How Psychological Factors Affect the Effectiveness of Online Learning

Experts shared the results of research on this issue. Psychological aspects undoubtedly play an important role in learning, including online education. Methodologists look for ways to design courses to keep students highly motivated and engaged and measure their satisfaction with the different components of the course, which is reflected in the NPS and CSAT scores.

It makes sense that the instructional designers and instructional designers at EdTech try to influence these factors so that as many people as possible take the course to completion and recommend it to others. But what if we’re not just talking about supplemental education, but higher education, for example? Our engagement and satisfaction as important to the acquisition of new competencies by distance learning university students? What psychological traits indicate a student’s readiness to learn online and the likelihood that he or she will achieve the desired results? Is it possible to identify the persistent personality traits of the person most successful in distance learning? You will learn the answers to these questions in this article.

Does Student Satisfaction Affect Their Academic Performance

A student’s subjective experience while taking an online course has become an increasingly hot topic regarding educational quality. But how do student satisfaction and engagement correlate with their educational outcomes?

Our study involved 884 first-year students from different departments who were offered an online course consisting of different types of practical tasks. For example, students had to put together their website, create an intelligence map, write a reflective blog post, and make a video. The module also contained multiple-choice test tasks.

Data on student activity and performance were collected using statistics tools on the educational platform. In addition to quantitative indicators, the researcher also obtained qualitative metrics: for this purpose, at the end of the course, she asked students to fill out a feedback questionnaire and evaluate their engagement and satisfaction according to various parameters (difficulty of tasks, tutor support, and so on).

After analyzing and comparing this data, papers writers found a tangible correlation between levels of satisfaction and engagement: the more involved the student was, the greater the degree of satisfaction they noted.

Some students particularly noted a lack of tutor support during the course. Therefore, the role of the tutoring service in education is becoming more and more important.

How to assess students’ readiness for online learning

When organizing online learning, a lot of attention is paid to the creation of convenient platforms and tools and the qualifications of experts and teachers, which is certainly necessary. But such factor as a student’s readiness for distance learning and ability to use its possibilities effectively is often overlooked.

For the study, we chose this goal – to determine what affects this very readiness and assess how prepared students are for online learning.

Based on existing models for assessing online learning readiness, such as the Test of Online Learning Success, Online Learning Readiness Scale, and others, we identified several basic components:

  • attitude toward online learning;
  • autonomy in learning;
  • time management;
  • communicative competence;
  • technical competence.

These parameters were assessed using a specially designed questionnaire filled out by 252 first- and second-year IT students.

As a result, it turned out that most students highly rated their technical competence, which, given their profile, is not surprising. Slightly lower was the independence in learning. And the high indicators of communicative competence and interest in online learning were noted only by a small number of students.

The questionnaire also contained questions about students’ motivation for online learning, and most respondents voiced external motives:

  • Academic competition with classmates.
  • A sense of duty to family.
  • The desire to earn good money in the future.

Moreover, the greatest involvement in online learning was shown by those students who named a competitive motive. According to Natalia, such motivation helps achieve high formal results, but without an internal stimulus in high school, students “may have a crisis of professional development.

Modern pedagogy should pay special attention to the development of these very flexible skills and take into account the specifics of the generation that grew up in the digital environment, relying on the values and needs of the student to offer the most appropriate educational trajectory for them. It is also crucial to awakening in the student’s responsibility for their learning and persistence in achieving goals.

To the question from the listener, to what extent the readiness for online learning is related to the academic performance, the speaker replied that foreign researchers noted a significant correlation between these indicators. However, in her view, this question is broader and more complex, and it is also worth exploring further how a student’s readiness for distance is related to their assessment of the learning experience.

What psychological characteristics are associated with success in distance

We also produced another study and reported on what role individual student characteristics play in the effectiveness of online learning.

The questionnaire developed by the researchers contained a block asking students to self-assess their success in online learning according to four criteria:

  • satisfaction of educational needs;
  • learning problem solving;
  • academic success;
  • mastery of the material.

The sample was also divided into three groups according to academic performance in the online course: low success, medium success, and high success.

The researchers compared subjective and objective measures of academic performance, identifying two groups of students – high and low achievers on both criteria – who were further included in the analysis.

Having studied students’ answers to the question about motivation for online learning, we found that the motive of personal and professional self-actualization positively correlated with high success. This motivation was much less common in students’ questionnaires than extrinsic motivation – for example, competitive motivation. Also consistently significant for success was the material motive – the desire for high earnings in the future. And a slightly less strong but still noticeable relationship with success was found in the achievement and competition motives.

The researchers chose the characteristics studied that are directly related to the ability to learn independently. These indicators included planning, modeling, and programming their learning activities, evaluation of results, flexibility, and independence. Also, qualities leading to inefficient use of time and the so-called disorganizers of time were highlighted: value-meaning, organizational, motivational, as well as emotional apathy, and emotional tension.

Students with low efficiency, in turn, were more likely to demonstrate a lack of educational goals and a desire to achieve results, as well as a tendency to constantly postpone things.

Curiously, both groups’ self-efficacy scores were approximately at the same level – average. It is due to the young age of the respondents, who were just recently schoolchildren. Also, all of the students showed an increased level of emotional stress, and, according to the researcher, the reason may be that the distance format itself is new to the guys. Many of them even called online learning a demotivator.

Summing up, the speaker voiced that she considers it was promising to develop support and accompaniment for students in online learning and cultivate internal self-regulatory resources that will help students cope more effectively with the complexities of distance learning.

Are personal qualities so important in online learning?

So far, speakers have talked about individual psychological aspects and competencies commonly associated with distance learning. But is it possible to create a coherent psychological profile of the person who will be most effective in online learning?

To answer this question, another study was conducted to find out how academic success in an online course is related to the characteristics of cognitive, emotional, volitional, and other spheres of the learners’ personality.

The study used questionnaire surveys and psychodiagnostic tools, lasted four years, and involved more than 2000 respondents.

The work was divided into several stages. For example, at one stage, researchers studied the psychological characteristics of different groups of students who took the same course with the same teachers but in different formats – full-time and distance. It was not possible to identify in the group of “full-time” students certain qualities that distinguish honors students from other students. On the other hand, distance learners showed a higher responsibility and general intelligence level than their less effective classmates.

Further, different types of motivation are expectedly to correlate with the effectiveness of distance learning.

As a result, the researchers compiled a matrix of predictors (predictive factors) of online learning effectiveness. It included six indicators:

  • F1 – intrinsic motivation: cognitive, achievement motivation, self-development;
  • F2 – level of intelligence;
  • F3 – external motivation: orientation on public opinion, sense of duty, guilt for a bad result;
  • F4 – personal qualities proper: propensity for cooperation and agreement with others, conscientiousness, and, with negative influence, emotional susceptibility, anxiety, and insecurity;
  • F5 – academic seniority: more experienced students who have previously taken at least two online courses tend to perform better;
  • F6 – openness to experience, that is, curiosity, fascination.

Although the resulting numerical measurements of these factors are “not very bright,” and the results are rather obvious, they can still be useful in designing online courses. For example, when working with motivation when organizing the learning process, this study also showed the importance of accompanying and supporting students at a distance.

As for further research, the speaker believes that it is possible to revise the set of studied characteristics and psychodiagnostic tools and continue “digging” in this direction. Still, she is more inclined to “leave the student’s personality alone.”

Therefore, we intend to focus primarily on pedagogical design and the conditions in which online learning is implemented. It is how, in her opinion, it is possible to help most students to achieve high results, not just the most motivated and independent ones.

Bio: Elissa Smart is a writer with years of experience writing about education, business, creativity, and more. She releases her expertise on the PaperHelp blog and other platforms.