Unpicking Stitches: the lived experience of students commencing technology enhanced learning


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research has been undertaken in response to an average 50% attrition rate from a technology enhanced distance-learning course in applied art and design. It studies the participants' lived experience over a 12-week period from enrolment to the end of the first of twelve modules. The commercial provider recruited 23 mature, female participants from 8 different countries for this City & Guilds certificated course. Data was collected utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Research methodology (IPA) via two open-ended telephone interviews with participants. The twin roles of the study author as researcher and director of the educational provider were reviewed and a methodology for disaggregation proposed. ATLASti software was used to aid data coding and retrieval. Four key themes emerged from the data; Confidence, Persistence, Support and Timing, which were each subsequently divided into 3 sub categories. Literature searches moved from education to psychology as the study progressed. Implications for further discussion encompass pre-course testing, provider conflict of interest, innovative methods of support and increased legislation. Findings centre around the commencement process and the need for provider instigated advice at the beginning of the course experience, as well as the limitation of design content during the first module and the accuracy of pre-course information and the participant's engagements and understanding of it. The study also found a lack of correlation between early tutor/student support and retention and several planning activities undertaken by a sub-section of the participants, which appeared to be successful. This study has also contributed to the literature on retention, highlighting the participant's personal experiences rather than the quantitative retention data more usually associated with retention studies and has demonstrated that interventions intended to decrease course attrition levels may be required at an earlier stage than previously thought and also across a wider subject range than previously recognised
Date of Award17 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorMARY MCATEER (Director of Studies) & FIONA HALLETT (Supervisor)


  • adult
  • education
  • TEL (technology enhanced learning)
  • distance learning

Cite this