Facilitated learning or technical distraction? Sociologically exploring online university learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents qualitative data from interviews with >100 Australian undergraduates to sociologically consider why learners used technologically mediated learning activities (TMLA). Engagement with TMLA varied with personal preference, technical aptitude, prior experience and perceived relevance to assessment. TMLA students thought facilitated, rather than distracted, from their learning aligned with personal opinions and normative expectations about ‘good’ communication and desirable social interactions. Students who disliked TMLA believed technologies hindered their social interactions or poorly aligned with their preferred communication style. Systemic variation in TMLA provision by the university also affected student satisfaction. Critical sociological investigation illustrating what students valued, used or avoided broadly reflects TMLAs’ social embeddedness and relevance of social experience to higher education practice and satisfaction. The findings reveal practical lessons for organisations seeking to improve service delivery, or student retention. Prior socialisation not only affects student–lecturer social relationships and communication expectations, it affects individual engagement and institutional success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-234
Number of pages16
JournalTechnology, Pedagogy and Education
Early online dateJan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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