Balancing work and life commitments can be challenging, but in many cases it is excatly what students need to do in order to succeed. In her talk, Dr Philippa Waterhouse presented research she conducted with online learning students on their experiences of managing their efforts between their studies and personal lives. This talk comes with many insightful findings, but also with practical tips on how we as teachers can support our students through our teaching and assessment practice.

All resources can be found below.

See you at the next TILE Network seminar.


In 2019/20, 31.4% of those studying in the United Kingdom were aged 25 years and older (HESA, 2021). Older students, often referred to as ‘adult learners’ in the literature, are more likely to have a range of employment and family responsibilities that are on-going during their studies. Given the increased focus on lifelong learning by governments and employers, it is important that higher education providers consider how they can support mature students with managing their multiple responsibilities.

This presentation will report on the findings from an online survey completed by 318 final/third year undergraduate distance education students. The survey used both closed and open-ended questions to capture quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was used to examine the association between students’ levels of mental distress with their (a) their reported work and family roles; (b) perceived work/family-study conflict; and (c) work/family-study facilitation. Open-ended questions were also used to ask students about the strategies they use to manage their work, family and study commitments and their perceptions of support. The findings aim to inform online or distance education providers about the requirements and preferences of students who typically have competing family and/or work commitments. The movement towards lifelong learning will render some of the findings also relevant to traditional higher education institutions.

About the speaker:

Dr Philippa Waterhouse is a Senior Lecturer in Health in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at The Open University, UK. She holds qualifications in Populations Studies (BSc, University of Southampton), Demography (MSc with distinction, University of Southampton) and Social Statistics (PhD, University of Southampton). Her research interests include exploring how adult learners manage their studies along with work and/or family responsibilities and consequences for health. Here is her staff profile website.