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Students' experiences of synchronous online tuition in health and social care

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date30/03/2022
Number of pages243
Awarding Institution
  • Open University
  • Open University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This study explores students’ experiences of synchronous online tuition within the researcher’s own context as a health and social care tutor at a large UK-based distance learning university. There is a lack of literature which considers students’ experiences within this context in any depth.

The research explores how students’ narratives of tutorial experiences vary, the
factors that account for this variation, and the needs that drive the preferences
students express. It uses the Community of Inquiry as a theoretical framework,
investigating the relationships between social presence, teaching presence and
cognitive presence evident within the narrative accounts, and considering the
proposed additions to the original framework of emotional presence and learning presence.

The study takes an experience-centred narrative approach, using the Voice
Centred Relational Method to analyse diaries and interviews of 10 female
students. The responses of 28 tutors to the narratives are analysed to investigate how hearing about students’ experience impacts on tutors’ reported thinking and practice.

The analysis uncovers how tutorial experiences are embedded in the social and
cultural contexts of students’ lives and are fitted around their multiple caring roles.
These students experience variation in tutorial design and in the tutors’
characteristics. They value friendly, empathetic tutors who enable students’
contributions and respond encouragingly. Students avoid using microphones in
tutorials but enjoy taking an active part via other tools. They appreciate hearing
peers’ perspectives and prefer small group sizes. A sense of community is
missing, however, particularly for students with fewer supportive friends,
colleagues, or family members. They long to see people’s faces and build

Insight into how students’ experiences impact on learning holds the potential to
enlighten educators and invites revision of policy and practice. Opportunities to
belong to enduring learning communities with an enhanced sense of social
presence would benefit those learners who currently feel isolated.