On transfer: The distance learner and the transfer of learning.

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Doyle, S.
Distance learning
Prior learning
Transfer of learning
Learning experience
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Peer-reviewed status
Working Papers
The problem of transfer of learning has been an enduring one, with contestation occurring over definitions, theories, and measures, and whether transfer to new situations is possible. Evidence of transfer has often proved elusive in studies conducted in artificial or laboratory settings. The study reported here explores the learning and transfer experiences of learners enrolled in a Bachelor of Business degree with a distance education institution, The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. Such a degree is designed for practical application, and those who enrol in the degree expect to be able to use or transfer what they learn to new and different contexts. Learning to transfer has two aspects in this context: the motivation for learning, and the process of learning for transfer. The research methodology, while predominantly qualitative, also drew on quantitative approaches. In the first stage of the research, there were 92 respondents to a postal survey. The survey data provided a picture of the experiences of the learners and of key factors in the transfer of learning. The survey findings and those from interviews with design and teaching team members helped shape and inform the final stage of the research: in-depth interviews with learners. A number of factors are discussed in the report, including: (1) prior learning, (2) motivations, (3) the experience of learning, (4) the distance dimension, (5) generic or essential skills, (6) the transfer experience, (7) aids and barriers to transfer, (8) the implications for course design and delivery, (9) implications for future research. The evidence from the research supported the reconceptualisation of transfer as preparation for future learning. The experiences of these learners suggest that distance education, by enabling the integration of learning and living, increases the possibilities for transfer of learning. It is argued that transfer of learning needs to be explicitly addressed within the design, delivery and evaluation of all courses and programmes of study. The study reported here was undertaken as part of a doctoral thesis submitted to Victoria University in 2002.
Doyle, S. (2004). On transfer: The distance learner and the transfer of learning (Working Paper No. 7-04). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.