Fostering postgraduate student engagement: online resources supporting self-directed learning in a diverse cohort

  • Luciane V. Mello School of Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Keywords: self-directed learning, online resources, postgraduate teaching, higher education, prior knowledge


The research question for this study was: ‘Can the provision of online resources help to engage and motivate students to become self-directed learners?’ This study presents the results of an action research project to answer this question for a postgraduate module at a research-intensive university in the United Kingdom. The analysis of results from the study was conducted dividing the students according to their programme degree – Masters or PhD – and according to their language skills. The study indicated that the online resources embedded in the module were consistently used, and that the measures put in place to support self-directed learning (SDL) were both perceived and valued by the students, irrespective of their programme or native language. Nevertheless, a difference was observed in how students viewed SDL: doctoral students seemed to prefer the approach and were more receptive to it than students pursuing their Masters degree. Some students reported that the SDL activity helped them to achieve more independence than did traditional approaches to teaching. Students who engaged with the online resources were rewarded with higher marks and claimed that they were all the more motivated within the module. Despite the different learning experiences of the diverse cohort, the study found that the blended nature of the course and its resources in support of SDL created a learning environment which positively affected student learning.

Keywords: self-directed learning; online resources; postgraduate teaching; higher education; prior knowledge

(Published: 17 March 2016

Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2016, 24: 29366 -

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How to Cite
Mello L. V. (2016). Fostering postgraduate student engagement: online resources supporting self-directed learning in a diverse cohort. Research in Learning Technology, 24.
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