Overcoming Isolation in Distance Learning

Aside from the benefits of technology allowing us to work and study remotely, it’s important to recognise the potential sense of isolation that many of us and our students may well experience during the Coronavirus situation. The University of the West of England have published some relevant research for distance learning which is useful for our response as a university.

Many of you will have considered aspects of this when designing your course modules within Moodle. But this report is pertinent to how we manage what has been forced on us by the Covid-19 pandemic in having to change a 100% distance learning practice.

“The student learning experience…can be enriched through reducing the potential for isolation. This research has identified that isolation was a problem experienced by students, with direct and indirect influences on their learning experience. Further barriers and challenges were identified relating to the difficulty of delivering and maintaining distance learning courses. The need to create a form of learning community, where peer contact is enabled and students are encouraged to share their work/thoughts, was identified as an overarching theme in the research. The importance of improving tutor-student communication was identified as a second theme, tutors should also be seen as part of a potential learning community.

  1. The paper concludes the importance of student-tutor communication and presence. Such as the practice of introducing “student welcome emails from module/topic tutors, offering a friendly welcome with guidelines for expectations of contact, response times, feedback and information about the student/tutor relationship.”
  2. Student-student communication and presence. Advising staff to “generate a social presence through encouraging students to contact each other to discuss material and develop critical thinking (noting that communication should allow for social and work-orientated dialogue)”

Overcoming Isolation in Distance Learning: Building a Learning Community through Time and Space. Nicholas Croft, Alice Dalton & Marcus Grant(2010) Overcoming Isolation in Distance Learning: Building a Learning Community through Time and Space, Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 5:1, 27-64.

For the full report click here

Also click here for The Chronicle of HE for a useful article from the United States on how we can support students in coping with their studies during this CV-19 crises.

Click here for a set of guidelines developed by LEaD for creating and managing your online resources for learning.

Also as a recent email from HR recommends, take a look at this site from MIND with guidance for you, your colleagues and your students.


Take care.

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