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The Experiences and Perceptions of Non-Traditional Students Enrolled in an Online Teacher Education Course

posted on 2023-05-22, 16:56 authored by Jillian DowningJillian Downing

This chapter reports on an investigation of the experiences of non-traditional students enrolled in a fully online teacher-education course at a mid-sized university in Australia. The research sought to better understand the students; to identify what helped or hindered their ability to remain motivated, engaged and satisfied with their chosen course. The findings revealed the complex and multi-dimensional nature of non-traditional students, who were often juggling the demands of study with work, family and community commitments. For many participants, particularly those first in their family to attend university, there was a palpable sense of excitement, even wonder, at the potential for personal transformation through success at university. This was, however, often tempered by indications of a low level of resilience, even fragility, in their belief that they could succeed. Through interviews, emails and online discussion board postings, participants shared their lived experience and in doing so, provided insight into their hopes and needs.

Globally, universities are reporting a significant increase in enrolments from non-traditional students. Administrators, support staff, and academics need to know how these students differ from the traditional cohort in order to understand how best to support their needs. Presently, there appears to be an assumption that the traditional learning and teaching environment, whether on campus or online, will be appropriate for these students. Yet this sets the scene for study to compete with, rather than complement other duties as an employee, parent or community member. This chapter contends that a deeper understanding of non-traditional students will facilitate a reconsideration of pedagogical approaches and pastoral care, and help build a more inclusive and engaging learning environment.


Publication title

What is Next in Educational Research?


S Fan, J Fielding-Wells






Faculty of Education


Sense Publishers

Place of publication

The Netherlands



Rights statement

Copyright 2016 Sense Publishers

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Learner and learning not elsewhere classified

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