IT Teaching Resources

Academic motivation and self-regulation in online learning

A comparative study on the academic motivation of undergraduates and graduate students in online courses

Article Research Promising practices

Title: Academic Motivation and Self-Regulation: A Comparative Analysis of Undergraduate and Graduate Students Learning Online
Authors: Anthony R. Artino Jr. and Jason M. Stephens

Key points

  • Authors find that graduate students, on average, tend to exhibit higher degrees of critical thinking
  • Undergraduate students, on average, tend to exhibit higher degrees of procrastination but higher degrees of task value and motivation to pursue further online courses
  • Authors use a relatively small convenience sample; Consequently, generalizability is questionable and suggestions for practice implementation should be further scrutinized

To succeed in autonomous online learning environments, it helps to be a highly motivated, self-regulated learner. The present study explored potential differences between undergraduate (n = 87) and graduate students (n = 107) in their levels of academic motivation and self-regulation while learning online. In particular, this study provides a comparative analysis of undergraduate and graduate students’ motivational beliefs (task value and self-efficacy), use of deep processing strategies (elaboration and critical thinking), and motivational engagement (procrastination and choice behaviors). As hypothesized, graduate students learning online reported higher levels of critical thinking than undergraduates. Moreover, after controlling for experiential differences, a logistic regression analysis indicated that graduate student membership was predicted by higher levels of critical thinking and lower levels of procrastination. On the other hand, undergraduate membership was predicted, somewhat paradoxically, by greater task value beliefs and greater intentions to enroll in future online courses. Implications for online instructors and suggestions for future research are discussed.

What would this look like in a course?
  • Provide structure for students in courses through the use of detailed syllabi, clear assignment instructions, and reasonable assignment deadlines.
  • Help develop students’ self-efficacy by having them identify and set challenging but attainable goals and by providing students with timely and honest feedback on work.
  • Scaffold online discussions to promote critical thinking by modeling appropriate discussion posts, identifying areas of agreement/disagreement and seeking consensus, and requesting clarification or elaboration where necessary in discussion posts.

Artino Jr, A. R., & Stephens, J. M. (2009). Academic motivation and self-regulation: A comparative analysis of undergraduate and graduate students learning online. The Internet and Higher Education12(3-4), 146-151.