Japanese online distance learners' opinions and learning preferences: A mixed methods study
The purpose of this concurrent mixed methods study was to develop a comprehensive description of the online distance learners at a Japanese university. A questionnaire was developed by the researcher based on a preliminary open-ended item questionnaire and a review of the work of Moore (1989) and others, designed to measure student opinions and preferences for five aspects of the distance learning experience: student-teacher interaction, course clarity, student-student interaction, student-computer interaction and student autonomy. The questionnaire was made available to all students at Z University via a web-based survey, resulting in a response rate of 31.3% (N=424).
The quantitative findings indicated this distance learning context attracted predominantly older, female learners, nearly half of whom having previous distance learning experience. These learners were primarily motivated to enter the program because of the convenience of being able to study at times and places that suited their busy lifestyles with its demands from work and family. The qualitative responses indicated many students found it challenging to find the time (22.3%) or maintain the motivation to study (23.7%).
Students had favorable opinions about the clarity of course content and assignments, computer use, and their abilities to meet the challenges of study presented by this learning context. Students had less favorable opinions about interaction with the teacher and interaction with other students. This finding was supported by the qualitative responses where many students indicated that interaction was lacking or difficult in an online environment with the teacher (27.0%) or with other students (22.0%).
A multiple regression analysis indicated student satisfaction with learning was higher for students who: (1) could maintain motivation in the face of comprehension difficulties and isolation, (2) found it easy to interact with instructors, (3) found computers easy to use, and (4) did not prefer social interaction with others when learning. Overall, the high level of student satisfaction with learning indicated this university was able to attract students suited to the demands and opportunities this distance learning context provided.
0516: Continuing education
0710: Educational software
0745: Higher education