Technologically-mediated communication: Student expectations and experiences in a FOMO society

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While technology enables a wider section of society to access higher education, accessing, as a process, fundamentally differs from acquiring the individual and systemic skills required for online learning. This study presents primary data about perceptions of, and experiences with, online learning in an Australian university from a survey of 289 distance education (DE) students. Epistemologically, it prioritises giving agency and voice to an increasingly disempowered collective, online learners, who often are institutionally pursued for economic advantage, rather than pedagogical interest in serving students’ unique, individual needs/preferences. Participants’ comparison of face-to-face and online learning experiences allowed for benefits and disadvantages of online learning to emerge from lived-experiences. While a key benefit of online learning was its perceived ‘flexibility’, findings revealed difference between students’ conceptualisation of flexibility and institutional realities. Although DE students longed for non-technologically-medicated communication with peers and lecturers, the process of learning how to become a DE student failed to address students’ needs/concerns beyond technical skill acquisition and subject content mastery. Students’ ‘fear they were missing out’ (FOMO) on ‘better’ internal classroom and learning experiences was a key limitation 85% perceived about DE. Whereas traditional classroom experiences generally were recalled favourably, online learning was described by its shortcomings. Findings demonstrate need for deeper investigation of how/why educational technologies are implemented. Conclusions suggest critical research investigating whether embedded technologies meet student and/or institutional needs and aspirations in globally competitive learning environments may assuage DE’s stigma, realign expectations and improve teaching/learning experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2017


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