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- PublicationSupporting Mature Learners at a DistanceThis paper will examine some of the key themes arising in the literature in respect of learner support and will present a case study highlighting how the features of effective learner support have been implemented on a non-traditional distance learning programme within a traditional University setting. The innovative model of learner support has been designed and implemented at a programme-level and is founded upon the ‘centrality of the learner’ and seeks to reconcile the needs of the learners and the needs of the institution. These supports have had a direct and positive impact on student learning, have fostered an environment where learners experience a strong sense of ‘connectedness’ to this distance learning programme and to the University itself and have been a significant factor in the continuing high satisfaction surveys of learners and in the high learner retention rates. In order to create and sustain an effective learning environment, the degree of learner support requires customisation to meet the needs of the particular group of learners. Rowntree (1992) suggests that distance learners may need support of different kinds at different stages of a programme. This paper will examine the particular types of support non-traditional learners may need in a variety of areas and at different stages of a programme. Each element of learner support will be discussed in the context of a single framework which consolidates and unifies disparate aspects of student learning. The paper will also address issues such as the centrality of the learner in learner support design, the models of learner support, the need for learner induction, to help learners become independent and self-directed and the importance of feedback as an ingredient in learner development.
- PublicationAcademic Skills Development and the Enhancement of the Learning ExperienceMaking the transition to higher education can present considerable challenges to learners, and these challenges are evident in the development of effective study, learning and meta-cognitive competencies. The development of such competencies represents an integral element of a more satisfying and effective learning experience for both learners and tutors. In 2005, UCD School of Business introduced two accredited academic skills modules that are embedded in the programme of study being undertaken. These programme-specific modules aim to help learners identify and develop the key study skills, habits and practices that contribute to a more effective learning experience. Through workshops, exercises, coursework and formative feedback, learners put into practice academic skills, such as note-taking, essay writing and reflective writing. While this paper is based upon the experience at UCD School of Business, the case is located within the broader discussion of academic skills development. Little has been written about such provision in the Irish context but the paper acknowledges an increase in evidence of such developments. Thus, the literature base regarding skills development and provision in the UK has been useful.