;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 25;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: online blended learning | distance learning | learning technology

ABSTRACT
Distance learning programmes allow greater flexibility of learning. They are often necessary for those who wish to enhance their professional development and/or gain higher-level qualifications while simultaneously continuing to work, especially where appropriate courses of study are not offered locally. However, the isolation and lack of feedback experienced by off-campus learners are key factors in the low retention rates common to many programmes. Dependence on freelance, off-campus tutoring staff brings challenges for managing change. While there is no single solution for these problems, the student experience can be significantly improved by weaving the development of an online community into the fabric of the course of study and addressing challenges such as the relevance of curricula (including assessment and feedback procedures) through the use of appropriate technologies.This article describes the redevelopment of a series of distance learning modules through the application of established educational principles. It explains the need for and approach to change and documents how learning technologies have been applied to combat student and tutor isolation, improve the quality, quantity and variety of feedback sources and increase student engagement with feedback.The lessons learned throughout this redevelopment project will be of interest for educators developing or redeveloping online blended or distance learning programmes, particularly in Engineering and/or Built Environment subject areas.
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