Experiences of E-Learning - The Role and Influence of Tutors in a Postgraduate Blended Learning Programme in Clinical Education


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This Thesis presents Case Study research (Yin, 2009) into e-learning, in the situated context of a part-time postgraduate blended learning programme in clinical education [Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Clinical Practice]; and addresses a significant challenge for tutors: how to intervene in online discussions in order to achieve the highest quality of engagement by all participants. Utilising a parallel convergent mixed methods approach (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009; Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2011), this study offers insights into the perceptions and experiences of tutors and students regarding the role of the tutor within the online learning environment, and in particular, it explores the influence of the tutor on the development of true dialogue in an online discussion board, rather than a bulletin board of unconnected statements, or ňúserial monologue', which a number of authors have identified (Henri, 1991; Pawan et al, 2003; Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). Thus, the project is essentially a praxis-driven exploration (Carr & Kemmis, 1986) of a complex and ill-defined aspect of teaching practice. Data-collection was primarily by means of semi-structured interviews (Punch, 2009; Kvale, 2007), and by detailed analysis of the online Discussion Board archive (Garrison et al, 2000; Dawson et al, 2011; Sackville & Sherratt, 2006; Blignaut & Trollip, 2003a). A theoretical model has emerged from analysis of study data (Sherratt, 2012), which classifies students' expectations of tutor intervention and support into four broad categories, represented graphically as quadrants of a square diagram. This model (along with its associated list of diagnostic indicators and tutor responses), offers a way of differentiating the highly divergent needs and expectations of students within the e-learning context, with regard to tutor input and support. Lessons for practice, both locally and elsewhere, arising out of this differential model, with its diagnostic indicators and suggested tutor responses, are explored and discussed.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorMARK SCHOFIELD (Director of Studies) & ANTHONY LIVERSIDGE (Supervisor)


  • Online learning
  • e-learning
  • blended learning
  • interaction
  • online discussion
  • asynchronous

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