What factors promote student resilience on a level 1 distance learning module?

Resilience, with respect to online learning, can be about how students adapt and make sense of study demands, enabling them to persist in their studies. Attrition in online courses can be high. With standard semester census dates approaching, it’s timely to look at what factors might help our online students stay in their studies.

This study looked at an online topic where several revisions to improve retention had been made. Students were asked:

  1. How do you respond when you receive what you perceive to be a low grade on an assignment?
  2. What factors enable you to continue with the [topic]?


The four themes that emerged were:

  • Challenges – specifically, time needed to manage and organise study, and balancing time between study and other commitments
  • Persistence factors – these included tutor feedback, time management, motivation and self-belief
  • Support – from many places, including ‘institutional’ supports such as tutors, student support teams, [topic] design. ‘Emotional’ supports like other students, friends, family and colleagues were also important
  • Advice to future students – use time well by forward planning and reading ahead; make use of study guides and student supports.


The findings suggest that topic support (through good design and tutor communication and feedback), as well as support from family and friends, are particularly important in adapting to the challenges of online study.


That, and to ‘just do it’.


Full paper by J. Simons, K. Beaumont & L. Holland (2017) What factors promote student resilience on a level 1 distance learning module? Open Learning: The Journal of Open, distance and eLearning 33 (1):4-17

Synopsis by Cassandra Hood

Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

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