Interest and Performance When Learning Online: Providing Utility Value Information can be Important for Both Novice and Experienced Students

Interest and Performance When Learning Online: Providing Utility Value Information can be Important for Both Novice and Experienced Students

Tamra B. Fraughton (University of Utah, USA), Carol Sansone (University of Utah, USA), Jonathan Butner (University of Utah, USA) and Joseph Zachary (University of Utah, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1858-9.ch003
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Abstract

As part of the Regulating Motivation and Performance Online Project (RMAPO), students completing an online HTML programming lesson demonstrated higher quiz scores and greater post-lesson interest when initially provided information about how the skills could be used (personal or organizational applications). These effects were mediated by higher levels of engagement with optional examples and exercises during the lesson. This paper examines whether the benefit from adding utility value information was limited to students with no prior experience creating web pages. Results show that, regardless of prior experience, the added information was associated with higher engagement levels, which were associated with higher lesson interest and quiz scores. Because prior experience was related to lower engagement levels overall, results suggest that experience had an indirect negative effect on motivation and performance outcomes that was offset by enhanced engagement when value was added. Implications for the Self-Regulation of Motivation Model (SRM) and online instructors are discussed.
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Introduction

Over the past several years, the number of online classes made available to college students has increased dramatically, and for the most part have been warmly received by students and instructors alike. For example, 58% of Chief Academic Officers surveyed viewed growth in the area of online learning as desirable for their institutions (Allen & Seaman, 2007). Online classes provide students the luxury of being able to “attend” classes whenever, and wherever they choose, also allowing them instant access to the course lectures, external links, and discussion boards with which to talk to other students in the class.

Though these reasons all seem like major advantages, there are substantial drawbacks associated with this tech-savvy classroom option. Sixty-three percent of the same Chief Academic Officers who saw online learning as desirable also thought that one of the biggest barriers to wider adoption of these courses comes from the need for stronger self-discipline in order to be successful, compared to traditional classrooms. The same luxury that affords students freedom to engage class material with the click of a button also affords them the luxury of not engaging that material. This is perhaps best exemplified in observations of an online HTML programming course where many students only completed the explicitly required material, rather than engaging the course material in ways that would help maintain and aid motivation to study, accessing and exploring optional examples and exercises (Zachary & Jensen, 2003; Zachary, 1994).

We use the Self-Regulation of Motivation (SRM) model to guide our examination of ways that brief motivation-based embellishments might influence whether and how students engage with different optional features during an online lesson, and whether different patterns of engagement predict learning and motivation at lesson conclusion. In the current study, we focus in particular on the role of an individual factor—previous experience with the topic. We first briefly describe the SRM model and its implications for online learning. We then discuss initial findings, and why we hypothesize that differences in prior experience might be important in moderating these effects.

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