Study orchestrations in distance learning: Identifying dissonance and its implications for distance educators


  • Bill Anderson University of Otago
  • Scott W F Lee University of Otago
  • Mary G Simpson University of Otago
  • Sarah J Stein University of Otago



approaches to study, study orchestrations, metacognition, higher education


The exploration of study orchestrations emphasises students’ active participation in learning, describing the ways in which they marshal the resources available to them in response to their learning environment. This study reports the identification of study orchestrations in a group of distance students and identifies the existence of dissonant study orchestrations, which previous research has linked with poor achievement, in approximately one-fifth of the group. Data came from responses by 176 students to the ASSIST questionnaire. The data was subject to factor analysis to ensure commensurability with previous studies, and then cluster analysis was used to identify groups with similar study orchestrations. Four clusters were identified. One of these was clearly dissonant, pointing toward problematic links between learning environments and student approaches to study. The implications of dissonant study orchestrations are explored and further research is suggested, along with implications for the practice of distance educators.

Author Biographies

Bill Anderson, University of Otago

Bill Anderson is the Director, Distance Learning, at the University of Otago. Bill is currently involved in researching the nature of the learning experience of full-time distance students, and has recently completed research into distance student retention within New Zealand.

Scott W F Lee, University of Otago

Scott Lee is a doctoral candidate at the University of Otago College of Education. His current research is an investigation into the development of creativity and thinking skills of young children in formal educational settings.

Mary G Simpson, University of Otago

Mary Simpson is the Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at the University of Otago College of Education. Her research interests lie at the intersection of teacher education, and distance and online education.

Sarah J Stein, University of Otago

Sarah Stein is Coordinator of the Academic Staff Development Group in the Higher Education Development Centre at the University of Otago. Her current research involves several related projects in the areas of teaching, learning and curriculum in higher education settings.



How to Cite

Anderson, B., Lee, S. W. F., Simpson, M. G., & Stein, S. J. (2011). Study orchestrations in distance learning: Identifying dissonance and its implications for distance educators. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(5), 1–17.



Research Articles