Helping online students self-regulate

In a recent article on the ability for online learners to self-regulate their learning, it was found this skill did not develop over a school term. The authors (Lucy Barnard-Brak, Valerie Osland Paton, and William Y. Lan) define the phases of self-regulation as follows:

“The first phase, the forethought phase, refers to motivational and strategic processes that precede and set the stage for performance – including, but not limited to: goalsetting; attribution; self-efficacy of the undertaking tasks; and the intrinsic motivation to perform the task. The second phase, the performance control or volitional phase, consists of those processes during learning such as attention, affect, and monitoring action. In the third and final phase, the self-reflection phase, individuals respond to their efforts by monitoring the outcomes of their performance.”

While the issue is not new of students struggling with self-regulation of their learning , the online learner perhaps needs more help with developing this skill . Support might be more imperative for those new to the online learning world – and yes, there are newbies considering the mode of online learning is still evolving in higher educational institutes. That is, students may be adept to technology and web-based activities, but engaging in formal learning delivered  online may be a new experience.

Added to this, the authors state, “From a social cognitive perspective, the interaction of personal, behavioural, and environmental factors have been suggested as influencing the development of self-regulation across time (Bandura 1986, 1997; Schunk 2001; Zimmerman 1994).”

Factors affecting the development and practice of self-regulation in online learning might be the introduction of new technology, location of resources, communicating in discussion boards, the distance to others, and handling increased flexibility.

Some solutions to help students self-regulate in online learning environments might be:

  • add tips, hints, and non-graded self-assessments after each significant content section
  • create more social networking and mainstream communication, such as text messaging for quick questions about the content or next steps
  • create online study groups and encourage students to attend; create a virtual world for this – make it fun
  • match up students in pairs in the beginning of a course to have a study buddy; allow them to connect in ways they desire (mobile phones, online networks)

Online learning has many challenges and the field must continue to find ways not only to enhance learning online but also the quality of education. I think we forget that online learners need a bit more help to learn effectively in a multidimensional environment.

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