Chinese adult e-learners experiences: Learner reflexivity, relationships and experiential e-learning

Zhen Li, Martin Dyke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper describes the findings from a study of the learning experiences of Chinese adults on two elearning programmes conducted in China, one a collaborative programme with Western institutions, the other developed entirely locally in China. Margaret Archer's approach to reflexivity (2007) informs the theoretical framework for this research in investigating the interaction between individual learners and their e-learning environment combined with their wider social cultural context. Qualitative data was collected in the two cases, with detailed accounts of learners' experiences obtained through interviews, digital audio diaries, informal discussions and reports. There were 336 participants in the field-work the data for which was collected in China between 2005-6. The findings identified the need for e-learning to be tailored to a specific cultural context. It is suggested that cultural influences on learning deserve to be more fully recognised when designing an e-learning course. An understanding of the social context in which the e-Learning takes place, in this case a Confucius Heritage Culture (Biggs and Watkins, 1996), is necessary. Where these Chinese adult students perceived that they had a degree of control over the learning process, including the access to appropriate tools, they created opportunities for dialogue, practice and reflection on knowledge. They adopted what could be termed an experiential approach to learning. The paper concludes by arguing for e-learning that includes more practical relevant and concrete tasks. These e-learners wanted to learn by doing to apply theory to authentic practice situations. The students in both case studies appreciated the opportunities to reflectively engage with knowledge in the company of others. They also wanted the learning experience to facilitate the achievement of 'Ren' - as balanced and trusting human relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication4th International Conference on e-Learning, ICEL 2009
EditorsFlorin Salajan
PublisherAcademic Conferences Limited
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781906638375
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
Event4th International Conference on e-Learning, ICEL 2009 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 16 Jul 200917 Jul 2009

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning, ICEL
ISSN (Print)2048-8882
ISSN (Electronic)2048-8890


Conference4th International Conference on e-Learning, ICEL 2009


  • China
  • E-learning
  • Experiential-learning
  • Learner experience
  • Reflexivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems
  • Education


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