All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2008: Encouraging Student Engagement

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An online survey to ascertain students' experiences and expectations of academic practise and the virtual learning environment at GMIT
attracta brennan, rosie curry

Last modified: 2009-01-22


The Irish government is committed to improving teaching and learning in Higher Educational institutions as evidenced by the investment of EUR510m over the six years of the NDP's lifetime. "The role of the higher education system is critical to Ireland's future success [1]". Recognising the position of the student as a major stakeholder, the relationship between students' expectations and institutional deliverables is very complex [2] James argues that whilst certain aspects of higher education cannot be validly judged by students (such as the overall coherence of the curriculum), students are conversely well equipped to judge "the more tangible, short term components of the experience and to judge aspects of the process of higher education [2]". These areas include the availability of IT support, student life, feedback, the teaching skills of the academic staff and the use and application of virtual learning environments etc. With regard to the latter, educational institutions are increasingly implementing online learning technologies as part of their growth strategy for the delivery of teaching and learning [3]. Biggs points out that educational technology has great potential in helping educational institutions reach their aims and objectives "in managing learning, in engaging students in appropriate learning activities, in assessing learning and in enabling off campus learning [4]".

To identify students' reactions to and expectations for the VLE and to synopsise their expectations and experiences of academic practise, an online student survey was carried out in GMIT. From an undergraduate student body of 4,889 students, across five geographically dispersed campuses, a total of 694 completed and usable questionnaires were received, yielding an overall response rate of 14.1%. The results of this questionnaire provided awareness of the students' experiences of the VLE and their perception of the quality of teaching. These insights plus other findings are presented in this paper.


[1] HEA, Minister Mary Hanafin. "Minister Hanafin announces almost EUR100million for Higher Education Reform Process", Feb. 08.

[2] James, Richard. "Students' changing expectation of higher education and the consequences of mismatches with reality", OECD-IMHE conference "Management responses to changing student expectations", QUT, 24th September, 2001.

[3] Fannon John and Brian D'Netto. "Cultural Diversity Online : Student Engagement with Learning Technologies", International Journal of Educational Management, Volume 21, Number 5, pp. 418-432, 2007.

[4] Biggs, J. "Teaching for Quality Learning at University", The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press, 2003.

[5] Chickering, A. W. and Z. F. Gamson. "Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education", New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 47, Fall 1991.

[6] Sloane Consortium. "Online Nation - five years of growth in online learning", 2007.


student expectations, student experiences, online learning technology, academic practise