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- Thesis title: Exploring mature and part-time undergraduates’ experiences of using social media to connect with peers in a Russell Group university
The personal circumstances of mature and part-time widening participation learners can be more complex than traditional cohorts, the term ‘juggling’ is frequently used. The return to education is often an emotional experience, due to feelings of self-doubt influenced by previous educational experiences. In addition, mature widening participation learners may feel a sense of difference to traditional cohorts, a sense of not belonging. Responsibilities beyond study can also result in feelings of isolation, by the reduced time on campus and availability of time to share their learning experiences with peers; social media provides one way to connect remotely with others.
The aim of this study is to understand the experiences of mature and part-time widening participation learners’ of using online social networking as they become undergraduates in a Russell Group university. The methodology is phenomenology, using a three stage interview process which considers past and present life experiences, along with participant diaries and online observation.
It is intended that this research will explore the diversity of mature and part-time learners (Moreau and Kerner, 2012) and investigate how the use of online social networking helps them cope with the process of becoming an undergraduate student in a Russell Group university (Universities UK, 2013; DBIS, 2011). By including a focus on first-hand accounts from the perspective of the individual (Martin, 2005) and past experiences (Henning, 2012) I will aim to provide in-depth contextual information relating to how each learner perceives their experiences.
After becoming a mother in my early 30’s I decided to make a career change from working as a buyer in the fashion industry to teaching. I started by teaching on a fashion textiles course in a further education college, during which time I completed my PGCE in Lifelong Learning and MA in Education (both at the University of Leeds).
In September 2012 I was employed as a tutor at the Lifelong Learning Centre, here at the University of Leeds where I teach on a range of undergraduate modules covering child development & learning, educational research methods and reflective practice.
What motivated me to undertake PhD study?
The EdD seemed a natural progression for me after completing my MA, and the research focus has very much been informed by my masters qualification.
What makes me passionate about my subject?
During my PGCE, MA and now EdD I have studied part-time as a working student parent. Working full-time I had limited time on campus to study, social media provided me with a sense of belonging, and reduced the sense of studying alone. I wanted to explore if this experience was shared by other mature and part-time learners.
What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?
To continue my research into the learner experiences of using technology.