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The relationship between learner control and online learning self-efficacy : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Manawatu campus, New Zealand
Online learning has been growing rapidly in recent years, providing increased opportunities for tertiary institutes to reach out to learners who previously may have had limited access to a traditional university. Although students frequently use information technologies in their daily life, online learning requires considerably more competencies than basic computer skills. Many students are unsuccessful in their learning without face-to-face contact and collaboration with lecturers and peers. They can feel isolated and doubt their ability to succeed in the online course. To increase online learner success, support is needed, especially to improve learner self-efficacy. Very few studies have focused on student self-efficacy in an online learning environment and especially those conducted in an authentic setting. Learner control is thought to facilitate students in online learning, but the relationship between learner control and learner self-efficacy is still unclear. Therefore, this study intends to examine this relationship using an embedded-correlational mixed method design to answer the research question, what is the relationship between learner control and online learning self-efficacy? The quantitative approach was used to find the correlations among learner control, online learning self-efficacy, and related variables such as age, gender, prior online experience, and computer skills. An online Learning Self-efficacy Scale (OLSES) was constructed and validated with an internal consistency of 0.895. Open-ended questions were added to the questionnaire to gain a greater level of insight of online learning experience in relation to self-efficacy and learner control. Seventy-five students in a four year teaching online programme at a New Zealand tertiary institute participated in the online survey. Data analyses revealed that the relationship between learner control and online learning self-efficacy was confirmed, r = .526, p < .01. Age and gender had no effect on the relationship while prior online experience, computer skills for social and academic purposes did. The multiple linear regression showed that learner control and computer skills for academic purpose are good predictors of online learning self-efficacy. Analyses of the qualitative data not only confirmed the quantitative findings, but also provided insight into the nature of self-efficacy and importance of feedback in the online setting. As a result of this study, the embedded framework for successful line learners (SUCCESS) was developed and is recommended as a set of guidelines for online learning developers.