The case for engaging online tutors for supporting learners in higher education in refugee contexts

  • Paul O'Keeffe InZone, Université de Genève, Sciences II, Genève, Switzerland
Keywords: blended learning, refugees, collaborative learning, pedagogy, online tutors


International development initiatives such as the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are helping to position higher education as a key solution available to policy makers in their efforts to alleviate various ongoing refugee crises around the world. As technology develops and higher education embraces new forms of delivery, such as blended learning approaches, university courses can be accessed in far-flung places and reach more people than ever before. With this increased emphasis on higher education solutions and more refugees taking advantage of these solutions, there is a growing awareness among practitioners that digital learning requires adequate support beyond merely transmitting educational materials to learners. This support or scaffolding requires the input of various instructional and administrative actors to create a successful collaborative learning model. Using InZone’s collaborative learning ecosystem for enabling higher education refugee contexts as a case study, this study examines the role of online tutors in such scaffolding. Various factors that shape online tutoring are explored and data collected from nine courses enabled in Azraq and Kakuma refugee camps in 2017 and 2018 are presented to support the use of online tutoring for improving course completion rates and ultimately making the case for engaging online tutors for higher education in refugee contexts.


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1 SDG 4 articulates the promotion of lifelong learning as a development goal for the 2016–2030 development initiative period. See

2 This review is available for download from the INEE website

3 InZone is an academic research centre based at the University of Geneva that pioneers innovative approaches to multilingual communication and higher education in communities affected by conflict and crisis. For more details and detailed explanations of InZone’s projects see

4 InZone has developed the following online training course for online tutors who wish to tutor refugees in refugee camps:

5 For a detailed explanation of the theory and an in-depth exploration of each dimension see
How to Cite
O’Keeffe P. (2020). The case for engaging online tutors for supporting learners in higher education in refugee contexts. Research in Learning Technology, 28.
Original Research Articles