The Roller Coaster Life of the Online Learner: How Distance Educators Can Help Students Cope

  • Faye Wiesenberg University of Calgary


This paper describes a study of how one small group of graduate students coped with the stresses of learning at a distance over the course of the three to five years in which they were enrolled in their program of study. The study used a model of transition to examine how their coping responses changed as they moved into, through, and out of their program. It also assessed the students' perceptions of the "adult student friendliness" of the educational institution offering the program. The findings portrayed a "roller coaster ride" for these online students, whose somewhat limited initial coping strategies eventually became more adaptive. The findings suggested that adult educators who teach in online programs might benefit from looking to the field of transition counselling for help in addressing their students’ coping needs, as well as to the attributes of online communication as a way of maximizing support services for these students.