Student Engagement in Distance-based Vocational Education


  • Anne Yates Victoria University of Wellington
  • Wendy Brindley-Richards Victoria University of Wellington
  • Tony Thistoll Open Polytechnic of New Zealand



distance education, student engagement, student retention, polytechnic student retention, barriers and enablers in distance education, vocational education


Students enrolled in distance education courses tend to have lower course completion rates than those who attend face-to-face classes (Simpson, 2013). This article reports on a collective case study undertaken at a vocational, distance education provider in New Zealand, whose course completion rates have risen over recent years to match those of similar face-to-face institutions. This research investigated institutional factors that have contributed towards this improvement, from the perspectives of the staff involved. Results show staff believe there are key enablers and barriers to student engagement and course completion, but the barriers are not insurmountable. The implication is that distance education providers can improve student engagement and completion rates through effective interventions.

Author Biographies

Anne Yates, Victoria University of Wellington

Lecturer in the Faculty of Education

Wendy Brindley-Richards, Victoria University of Wellington

 Summer Scholar, Faculty of Education

Tony Thistoll, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand

Strategic Insight Manager