'Remote from what?' Perspectives of distance learning students in remote rural areas of Scotland


  • Ronald Macintyre The Open University
  • Janet R. Macdonald Open University in Scotland




networks, remote rural, distance education,


Distance learning is seen as the obvious answer for remote learners, and the use of online media is expected to overcome any access difficulties imposed by geographical distance. However, this belief may be obscuring our understanding of the role that location and individual circumstances have in shaping student experience. This paper explores the variation in experiences of remote rural students who study with the Open University (UK). The researchers found that perceptions of remoteness depended on geography, but were also relative to individual circumstances. With respect to students’ sense of connection with university staff and peers, most mentioned their contact with their personal tutor. Networks with peers were less common, a matter of concern if peer networks are integral to fostering improved retention and progression. In this particular context, distance education may be playing an important and distinctive role for remote students by providing opportunities for connections with like-minded people.

Author Biographies

Ronald Macintyre, The Open University

Member of the Open University in Scotland Learning Development Team

Janet R. Macdonald, Open University in Scotland

Dr Janet Macdonald is an independent HE consultant who has worked in distance education for 20 years and was formerly the Learning and Teaching Coordinator (elearning) at the Open University in Scotland. She has a doctorate in online course design and assessment and has published extensively on online course design, online tutoring and the use of online communities for professional development. She has written and directed two courses in online facilitation which train 1000 staff a year and has written two popular textbooks Blended Learning and Online Tutoring (Gower, 2nd ed 2008), and Learning with Online and Mobile Technologies, A Student Survival Guide (Gower, 2010). Email: janet@jmheconsult.co.uk



How to Cite

Macintyre, R., & Macdonald, J. R. (2011). ’Remote from what?’ Perspectives of distance learning students in remote rural areas of Scotland. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(4), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v12i4.847