Using the perceptions of online university students to improve the pedagogy and practice of distance educators

Them helping us to improve IT


  • David Bolton
  • Maria Northcote
  • Peter Kilgour
  • Jason Hinze



distance learning, student perceptions, CPD


This paper reports on the findings of an investigation into the experiences of undergraduate and postgraduate distance education students from one higher education institution, Avondale College of Higher Education. All of the institution’s current students who were enrolled in a distance course or who had previously completed a distance component of their course were surveyed using an online questionnaire. A subgroup of this population also contributed to focus group discussions. Findings from an analysis of the combined data gathered from the online questionnaire and the focus groups were used to inform the institution’s professional development (PD) program that supports lecturers to design and teach online courses. Results of the study are outlined in terms of distance students’ perceptions about the institution’s distance education program, specifically in relation to course structure, interaction and communication, presentation of materials, use of media and design consistency. The paper concludes with recommendations for addressing the weaknesses of online learning programs including both curriculum design and PD strategies.






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