Come in spinner!: Opportunities and meanings emerging through distance study for professional educators

Abstract

This paper reports on emergent meanings, professional dilemmas and the students' need to negotiate workplace commitments while balancing off-campus study with family and personal responsibilities. By examining data from a participant-orientated study, we explore the burning issue of student retention within their complex and evolving contexts. Our research investigates the reasons why students take a break from their study and then resume. As one student explains, 'I actually find this break experience rejuvenating because I am savouring the learning journey. I don't feel obliged to race through the MET [Master of Education Technology]. I want the time to learn in a course and then take the time to apply what I have learned on the job'.

Through the data we observe 'in practice' opportunities and meanings that emerge from these students' contexts, cognisant of the complementary imperatives of retention and progression - typical concerns of educational providers.

Three relevant themes were identified from survey data to be elucidated through focus groups: students' jobs, university administration processes, and personal or life dilemmas. The demands of the job appear to be an important factor why people take a break. University protocols may contribute to, or compromise retention. Personal circumstances, related to family and health issues, might influence students' ability to continue studying. Our students, postgraduates, face the challenge of fine-tuning competing demands. Thrust into novel situations and sometimes unexpectedly caught off balance, students pool their 'war time' stories and share pragmatics - playing the game.

Authors

Henriette M Janse van Rensburg
Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba QLD

Kaye Cleary
Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

References

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Keywords

student retention; higher education; distance education

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PP: 060 - 072


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