Degrees by Independent Learning: a case study of practice at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand

DProf thesis

Ker, G. 2017. Degrees by Independent Learning: a case study of practice at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand. DProf thesis Middlesex University Work and Learning Research Centre
TypeDProf thesis
TitleDegrees by Independent Learning: a case study of practice at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand
AuthorsKer, G.

This project constitutes a critical enquiry into the Independent Learning Pathway (ILP) approach to acquiring degrees offered by Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand. The ILP approach is for professionally experienced adults who are often poorly served by traditional taught approaches to achieving degree qualifications. These learners already have considerable degree-relevant knowledge and skill, yet this usually does not count as part of a taught degree, and these learners usually do not enrol in such degree programmes because they do not have the time to study within the typical delivery framework. The ILP approach provides equity of access for this group but is a significantly different learning process which challenges traditional conceptions of degree level learning and in turn is challenged as a valid approach by academics and regulatory agencies.
Hence this study aims both to illuminate and validate the degree level learning which occurs in the ILP and to develop a model of practice for facilitators to assure the quality of this degree level learning. In pursuit of these aims I undertook, as a participant researcher, a work-based enquiry using an interpretive approach, drawing on the principles of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967), (Strauss and Corbin 2015).
The project research phase commenced with an extensive survey sent to all (423) learners who studied with Capable NZ from 2006-2014, followed up with ten in-depth interviews with current learners, and eight interviews with facilitators of the ILP model. I captured the themes emerging from the feedback and analysis to identify clear signposts for both effective learning and effective facilitation in an independent learning context.
This study has resulted in a (grounded) model of practice for the teachers, referred to in Capable NZ as facilitators, who guide ILP learners. This model of practice includes a competency framework, successful practice guidelines and practical learning tools. The study has also resulted in guidelines and learning tools for learners, and for both facilitators and learners the ‘SPRINGBOARD’ tool has been developed as a reflective framework for effective facilitation and learning respectively. Another key outcome of the study is the illumination and validation of the degree level learning which occurs through the ILP process.

Research GroupWork and Learning Research Centre
Department nameWork and Learning Research Centre
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print07 Nov 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Nov 2017
Accepted03 Nov 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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