In their own words: Student stories of seeking learning support
Many Open and Distance Learning (ODL) providers report that their students are prone to lower rates of retention and completion than campus-based students. Against this background, there is growing interest around distance-specific learning support. The current research investigated the experiences of students during their first semester as distance learners at Massey University in New Zealand. The overarching methodology was Design-Based Research, within which phenomenological data gathering methods were used to study the experiences of twenty participants from their own point of view. Using video cameras, over twentytwo hours of self-reflections were gathered between July and November 2011 using a technique adapted from previous studies. A grounded theory approach was applied to the process of thematic data analysis. Results revealed how participants varied in their engagement with learning supports, including orientation events, outreach activity, cultural services, learning consultants, library services, fellow students, lecturers, residential courses, and other people. The discussion reflects on clusters of participants who utilised learning supports effectively, moderately and barely. The paper concludes by summarizing how the current research has had an impact on the design of learning support services at one of the world’s leading providers of distance education.