Opportunity through online learning: Experiences of first-in-family students in online open-entry higher education

Author: Cathy Stone^, Sarah O’Shea*, Josephine May#, Janine Delahunty*, Zoë Partington+
^ University of Newcastle & Open Universities Australia
* University of Wollongong
# University of Newcastle
+Open Universities Australia

Edition: Volume 56, Number 2, July 2016

Summary: Online learning has an important place in widening access and participation in higher education for diverse student cohorts. One cohort taking up online study in increasing numbers is that of mature-age, first-in-family students. First-in-family is defined as those who are the first in their immediate family, including parents, siblings, partners and children, to undertake university studies. This paper looks at the experience of 87 first-in-family students, for whom the opportunity to study open-entry, online undergraduate units through Open Universities Australia made it possible for them to embark on a university education. Using a qualitative methodology, in-depth interviews and surveys were conducted with these students as part of a wider study into first-in-family students (O’Shea, May & Stone, 2015). Findings include the important role that opportunity plays in providing the impetus for study, as well as the importance of support and encouragement from family, friends, colleagues and institutions in being able to continue the journey.

Keywords: Online learning; first-in-family; higher education; open-entry

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This article is part of AJAL, Volume 56_2. The entire volume is available in .pdf for purchase here.

Posted in Higher Education