Negotiating Learning in Distance and Flexible Learning at the University of the South Pacific
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This is a thesis that presents a qualitative mixed method study of 30 students engaged in distance and flexible learning (DFL) courses of study across two campuses of the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. The goals of this research were to develop an account of the personal and cultural learning practices that students draw on and use when negotiating learning in their University studies and to understand the ways that University courses including teaching and learning interactions and course materials contribute to student learning and success. At the centre of this study is the concept of learning as negotiated practice. Data sources included a questionnaire with semi-structured and open-ended questions. Data collection and analysis was guided by the construct of third space theory (Guitierrez, 1999), which provided a frame for considering students’ DFL experiences as acts of negotiation that are situated in nested socio-cultural and socio-historical contexts. Two descriptive campus cases of learning are presented, one for each of the Lautoka and Labasa campuses. Within each case, data from a student group provides background to in-depth learning stories for focus of students at each campus. Given the socio-cultural, economical, political and the geographical difficulties that DFL students face this study shows that they also face constraints within the University learning contexts that impact the way they construct meaning from their learning experiences. This study draws attention to the need for teaching and learning in DFL that is learner focused and learner centred and that acknowledges learning as a social and cultural undertaking which is constructed as students draw on personal funds of knowledge to navigate unfamiliar terrain. Findings suggest that universities offering DFL courses would benefit students if the environments for learning constructed in DFL courses were developed in such a way that provides students with opportunities to draw on their unofficial personal and cultural resources in ways that enhance their ability to learn in the official world of University study. Third space theory is utilised to develop explanations of learning in DFL as a mediated act of negotiation between these official and unofficial spaces that learners inhabit. In the process of engaging and negotiating learning between the DFL learner’s two spaces, a third space or hybrid space is created. This space represents the negotiated solution to solving learning problems.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Education and Professional Studies
Item Access Status
University of the South Pacific, Fiji