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Misperceptions and realities: listening to autistic students on their online Higher Education experience.

posted on 2024-06-28, 13:10 authored by Marilyn LongMarilyn Long, Tim Coughlan, Francisco IniestoFrancisco Iniesto

This pilot study explores the autistic student experience of online post-secondary education. It investigates the needs and preferences for autistic students and whether stereotypical views about autism may negatively impact their higher education experience. Reviews of published research papers on the learning and social challenges faced by autistic students have identified an insufficient rigour that is often due to non-autistic researchers ignoring the value of authentic autistic voices. Data is collected from online surveys with data analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The study participants are current autistic students at a distance higher education provider based in the UK. Data collection and analysis is conducted by an autistic researcher. The findings suggest that stereotypical views and misunderstandings about the realities for autistic students do impact negatively on their well-being. Although the analysed data is from the survey responses of a small participant group of 20 students with varying support needs, there is a strong indication of a shared challenges and comparable learning preferences. A preference for no group work and having printed course material available from the start of a module is consistent across the group. The findings identified that a new approach to future learning design and practice in post-compulsory education is required. Rather than preserving the personalised support model based on individual challenges, this study’s findings suggest that more general support focussed on identified common needs, is worth investigating. This may appear contrary to equal and fair inclusion practice, but support provision fails when based on a generic support model for disabled students. The identification of common needs justifies further investigation into the feasibility of developing support models that target general autistic student preferences alongside specific challenges.


Collaborated with

  • Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)


  • Public document

Authorship group

  • Academic - Related
  • Students

Institutional priority category

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Students Learning Experiences


  • Accessibility
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Integration of Student Voice
  • Neurodiversity
  • Reducing Inequalities
  • Student Experience

Subject discipline

  • Education, Childhood, Youth, and Sport
  • Health and Wellbeing


  • England
  • Wales

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