Student Engagement and Perceptions of Quality in Flexible Online Study Programs

Description
VIA University College in Denmark offers a variety of online study programmes in administration, nursing, preschool teaching, teaching and social work. The study programmes are organized as blended learning with a large percentage of students’ activities designed to be carried out online and in collaboration among students.

It is well established that student completion rates are often lower in such flexible study programs. This might be due to factors such as less face to face contact with faculty and challenges regarding student self-motivation, when study time must be self-organized to a much larger extent than in traditional study programs. Thus, it is of great interest to investigate which factors keep students motivated and engaged in these programmes.

The paper will investigate and discuss the following research question:

How does educational design affect students’ social and academic engagement in and connection to their study? Our aim is to discuss education designs and their potential role affecting the students’ social and academic engagement. Our data collection method is designed to investigate students’ points of view.

Using a hermeneutical approach, we have conducted semi-structured interviews with study groups from the different programs. In the interviews, we asked students which factors were important to them regarding 1) their social engagement in the study programme, 2) their engagement in the study content (academic engagement), 3) their experience and use of guidance and feedback from faculty, 4) retention in the study programme. Analysing the interviews, the paper seeks to understand quality in these study programs from the students’ point of view. We hope to outline some propositions for educational designs in online study programmes, which support the social and academic engagement of students. The results obtained in this study may be used in future design of online study programs, with the aim of increasing student motivation, retention and completion.
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