Student transitions: academic support for online distance students

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


The University of Edinburgh has placed great importance on the development of distance education and in 2017, Senate focused on the future of distance learning, and there was the launch of the ‘Near Future Teaching’ project. Consequently, it is important that the University understands how to support the unique cohort of online distance learners (ODL), many of whom are mature, juggling work/life commitments, and studying part-time.

A joint research project with the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Institute for Academic Development aims to explore the current provision of academic support available at different transitional stages of the student journey. In doing so, Programmes, Schools and potentially other HEIs, will be better equipped to provide academic support to ODL students which can enhance their student experience; potentially reduce attrition rates; and provide the right academic support at the stages when it is needed.

The initial (pilot) stage of the research (Oct 2017- Mar 2018) includes the distribution of a survey and interviewing students from the online MSc Equine Science programme. This stage has provided a baseline in order to disseminate surveys and undertake interviews with other online students, across the University. In doing so, the findings will enable the development of a transitions roadmap for academic support for all online distance students.

Initial findings indicate that levels of self-efficacy and awareness of academic support varies in relation to a range of topics and at different stages of their studies. For example, only 46% of those surveyed stated that they were ‘very confident’ about literature searching, 23% were ‘very confident’ about critical reading, and 15% ‘very confident’ about statistics.

The poster will be of interest to all ODL programmes and will present the initial findings, the current roadmap design, and the next stage of the project.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018
EventUniversity of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Jun 201820 Jun 2018


ConferenceUniversity of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • education
  • Online learning
  • academic support


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