Refugees’ Online Learning Engagement in Higher Education : A Capabilitarian Analysis

Witthaus, Gabrielle and Lee, Kyungmee (2023) Refugees’ Online Learning Engagement in Higher Education : A Capabilitarian Analysis. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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There are almost 90 million forced migrants globally, many of whom could benefit from online higher education; yet evidence suggests extremely low retention rates of displaced people in online learning. Since retention is often seen as being linked to engagement, this study aimed to understand the nature of student engagement by displaced learners in online higher education (HE) and to identify practical ways in which higher education institutions (HEIs) can support displaced learners to engage in online learning. The methodology included both empirical and theoretical components. The empirical study focused on a qualitative analysis of the lived experiences of ten online Sanctuary Scholars enrolled on an online master’s degree with a UK university. The theoretical analysis involved integrating concepts related to online engagement from the HE literature with those from the Capability Approach. A thematic analysis of the empirical data found that, while conversion factors such as trauma and “lifeload” presented obstacles for all the Sanctuary Scholars, some graduated, whereas others withdrew from the programme without completing it. The findings point to a nuanced web of interactions between resources, enablers and constraints (positive and negative conversion factors), capabilities, engagement and personal agency for each research participant. The original contribution of this thesis is that it proposes a Capabilitarian Online Engagement Model, which shows how engagement along four dimensions is underpinned by specific capabilities; it also illustrates how engagement fuels the capability for further engagement and highlights the role of student agency. The study contributes to theoretical understanding of displaced learners’ engagement in online learning, while practically, it offers insights to HEIs for fostering online engagement. Socially, the thesis adds to the growing body of open research in the social sciences.

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Thesis (PhD)
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?? refugeesdisplaced peopleonline engagementhigher educationcapabilities approachdistance learningtheoretical modellearning designsanctuary scholarshipsno - not fundedsocial sciences(all) ??
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21 Jun 2023 12:25
Last Modified:
02 Jul 2024 01:08