From place to virtual space: reconfiguring student support for distance and e-learning in the digital age

Alan W Tait


This article examines the impact of digital technologies on student support in distance and e-learning, drawing on the case of Open University UK. Giving a historical perspective on the use of technologies in learning over many centuries, it argues that the dominant paradigm of geography -which has defined the structures for student support services in second generation distance education- has now been overtaken in digital distance and e-learning contexts by the more powerful affordances of learning design. The article examines in detail the issue of student drop-out as the major challenge for student support in distance and e-learning, and argues that educational mission, not mode of delivery, is the more powerful explanatory driver. The article proposes that student support should now be understood as integrated with teaching and assessment, not separately organised structurally and professionally.


online learning; e-learning; distance education; student support; learning design; learning analytics; student drop-out

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