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.

Author Biographies

Prithvi Shrestha, The Open University, UK

Dr Prithvi N. Shrestha, an award-winning author (British Council ELTons finalist 2019), is Senior Lecturer in English Language at The Open University, UK. He has led or co-led a number of funded international research projects. He has published over 50 research outputs including papers in journals such as Assessing Writing and Journal of English for Academic Purposes. He recently published a research monograph, Dynamic Assessment of Students’ Academic Writing (Springer, 2020). His research interests cover academic literacy and disciplinary writing, academic writing assessment in distance education, language assessment and testing, English language education in developing countries, English medium instruction, teacher identity and mobile learning. His research is informed by educational linguistics, Systemic Functional Linguistics and sociocultural theory.

John Parry, The Open University, UK

John Parry is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Early Childhood at the Open University. Before moving into Higher Education he was a practitioner and teacher who had worked with young children and their families for over 25 years, spending much of this time with Portage, a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with learning difficulties. He is a longstanding ally of the campaign for inclusive education, and endeavours to bring this commitment to equality and social justice to his teaching, writing and research. The focus of his publications and field work has been the inclusion of young children in their local pre-school settings, and the early friendships between disabled children and their peers.

How to Cite
ShresthaP., & ParryJ. (2023). Students’ perspectives on the impact of embedding academic literacy activities in distance-learning study material. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 17(1), 102-117. Retrieved from
Research Articles