Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Computing, Health and Science
Computer and Information Science
A considerable amount of research has been done into students' first year experiences at university: their transition from school to university studies and their social needs and experiences. The work described in the literature has concentrated on students who attend on campus. If on-campus students are experiencing problems with feeling isolated, a lack of identity and feeling part of a community, then how do distance students deal with these same issues? A research project conducted at Edith Cowan University in 2004-2005 sought to discover the issues affecting first year students and 'the problems they experienced when beginning studies in online professional education programs for librarians, library technicians. teacher librarians, archivists and records managers. Many of these students in he School of Computer and Information Science (SCIS) study by distance education and are wholly dependent on elearning. There are others who attend on campus but undertake a significant proportion of their studies through elearning. Communication and IT skills and preparedness must be added to the list of major first year experience issues for this group. Two separate studies were initiated to find out how the online environment differs from the on-campus experience, how students feel about studying online and what needs to be included to facilitate a more supportive experience at university. The results of these two studies - First experiences of online university study and Using 'discussion forums to create an online learning' community- are reported here.