Students’ perspectives on the impact of embedding academic literacy activities in distance-learning study material
Academic literacy is widely considered to be central to academic knowledge building and success. However, it is recognised that students increasingly come to higher education lacking confidence in their academic literacy skills and consequently, unprepared for the demands of their study. To address this gap, universities in the UK offer students self-standing or embedded academic literacy courses. Several studies have previously reported benefits of embedded academic literacy for students in disciplines such as sociology and engineering. However, these studies are limited to face-to-face learning contexts; therefore, there is no such research in a distance learning context. This study, a collaboration between an academic literacy specialist and an early childhood studies academic, sought to explore the perspectives of first- and second-year early childhood studies distance education students on the effect of embedded academic literacy activities in their course materials. Following a mixed methods approach, data was collected through semi-structured interviews of students (N = 11) at three time points (33 interviews) and surveys at the end of the course (N = 69). The findings reveal that the students were consistently engaged in their academic literacy-focused work and that this engagement was enhanced by the activities being integrated in the materials, easily accessible, and drawn from the core subject matter. Furthermore, the students reflected that the embedding approach positively contributed to their self-confidence as academic writers. The implications of these findings for disciplinary writing pedagogy and the embedding academic literacy in disciplines are discussed in the context of other research, together with suggestions for future course/curriculum design.