The temporal integration of connected study into a structured life : a grounded theory
TodayÂ’s technology, which enables audio, video and text based communication online, has enabled the adoption of social learning pedagogies in the innovative design of online collaborative learning opportunities. In thus enriching the experience of the online learner it has also unwittingly added to the pressure experienced. The Grounded Theory research method has been used to identify the main concern of adult online distance learners as being that of fitting online study into their lives; specifically, combining the time design of the connected learning opportunity into their individual personal commitment structures can be problematic. This thesis is based on a substantial collection of primary and secondary data. Primary data collection was conducted over four years and involved interviewing 32 adult online learners from 9 different countries. Further data collection involved obtaining detailed observations garnered over 45 weeks on postgraduate learning opportunities and the equivalent of 36 months of supervising online project students from 3 different countries. This study identifies the basic social psychological process of temporal integration as being the method by which this concern is continually processed. The three stages to this iterative process are juggling, engaging and evaluating. The output of the evaluation stage
- the propensity to study - forms a feedback loop to the juggling stage and impacts upon the time and energy expended in future juggling and engaging. Learners are more or less successful in their integrating activities and four types of learners are identified; jugglers, strugglers, fade-aways and leavers. To the practical world of online learning this thesis offers a new way of looking at time and workload; suggests new ways of designing for and supporting persistence; and offers connected learners and tutors strategies for managing the temporal integration process. This thesis refreshes the professional discourse regarding student attrition and retention, persistence and departure by offering a conceptual theory of learner continuation with which to organise and extend current understandings.