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Title: 'Non-traditional' at an elite university : exploring the lived experiences of mature part-time undergraduates using an online peer support community
Author: Cavigioli, Nadine Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 8510 4043
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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The first-year transition to university is acknowledged as being an emotive experience for undergraduates, a process of becoming a student whilst seeking membership of the learning community. If a marginalised student identity is self-perceived, a sense of difference and psychological sense of isolation can also arise. Furthermore, studying part-time with reduced physical presence on campus typically leads to less socialisation with peers. Focused on the affective domain, this study explores the lived experiences of eight mature part-time undergraduates using a Facebook online peer support community (OPSC) during their Foundation Year at a research-intensive university. As a practitioner-researcher I used a transcendental phenomenological three-stage interview series, collecting descriptions of biographical and educational past life and present-life experiences, followed by a final meaning-making interview. Five months of contributions from the students’ OPSC were captured as well as participant weekly diary entries. Data was analysed using an eight-stage method which raised six common themes: 1. Sense of difference due to not being a traditional undergraduate at an elite university. 2. Academic self-doubt impacted by past education. 3. Challenges of being part-time: life commitments and employment responsibilities. 4. OPSC connectedness and informality for relationship building and creating a sense of belonging 5. OPSC nurturing supportive community for peer support 6. OPSC private spaces for affective support. This study draws attention to the benefits of understanding marginalised student cohorts by capturing the student experience holistically. The findings highlight the importance of an empathetic OPSC in reducing a sense of isolation, the impact a mere sense of belonging can have, and the motivation derived from knowing others are in the same boat. This research also emphasizes the importance of online spaces for peer-peer empathetic content, complementing the cognitive provision provided by higher education institutions.
Supervisor: Morris, Neil ; Swinnerton, Bronwen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available