Sheelagh Semper


This autoethnographical study explored the common characteristics, challenges faced, and strategies employed by 11 members of a Masters of Education cohort who completed their degree through online distance education (ODE). Results indicated a shared set of characteristics, challenges and strategies existed among cohort members. Shared ODE adult learner characteristics included (a) driven and controlled nature; (b) introspection; (c) problem solving; and (d) stubbornness. Common challenges included (a) access to people, materials and content; (b) time; and (c) external stressors such as workload, family obligations, financial considerations, and social commitments. Strategies employed to address challenges included (a) applying for grants or seeking new forms of employment; (B) changing work and sleep schedules or locations; (c) reducing familial and social commitments; and (d) seeking help from others to share household and family obligations. From the results, a series of recommendations was derived to help guide adult learners towards successful completion of an ODE program. Additionally, results highlighted an identifiable split between genders; how they defined themselves as learners, what they considered to be obstacles, and how they addressed them, opening potential new avenues for future research.