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Are College Students Motivated to Learn Online?

21st Century Learners
21st Century Learners

It seems today that all institutions of higher learning are being encouraged to offer courses and even some college degree programs to students via the Internet. The idea of distance learning delivery methods has been around for many years. However, in today’s world of the ever expansive high speed Internet connectivity, college courses can be delivered in real-time around the planet. Most often this is not the case. The typical college course is delivered in an asynchronous fashion where the student can login to the course website at their convenience to perform the assignments and activities that the instructor has prepared.

In a perfect world where we all managed our time and plan our daily responsibilities precisely, Internet learning could be just the ticket for a better education. Not only is our world not perfect, but the most important ingredient needed to get a great education online is to be a motivated learner. All learners think that they are motivated but ones choice behaviors and the evils of procrastination can slow motivation down to a passing thought. In a 2009 research comparative study of undergraduate and graduate students that measured their academic motivation and self-regulation for learning in an online environment yielded some predictable results. Obviously, the study predicted that the more academically experienced graduate student reported higher levels of critical thinking and lower levels of procrastination. Interestingly, the undergraduate subjects in this study were more motivated when a higher score value was affixed to a task or assignment. This group also expressed a greater intention to enroll in more online courses throughout their college years.

The glaring differences in this 2009 study and the Internet experience of 2014 are the proliferation of the web 2.0 technologies that power the social networking craze and the use of the Internet as place to keep ones residence. Admittedly, today’s web surfer lives on the Internet all day and every day. Therefore you could logically add the habit of user distraction to the mix for possible low motivation for today’s online learner. A good student orientation course for online learners should be a prerequisite before taking any virtual courses.


Artino, Anthony R., Jr.; Stephens, Jason M (2009), Academic Motivation and Self-Regulation: A Comparative Analysis of Undergraduate and Graduate Students Learning Online, Internet and Higher Education, 12(3-4), 146-151