Exploring the Role of Distance Education in Fostering Equitable University Access for First Generation Students: A phenomenological survey

Lisa C. Priebe
Tamra L. Ross
Karl W. Low



Distance education, First generation students, Education equity, Post-secondary education


Priebe et al. (2008) define first-gen students as those with parents who have not attended university or completed a post-secondary course or program. They include 7 participants in the sample, 5 of which had access to universities via DE. The authors employ a phenomenological approach after the completion of a 24-item self response survey. In effort to minimize selection bias, the three authors conducted individual thematic analyses and dropped themes that were not supported across multiple responses. In spite of the small sample size, the authors draw few conclusions. More specifically, they find four overarching themes, including: the greater starting age and increased life commitments of their participants, the factors of parental assistance with university procedures and processes, the strong and independent work ethic, and the influence of social roles and expectations. This article lacks explanatory power for why first-gen students enroll in DE, but suggests that it may be due to the self-paced nature that compliments first-gens' other life commitments.

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