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Distance learning in higher education during COVID-19: The role of basic psychological needs and intrinsic motivation for persistence and procrastination–a multi-country study

Roles Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – original draft

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

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Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Methodology, Project administration, Writing – review & editing

Roles Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Roles Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

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Affiliation Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Roles Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

Roles Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Methodology

Affiliation Department of Psychology, Faculty of Education, Aleksandër Moisiu University, Durrës, Albania

Affiliation Department of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Philology and Education, Bedër University, Tirana, Albania

Affiliation Xiangya School of Nursing, Central South University, Changsha, China

Affiliations Xiangya School of Nursing, Central South University, Changsha, China, Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

Affiliation Study of Nursing, University of Applied Sciences Bjelovar, Bjelovar, Croatia

Affiliation Baltic Film, Media and Arts School, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia

Affiliation Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

Affiliation Department of Psychology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

Affiliation Chair of Educational Psychology, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Affiliation Department of Educational Studies, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Affiliation Faculty of Education, University of Akureyri, Akureyri, Iceland

Affiliation Department of Global Education, Tsuru University, Tsuru, Japan

Affiliation Career Center, Osaka University, Osaka University, Suita, Japan

Affiliation Graduate School of Education, Osaka Kyoiku University, Kashiwara, Japan

Affiliation Department of Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Prishtina ’Hasan Prishtina’, Pristina, Kosovo

Affiliation Department of Social Work, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Pristina ’Hasan Prishtina’, Pristina, Kosovo

Affiliation Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Klaipėda University, Klaipėda, Lithuania

Affiliation Geography Department, Junior College, University of Malta, Msida, Malta

Affiliation Institute of Family Studies, Faculty of Philosophy, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Skopje, North Macedonia

Affiliation Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Social Science, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland

Affiliation Faculty of Historical and Pedagogical Sciences, University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland

Affiliation Faculty of Educational Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland

Affiliation CERNESIM Environmental Research Center, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iași, România

Affiliation Social Sciences and Humanities Research Department, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași, Iași, România

Affiliation Department of Informatics, Örebro University School of Business, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden

Affiliation Faculty of Social Studies, Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania, United States of America

  •  [ ... ],

Affiliations Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, Department for Teacher Education, Centre for Teacher Education, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

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  • Elisabeth R. Pelikan, 
  • Selma Korlat, 
  • Julia Reiter, 
  • Julia Holzer, 
  • Martin Mayerhofer, 
  • Barbara Schober, 
  • Christiane Spiel, 
  • Oriola Hamzallari, 
  • Ana Uka, 

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  • Published: October 6, 2021
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346
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Table 1

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, higher educational institutions worldwide switched to emergency distance learning in early 2020. The less structured environment of distance learning forced students to regulate their learning and motivation more independently. According to self-determination theory (SDT), satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and social relatedness affects intrinsic motivation, which in turn relates to more active or passive learning behavior. As the social context plays a major role for basic need satisfaction, distance learning may impair basic need satisfaction and thus intrinsic motivation and learning behavior. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between basic need satisfaction and procrastination and persistence in the context of emergency distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic in a cross-sectional study. We also investigated the mediating role of intrinsic motivation in this relationship. Furthermore, to test the universal importance of SDT for intrinsic motivation and learning behavior under these circumstances in different countries, we collected data in Europe, Asia and North America. A total of N = 15,462 participants from Albania, Austria, China, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, North Macedonia, Romania, Sweden, and the US answered questions regarding perceived competence, autonomy, social relatedness, intrinsic motivation, procrastination, persistence, and sociodemographic background. Our results support SDT’s claim of universality regarding the relation between basic psychological need fulfilment, intrinsic motivation, procrastination, and persistence. However, whereas perceived competence had the highest direct effect on procrastination and persistence, social relatedness was mainly influential via intrinsic motivation.

Citation: Pelikan ER, Korlat S, Reiter J, Holzer J, Mayerhofer M, Schober B, et al. (2021) Distance learning in higher education during COVID-19: The role of basic psychological needs and intrinsic motivation for persistence and procrastination–a multi-country study. PLoS ONE 16(10): e0257346. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346

Editor: Shah Md Atiqul Haq, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, BANGLADESH

Received: March 30, 2021; Accepted: August 29, 2021; Published: October 6, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Pelikan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Data is now publicly available: Pelikan ER, Korlat S, Reiter J, Lüftenegger M. Distance Learning in Higher Education During COVID-19: Basic Psychological Needs and Intrinsic Motivation 2021. doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/8CZX3 .

Funding: This work was funded by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) [ https://www.wwtf.at/ ] and the MEGA Bildungsstiftung [ https://www.megabildung.at/ ] through project COV20-025, as well as the Academy of Finland [ https://www.aka.fi ] through project 308351, 336138, and 345117. BS is the grant recipient of COV20-025. KSA is the grant recipient of 308351, 336138, and 345117. Open access funding was provided by University of Vienna. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Introduction

In early 2020, countries across the world faced rising COVID-19 infection rates, and various physical and social distancing measures to contain the spread of the virus were adopted, including curfews and closures of businesses, schools, and universities. By the end of April 2020, roughly 1.3 billion learners were affected by the closure of educational institutions [ 1 ]. At universities, instruction was urgently switched to distance learning, bearing challenges for all actors involved, particularly for students [ 2 ]. Moreover, since distance teaching requires ample preparation time and situation-specific didactic adaptation to be successful, previously established concepts for and research findings on distance learning cannot be applied undifferentiated to the emergency distance learning situation at hand [ 3 ].

Generally, it has been shown that the less structured learning environment in distance learning requires students to regulate their learning and motivation more independently [ 4 ]. In distance learning in particular, high intrinsic motivation has proven to be decisive for learning success, whereas low intrinsic motivation may lead to maladaptive behavior like procrastination (delaying an intended course of action despite negative consequences) [ 5 , 6 ]. According to self-determination theory (SDT), satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and social relatedness leads to higher intrinsic motivation [ 7 ], which in turn promotes adaptive patterns of learning behavior. On the other hand, dissatisfaction of these basic psychological needs can detrimentally affect intrinsic motivation. According to SDT, satisfaction of the basic psychological needs occurs in interaction with the social environment. The context in which learning takes place as well as the support of social interactions it encompasses play a major role for basic need satisfaction [ 7 , 8 ]. Distance learning, particularly when it occurs simultaneously with other physical and social distancing measures, may impair basic need satisfaction and, in consequence, intrinsic motivation and learning behavior.

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between basic need satisfaction and two important learning behaviors—procrastination (as a consequence of low or absent intrinsic motivation) and persistence (as the volitional implementation of motivation)—in the context of emergency distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with SDT [ 7 ] and previous studies (e.g., [ 9 ]), we also investigated the mediating role of intrinsic motivation in this relationship. Furthermore, to test the universal importance of SDT for intrinsic motivation and learning behavior under these specific circumstances, we collected data in 17 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The fundamental role of basic psychological needs for intrinsic motivation and learning behavior

SDT [ 7 ] provides a broad framework for understanding human motivation, proposing that the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and social relatedness must be satisfied for optimal functioning and intrinsic motivation. The need for autonomy refers to an internal perceived locus of control and a sense of agency. In an academic context, students who learn autonomously feel that they have an active choice in shaping their learning process. The need for competence refers to the feeling of being effective in one’s actions. In addition, students who perceive themselves as competent feel that they can successfully meet challenges and accomplish the tasks they are given. Finally, the need for social relatedness refers to feeling connected to and accepted by others. SDT proposes that the satisfaction of each of these three basic needs uniquely contributes to intrinsic motivation, a claim that has been proved in numerous studies and in various learning contexts. For example, Martinek and colleagues [ 10 ] found that autonomy satisfaction was positively whereas autonomy frustration was negatively related to intrinsic motivation in a sample of university students during COVID-19. The same held true for competence satisfaction and dissatisfaction. A recent study compared secondary school students who perceived themselves as highly competent in dealing with their school-related tasks during pandemic-induced distance learning to those who perceived themselves as low in competence [ 11 ]. Students with high perceived competence not only reported higher intrinsic motivation but also implemented more self-regulated learning strategies (such as goal setting, planning, time management and metacognitive strategies) and procrastinated less than students who perceived themselves as low in competence. Of the three basic psychological needs, the findings on the influence of social relatedness on intrinsic motivation have been most ambiguous. While in some studies, social relatedness enhanced intrinsic motivation (e.g., [ 12 ]), others could not establish a clear connection (e.g., [ 13 ]).

Intrinsic motivation, in turn, is regarded as particularly important for learning behavior and success (e.g., [ 6 , 14 ]). For example, students with higher intrinsic motivation tend to engage more in learning activities [ 9 , 15 ], show higher persistence [ 16 ] and procrastinate less [ 6 , 17 , 18 ]. Notably, intrinsic motivation is considered to be particularly important in distance learning, where students have to regulate their learning themselves. Distance-learning students not only have to consciously decide to engage in learning behavior but also persist despite manifold distractions and less external regulation [ 4 ].

Previous research also indicates that the satisfaction of each basic need uniquely contributes to the regulation of learning behavior [ 19 ]. Indeed, studies have shown a positive relationship between persistence and the three basic needs (autonomy [ 20 ]; competence [ 21 ]; social relatedness [ 22 ]). Furthermore, all three basic psychological needs have been found to be related to procrastination. In previous research with undergraduate students, autonomy-supportive teaching behavior was positively related to satisfaction of the needs for autonomy and competence, both of which led to less procrastination [ 23 ]. A qualitative study by Klingsieck and colleagues [ 18 ] supports the findings of previous studies on the relations of perceived competence and autonomy with procrastination, but additionally suggests a lack of social relatedness as a contributing factor to procrastination. Haghbin and colleagues [ 24 ] likewise found that people with low perceived competence avoided challenging tasks and procrastinated.

SDT has been applied in research across various contexts, including work (e.g., [ 25 ]), health (e.g., [ 26 ]), everyday life (e.g., [ 27 ]) and education (e.g., [ 15 , 28 ]). Moreover, the pivotal role of the three basic psychological needs for learning outcomes and functioning has been shown across multiple countries, including collectivistic as well as individualistic cultures (e.g., [ 29 , 30 ]), leading to the conclusion that satisfaction of the three basic needs is a fundamental and universal determinant of human motivation and consequently learning success [ 31 ].

Self-determination theory in a distance learning setting during COVID-19

As Chen and Jang [ 28 ] observed, SDT lends itself particularly well to investigating distance learning, as the three basic needs for autonomy, competence and social relatedness all relate to important aspects of distance learning. For example, distance learning usually offers students greater freedom in deciding where and when they want to learn [ 32 ]. This may provide students with a sense of agency over their learning, leading to increased perceived autonomy. At the same time, it requires students to regulate their motivation and learning more independently [ 4 ]. In the unique context of distance learning during COVID-19, it should be noted that students could not choose whether and to what extent to engage in distance learning, but had to comply with external stipulations, which in turn may have had a negative effect on perceived autonomy. Furthermore, distance learning may also influence perceived competence, as this is in part developed by receiving explicit or implicit feedback from teachers and peers [ 33 ]. Implicit feedback in particular may be harder to receive in a distance learning setting, where informal discussions and social cues are largely absent. The lack of face-to-face contact may also impede social relatedness between students and their peers as well as students and their teachers. Well-established communication practices are crucial for distance learning success (see [ 34 ] for an overview). However, providing a nurturing social context requires additional effort and guidance from teachers, which in turn necessitates sufficient skills and preparation on their part [ 34 , 35 ]. Moreover, the sudden switch to distance learning due to COVID-19 did not leave teachers and students time to gradually adjust to the new learning situation [ 36 ]. As intrinsic motivation is considered particularly relevant in the context of distance education [ 28 , 37 ], applying the SDT framework to the novel situation of pandemic-induced distance learning may lead to important insights that allow for informed recommendations for teachers and educational institutions about how to proceed in the context of continued distance teaching and learning.

In summary, the COVID-19 situation is a completely new environment, and basic need satisfaction during learning under pandemic-induced conditions has not been explored before. Considering that closures of educational institutions have affected billions of students worldwide and have been strongly debated in some countries, it seems particularly relevant to gain insights into which factors consistently influence conducive or maladaptive learning behavior in these circumstances in a wide range of countries and contextual settings.

Therefore, the overall goal of this study is to investigate the well-established relationship between the three basic needs for autonomy, competence, and social relatedness with intrinsic motivation in the new and specific situation of pandemic-induced distance learning. Firstly, we examine the relationship between each of the basic needs with intrinsic motivation. We expect that perceived satisfaction of the basic needs for autonomy (H1a), competence (H1b) and social relatedness (H1c) would be positively related to intrinsic motivation. In our second research question, we furthermore extend SDT’s predictions regarding two important aspects of learning behavior–procrastination (as a consequence of low or absent intrinsic motivation) and persistence (as the implementation of the volitional part of motivation) and hypothesize that each basic need will be positively related to persistence and negatively related to procrastination, both directly (procrastination: H2a –c; persistence: H3a –c) and mediated by intrinsic motivation (procrastination: H4a –c; persistence: H5a –c). We also proposed that perceived autonomy, competence, and social relatedness would have a direct negative relation with procrastination (H6a –c) and a direct positive relation with persistence (H7a –c). Finally, we investigate SDT’s claim of universality, and assume that the aforementioned relationships will emerge across countries we therefore expect a similar pattern of results in all observed countries (H8a –c). As previous studies have indicated that gender [ 4 , 17 , 38 ] and age [ 39 , 40 ]. May influence intrinsic motivation, persistence, and procrastination, we included participants’ gender and age as control variables.

Study design

Due to the circumstances, we opted for a cross-sectional study design across multiple countries, conducted as an online survey. We decided for an online-design due to the pandemic-related restrictions on physical contact with potential survey participants as well as due to the potential to reach a larger audience. As we were interested in the current situation in schools than in long-term development, and we were particularly interested in a large-scale section of the population in multiple countries, we decided on a cross-sectional design. In addition, a multi-country design is particularly interesting in a pandemic setting: During this global health crisis, educational institutions in all countries face the same challenge (to provide distance learning in a way that allows students to succeed) but do so within different frameworks depending on the specific measures each country has implemented. This provides a unique basis for comparing the effects of need fulfillment on students’ learning behavior cross-nationally, thus testing the universality of SDT.

Sample and procedure

The study was carried out across 17 countries, with central coordination taking place in Austria. It was approved and supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and conducted online. International cooperation partners were recruited from previously established research networks (e.g., European Family Support Network [COST Action 18123]; Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration at School Level [COST Action 18115]; International Panel on Social), resulting in data collection in 16 countries (Albania, China, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, North Macedonia, Romania, Sweden, USA) in addition to Austria. Data collection was carried out between April and August 2020. During this period, all participating countries were in some degree of pandemic-induced lockdown, which resulted in universities temporarily switching to distance learning. The online questionnaires were distributed among university students via online surveys by the research groups in each respective country. No restrictions were placed on participation other than being enrolled at a university in the sampling country. Participants were informed about the goals of the study, expected time it would take to fill out the questionnaire, voluntariness of participation and anonymity of the acquired data. All research partners ensured that all ethical and legal requirements related to data collection in their country context were met.

Only data from students who gave their written consent to participate, had reached the age of majority (18 or older) and filled out all questions regarding the study’s main variables were included in the analyses (for details on data cleaning rules and exclusion criteria, see [ 41 ]). Additional information on data collection in the various countries is provided in S1 Table in S1 File .

The overall sample of N = 15,462 students was predominantly female (71.7%, 27.4% male and 0.7% diverse) and ranged from 18 to 71 years, with the average participant age being 24.41 years ( SD = 6.93, Mdn = 22.00). Sample descriptives per country are presented in Table 1 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.t001

The variables analyzed here were part of a more extensive questionnaire; the complete questionnaire, as well as the analysis code and the data set, can be found at OSF [ 42 ] In order to take the unique situation into account, existing scales were adapted to the current pandemic context (e.g., adding “In the current home-learning situation …”), and supplemented with a small number of newly developed items. Subsequently, the survey was revised based on expert judgements from our research group and piloted with cognitive interview testing. The items were sent to the research partners in English and translated separately by each respective research team either using the translation-back-translation method or by at least two native-speaking experts. Subsequently, any differences were discussed, and a consolidated version was established.

To assure the reliability of the scales, we analyzed them using alpha coefficients separately for each country (see S2–S18 Tables in S1 File ). All items were answered on a rating scale from 1 (= strongly agree) to 5 (= strongly disagree) and students were instructed to answer with regard to the current situation (distance learning during the COVID-19 lockdown). Analyses were conducted with recoded items so that higher values reflected higher agreement with the statements.

Perceived autonomy was measured with two newly constructed items (“Currently, I can define my own areas of focus in my studies” and “Currently, I can perform tasks in the way that best suits me”; average α = .78, ranging from .62 to .86).

Perceived competence was measured with three items, which were constructed based on the Work-related Basic Need Satisfaction Scale (W-BNS; [ 25 ]) and transferred to the learning context (“Currently, I am dealing well with the demands of my studies”, “Currently, I have no doubts about whether I am capable of doing well in my studies” and “Currently, I am managing to make progress in studying for university”; average α = .83, ranging from .74 to .91).

Perceived social relatedness was assessed with three items, based on the W-BNS [ 43 ], (“Currently, I feel connected with my fellow students”, “Currently, I feel supported by my fellow students”) and the German Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale [ 44 ]; “Currently, I feel connected with the people who are important to me (family, friends)”; average α = .73, ranging from .64 to .88).

Intrinsic motivation was measured with three items which were slightly adapted from the Scales for the Measurement of Motivational Regulation for Learning in University Students (SMR-LS; [ 45 ]; “Currently, doing work for university is really fun”, “Currently, I am really enjoying studying and doing work for university” and “Currently, I find studying for university really exciting”; average α = .91, ranging from .83 to .94).

Procrastination was measured with three items adapted from the Procrastination Questionnaire for Students (Prokrastinationsfragebogen für Studierende; PFS; [ 46 ]): “In the current home-learning situation, I postpone tasks until the last minute”, “In the current home-learning situation, I often do not manage to start a task when I set out to do so”, and “In the current home-learning situation, I only start working on a task when I really need to”; average α = .88, ranging from .74 to .91).

Persistence was measured with three items adapted from the EPOCH measure [ 47 ]: “In the current home-learning situation, I finish whatever task I begin”, “In the current home-learning situation, I keep at my tasks until I am done with them” and “In the current home-learning situation, once I make a plan to study, I stick to it”; average α = .81, ranging from .74 to .88).

Data analysis.

Data analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS version 26.0 and Mplus version 8.4. First, we tested for measurement invariance between countries prior to any substantial analyses. We conducted a multigroup confirmatory factor analysis (CFAs) for all scales individually to test for configural, metric, and scalar invariance [ 48 , 49 ] (see S19 Table in S1 File ). We used maximum likelihood parameter estimates with robust standard errors (MLR) to deal with the non-normality of the data. CFI and RMSEA were used as indicators for absolute goodness of model fit. In line with Hu and Bentler [ 50 ], the following cutoff scores were considered to reflect excellent and adequate fit to the data, respectively: (a) CFI > 0.95 and CFI > 0.90; (b) RMSEA < .06 and RMSEA < .08. Relative model fit was assessed by comparing BICs of the nested models, with smaller BIC values indicating a better trade-off between model fit and model complexity [ 51 ]. Configural invariance indicates a factor structure that is universally applicable to all subgroups in the analysis, metric invariance implies that participants across all groups attribute the same meaning to the latent constructs measured, and scalar invariance indicates that participants across groups attribute the same meaning to the levels of the individual items [ 51 ]. Consequently, the extent to which the results can be interpreted depends on the level of measurement invariance that can be established.

For the main analyses, three latent multiple group mediation models were computed, each including one of the basic psychological needs as a predictor, intrinsic motivation as the mediator and procrastination and persistence as the outcomes. These three models served to test the hypothesis that perceived autonomy, competence and social relatedness are related to levels of procrastination and persistence, both directly and mediated through intrinsic motivation. We used bootstrapping in order to provide analyses robust to non-normal distribution variations, specifying 5,000 bootstrap iterations [ 52 ]. Results were estimated using the maximum likelihood (ML) method. Bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals are reported.

Finally, in an exploratory step, we investigated the international applicability of the direct and mediated effects. To this end, an additional set of latent mediation models was computed where the path estimates were fixed in order to create an average model across all countries. This was prompted by the consistent patterns of results across countries we observed in the multigroup analyses. Model fit indices of these average models were compared to those of the multigroup models in order to establish the similarity of path coefficients between countries.

Statistical prerequisites

Table 2 provides overall descriptive statistics and correlations for all variables (see S2–S18 Tables in S1 File for descriptive statistics for the individual countries).

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Metric measurement variance, but not scalar measurement invariance could be established for a simple model including the three individual items and no inter-correlations between perceived competence, perceived social relatedness, intrinsic motivation, and procrastination. For these four variables, the metric invariance model had a good absolute fit, whereas the scalar model did not, due to too high RMSEA; moreover, the relative fit was best for the metric model compared to both the configural and scalar model (see S18 Table in S1 File ). Metric, but not scalar invariance could also be established for persistence after modelling residual correlations between items 1 and 2 and items 2 and 3 of the scale. This was necessary due to the similar wording of the items (see “Measures” section for item wordings). Consequently, the same residual correlations were incorporated into all mediation models.

Finally, as the perceived autonomy scale consisted of only two items, it had to be fitted in a model with a correlating factor in order to compute measurement invariance. Both perceived competence and perceived social relatedness were correlated with perceived autonomy ( r = .59** and r = .31**, respectively; see Table 2 ). Therefore, we fit two models combining perceived autonomy with each of these factors; in both cases, metric measurement invariance was established (see S19 Table in S1 File ).

In summary, these results suggest that the meaning of all constructs we aimed to measure was understood similarly by participants across different countries. Consequently, we were able to fit the same mediation model in all countries and compare the resulting path coefficients.

Both gender and age were statistically significantly correlated with perceived competence, perceived social relatedness, intrinsic motivation, procrastination, and persistence (see S20–S22 Tables in S1 File ).

Mediation analyses

Autonomy hypothesis..

We hypothesized that higher perceived autonomy would relate to less procrastination and more persistence, both directly and indirectly (mediated through intrinsic learning motivation). Indeed, perceived autonomy was related negatively to procrastination (H6a) in most countries. Confidence intervals did not include zero in 10 out of 17 countries, all effect estimates were negative and standardized effect estimates ranged from b stand = - .02 to -.46 (see Fig 1 ). Furthermore, perceived autonomy was directly positively related to persistence in most countries. Specifically, for the direct effect of perceived autonomy on persistence (H7a), all but one country (USA, b stand = -.02; p = .621; CI [-.13, .08]) exhibited distinctly positive effect estimates ranging from b stand = .18 to .72 and confidence intervals that did not include zero.

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Countries are ordered by sample size from top (highest) to bottom (lowest).

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In terms of indirect effects of perceived autonomy on procrastination mediated by intrinsic motivation (H7a), confidence intervals did not include zero in 8 out of 17 countries and effect estimates were mostly negative, ranging from b stand = -.33 to .03. Indirect effects of perceived autonomy on persistence (mediated by intrinsic motivation; H5a) were distinctly positive and confidence intervals did not include zero in 12 out of 17 countries. The indirect effect estimates and confidence intervals for all remaining countries were consistently positive, with the standardized effect estimates ranging from b stand = .13 to .39, indicating a robust, positive mediated effect of autonomy on persistence. Fig 2 displays the unstandardized path coefficients and their two-sided 5% confidence intervals for the indirect effects of perceived autonomy on procrastination via intrinsic motivation (left) and of perceived autonomy on persistence via intrinsic motivation (right).

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Unstandardized and standardized path coefficients, standard errors, p-values and bias-corrected bootstrapped confidence intervals for the direct and indirect effects of perceived autonomy on procrastination and persistence for each country are provided in S23–S26 Tables in S1 File , respectively.

Competence hypothesis. Secondly, we hypothesized that higher perceived competence would relate to less procrastination and more persistence both directly and indirectly, mediated through intrinsic learning motivation. Direct effects on procrastination (H6b) were negative in most countries and confidence intervals did not include zero in 10 out of 17 countries (see Fig 3 ).

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Standardized effect estimates ranged from b stand = -.02 to -.60, with 10 out of 17 countries exhibiting at least a medium-sized effect. Correspondingly, effect estimates for the direct effects on persistence were positive everywhere except the USA and confidence intervals did not include zero in 14 out of 17 countries (see Fig 3 ). Standardized effect estimates ranged from b stand = -.05 to .64 with 14 out of 17 countries displaying an at least medium-sized positive effect.

The pattern of results for the indirect effects of perceived competence on procrastination mediated by learning motivation (H4b) is illustrated in Fig 4 : Effect estimates were negative with the exception of China and the USA. Confidence intervals did not include zero in 7 out of 17 countries. Standardized effect estimates range between b stand = .06 and -.46. Indirect effects of perceived competence on persistence were positive everywhere except for two countries and confidence intervals did not include zero in 7 out of 17 countries (see Fig 4 ). Standardized effect estimates varied between b stand = -.07 and .46 (see S23–S26 Tables in S1 File for unstandardized and standardized path coefficients).

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Social relatedness hypothesis.

Finally, we hypothesized that stronger perceived social relatedness would be both directly and indirectly (mediated through intrinsic learning motivation) related to less procrastination and more persistence. The pattern of results was more ambiguous here than for perceived autonomy and perceived competence. Direct effect estimates on procrastination (H6c) were negative in 12 countries; however, the confidence intervals included zero in 12 out of 17 countries (see Fig 5 ). Standardized effect estimates ranged from b stand = -.01 to b stand = .33. The direct relation between perceived social relatedness and persistence (H7c) yielded 14 negative and three positive effect estimates. Confidence intervals did not include zero in 7 out of 17 countries (see Fig 5 ), with standardized effect estimates ranging from b stand = -.01 to b stand = .31.

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In terms of indirect effects of perceived social relatedness being related to procrastination mediated by intrinsic motivation (H4c), the pattern of results was consistent: All effect estimates except those for the USA were clearly negative, and confidence intervals did not include zero in 15 out of 17 countries (see Fig 6 ). Standardized effect estimates ranged between b stand = .00 and b stand = -.46. Indirect paths of perceived social relatedness on persistence showed positive effect estimates and standardized effect estimates ranging from b stand = .00 to .44 and confidence intervals not including zero in 16 out of 17 countries (see Fig 6 ; see S23–S26 Tables in S1 File for unstandardized and standardized path coefficients).

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Meta-analytic approach

Due to the overall similarity of the results across many countries, we decided to compute, in an additional, exploratory step, the same models with path estimates fixed across countries. This resulted in three models with average path estimates across the entire sample. Standardized path coefficients for the direct and indirect effects of the basic psychological needs on procrastination and persistence are presented in S27 and S28 Tables in S1 File , respectively. We compared the model fits of these three average models to those of the multigroup mediation models: If the fit of the average model is better than that of the multigroup model, it indicates that the individual countries are similar enough to be combined into one model. The amount of explained variance per model, outcome variable and country are provided in S29 Table in S1 File for procrastination and S30 Table in S1 File for persistence.

Perceived autonomy.

Relative model fit was better for the perceived autonomy model with fixed paths (BIC = 432,707.89) compared to the multigroup model (BIC = 432,799.01). Absolute model fit was equally good in the multigroup model (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.98, TLI = 0.97) and in the fixed path model (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.97). Consequently, the general model in Fig 7 describes the data from all 17 countries equally well. The average amount of explained variance, however, is slightly higher in the multigroup model, with 19.9% of the variance in procrastination and 33.7% of the variance in persistence explained, as compared to 18.3% and 27.6% in the fixed path model. The amount of variance explained increased substantially in some countries when fixing the paths: in the multigroup model, explained variance ranges from 2.2% to 44.4% for procrastination and from 0.9% to 69.9% for persistence, compared to 13.0% - 27.7% and 18.2% to 63.2% in the fixed path model. Notably, the amount of variance explained did not change much in the three countries with the largest samples, Austria, Sweden, and Finland; countries with much smaller samples and larger confidence intervals were more affected.

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*** p = < .001.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.g007

Overall, perceived autonomy had significant direct and indirect effects on both procrastination and persistence; higher perceived autonomy was related to less procrastination directly ( b unstand = -.27, SE = .02, p = < .001) and mediated by learning motivation ( b unstand = -.20, SE = .01, p = < .001) and to more persistence directly ( b unstand = .24, SE = .01, p = < .001) and mediated by learning motivation ( b unstand = .12, SE = .01, p = < .001). Direct effects for the autonomy model are shown in Fig 7 ; for the indirect effects see Table 3 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.t003

Effects of age and gender varied across countries (see S20 Table in S1 File ).

Perceived competence.

For the perceived competence model, relative fit decreased when fixing the path coefficient estimates (BIC = 465,830.44 to BIC = 466,020.70). The absolute fit indices were also better for the multigroup model (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.96) than for the fixed path model (RMSEA = 0.06, CFI = 0.96, TLI = 0.96). Hence, multigroup modelling describes the data across all countries somewhat better than a fixed path model as depicted in Fig 8 . Correspondingly, the fixed path model explained less variance on average than did the multigroup model, with 23.2% instead of 24.3% of the variance in procrastination and 32.9% instead of 37.3% of the variance in persistence explained. Explained variance ranged from 1.0% to 51.9% for procrastination in the multigroup model, as compared to 13.9% - 34.4% in the fixed path model. The amount of variance in persistence explained ranged from 1.0% to 58.1% in the multigroup model and from 23.5% to 55.9% in the fixed path model (see S29 and S30 Tables in S1 File ).

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.g008

Overall, higher perceived competence was related to less procrastination ( b unstand = -.44, SE = .02, p = < .001) and to higher persistence ( b unstand = .32, SE = .01, p = < .001). These effects were partly mediated by intrinsic learning motivation ( b unstand = -.11, SE = .01, p = < .001, and b unstand = .07, SE = .01, p = < .001, respectively; see Table 3 ). Effects of gender and age varied between countries, see S21 Table in S1 File .

Perceived social relatedness.

Finally, the perceived social relatedness model with fixed paths had a relatively better model fit (BIC = 479,428.46) than the multigroup model (BIC = 479,604.61). Likewise, the absolute model fit was similar in the model with path coefficients fixed across countries (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.96) and the multigroup model (RMSEA = 0.05, CFI = 0.97, TLI = 0.97). The multigroup model explained 17.6% of the variance in procrastination and 26.3% of the variance in persistence, as compared to 15.2% and 21.6%, respectively in the fixed path model. Explained variance for procrastination ranged between 0.5% and 48.1% in the multigroup model, and from 9.0% to 23.0% in the fixed path model. Similarly, the multigroup model explained between 1.0% and 56.5% of the variance in persistence across countries, while the fixed path model explained between 15.6% and 48.3% (see S29 and S30 Tables in S1 File ).

Hence, the fixed path model depicted in Fig 9 is well-suited for describing data across all 17 countries. Higher perceived social relatedness is related to less procrastination both directly ( b unstand = -.06, SE = .01, p = < .001) and indirectly through learning motivation ( b unstand = -.12, SE = .01, p = < .001). Likewise, it is related to higher persistence both directly ( b unstand = .07, SE = .01, p = < .001) and indirectly through learning motivation ( b unstand = .08, SE = .00, p = < .001; see Table 3 ). Effects of gender and age are shown in S22 Table in S1 File .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.g009

The aim of this study was to extend current research on the association between the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and social relatedness with intrinsic motivation and two important aspects of learning behavior—procrastination and persistence—in the new and unique situation of pandemic-induced distance learning. We also investigated SDT’s [ 7 ] postulate that the relation between basic psychological need satisfaction and active (persistence) as well as passive (procrastination) learning behavior is mediated by intrinsic motivation. To test the theory’s underlying claim of universality, we collected data from N = 15,462 students across 17 countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

Confirming our hypothesis, we found that the three basic psychological needs were consistently and positively related to intrinsic motivation in all countries except for the USA (H1a - c). This consistent result is in line with self-determination theory [ 7 ] and other previous studies (e.g., 9), which have found that satisfaction of the three basic needs for autonomy, competence and social relatedness is related to higher intrinsic motivation. Notably, the association with intrinsic motivation was stronger for perceived autonomy and perceived competence than for perceived social relatedness. This also has been found in previous studies [ 4 , 9 , 28 ]. Pandemic-induced distance learning, where physical and subsequential social contact in all areas of life was severely constricted, might further exacerbate this discrepancy, as instructors may have not been able to establish adequate communication structures due to the rapid switch to distance learning [ 36 , 53 ]. As hypothesized, intrinsic motivation was in general negatively related to procrastination (H2a - c) and positively related to persistence (H3a - c), indicating that students who are intrinsically motivated are less prone to procrastination and more persistent when studying. This again underlines the importance of intrinsic motivation for adaptive learning behavior, even and particularly in a distance learning setting, where students are more prone to disengage from classes [ 34 ].

The mediating effect of intrinsic motivation on procrastination and persistence

Direct effects of the basic needs on the outcomes were consistently more ambiguous (with smaller effect estimates and larger confidence intervals, including zero in more countries) than indirect effects mediated by intrinsic motivation. This difference was particularly pronounced for perceived social relatedness, where a clear negative direct effect on procrastination (H6c) could be observed only in the three countries with the largest sample size (Austria, Sweden, Finland) and Romania, whereas the confidence interval in most countries included zero. Moreover, in Estonia there was even a clear positive effect. The unexpected effect in the Estonian sample may be attributed to the fact that this country collected data only from international exchange students. Since the lockdown in Estonia was declared only a few weeks after the start of the semester, international exchange students had only a very short period of time to establish contacts with fellow students on site. Accordingly, there was probably little integration into university structures and social contacts were maintained more on a personal level with contacts from the home country. Thus, such students’ fulfillment of this basic need might have required more time and effort, leading to higher procrastination and less persistence in learning.

A diametrically opposite pattern was observed for persistence (H7c), where some direct effects of social relatedness were unexpectedly negative or close to zero. We therefore conclude that evidence for a direct negative relationship between social relatedness and procrastination and a direct positive relationship between social relatedness and persistence is lacking. This could be due to the specificity of the COVID-19 situation and resulting lockdowns, in which maintaining social contact took students’ focus off learning. In line with SDT, however, indirect effects of perceived social relatedness on procrastination (H4c) and persistence (H5c) mediated via intrinsic motivation were much more visible and in the expected directions. We conclude that, while the direct relation between perceived social relatedness and procrastination is ambiguous, there is strong evidence that the relationship between social relatedness and the measured learning behaviors is mediated by intrinsic motivation. Our results strongly underscore SDT’s assumption that close social relations promote intrinsic motivation, which in turn has a positive effect on learning behavior (e.g., [ 6 , 14 ]). The effects for perceived competence exhibited a somewhat clearer and hypothesis-conforming pattern. All direct effects of perceived competence on procrastination (H6b) were in the expected negative direction, albeit with confidence intervals spanning zero in 7 out of 17 countries. Direct effects of perceived competence on persistence (H7b) were consistently positive with the exception of the USA, where we observed a very small and non-significant negative effect. Indirect effects of perceived competence on procrastination (H4b) and persistence (H5b) as mediated by intrinsic motivation were mostly consistent with our expectations as well. Considering this overall pattern of results, we conclude that there is strong evidence that perceived competence is negatively associated with procrastination and positively associated with persistence. Furthermore, our results also support SDT’s postulate that the relationship between perceived competence and the measured learning behaviors is mediated by intrinsic motivation.

It is notable that the estimated direct effects of perceived competence on procrastination and persistence were higher than the indirect effects in most countries we investigated. Although SDT proposes that perceived competence leads to higher intrinsic motivation, Deci and Ryan [ 8 ] also argue that it affects all types of motivation and regulation, including less autonomous forms such as introjected and identified motivation, indicating that if the need for competence is not satisfied, all types of motivation are negatively affected. This may result in a general amotivation and lack of action. In our study, we only investigated intrinsic motivation as a mediator. For future research, it might be advantageous to further differentiate between different types of externally and internally controlled behavior. Furthermore, perceived competence increases when tasks are experienced as optimally challenging [ 7 , 54 ]. However, in order for instructors to provide the optimal level of difficulty and support needed, frequent communication with students is essential. Considering that data collection for the present study took place at a time of great uncertainty, when many countries had only transitioned to distance learning a few weeks prior, it is reasonable to assume that both structural support as well as communication and feedback mechanisms had not yet matured to a degree that would favor individualized and competency-based work.

However, our findings corroborate those from earlier studies insofar as they underline the associations between perceived competence and positive learning behavior (e.g., [ 19 ]), that is, lower procrastination [ 18 ] and higher persistence (e.g., [ 21 ]), even in an exceptional situation like pandemic-induced distance learning.

Turning to perceived autonomy, although the confidence intervals for the direct effects of perceived autonomy on procrastination (H6a) did span zero in most countries with smaller sample sizes, all effect estimates indicated a negative relation with procrastination. We expected these relationships from previous studies [ 18 , 23 ]; however, the effect might have been even more pronounced in the relatively autonomous learning situation of distance learning, where students usually have increased autonomy in deciding when, where, and how to learn. While this bears the risk of procrastination, it also comes with the opportunity to consciously delay less pressing tasks in favor of other, more important or urgent tasks (also called strategic delay ) [ 5 ], resulting in lower procrastination. In future studies, it might be beneficial to differentiate between passive forms of procrastination and active strategic delay in order to obtain more detailed information on the mechanisms behind this relationship. Direct effects of autonomy on persistence (H7a) were consistently positive. Students who are free to choose their preferred time and place to study may engage more with their studies and therefore be more persistent.

Indirect effects of perceived autonomy on procrastination mediated by intrinsic motivation (H4a) were negative in all but two countries (China and the USA), which is generally consistent with our hypothesis and in line with previous research (e.g., [ 23 ]). Additionally, we found a positive indirect effect of autonomy on persistence (H5a), indicating that autonomy and intrinsic motivation play a crucial role in students’ persistence in a distance learning setting. Based on our results, we conclude that perceived autonomy is negatively related to procrastination and positively related to persistence, and that this relationship is mediated by intrinsic motivation. It is worth noting that, unlike with perceived competence, the direct and indirect effects of perceived autonomy on the outcomes procrastination and persistence were similarly strong, suggesting that perceived autonomy is important not only as a driver of intrinsic motivation but also at a more direct level. It is important to make the best possible use of the opportunity for greater autonomy that distance learning offers. However, autonomy is not to be equated with a lack of structure; instead, learners should be given the opportunity to make their own decisions within certain framework conditions.

The applicability of self-determination theory across countries

Overall, the results of our mediation analysis for the separate countries support the claim posited by SDT that basic need satisfaction is essential for intrinsic motivation and learning across different countries and settings. In an exploratory analysis, we tested a fixed path model including all countries at once, in order to test whether a simplified general model would yield a similar amount of explained variance. For perceived autonomy and social relatedness, the model fit increased, whereas for perceived competence it decreased slightly compared to the multigroup model. However, all fixed path models exhibited adequate model fit. Considering that the circumstances in which distance learning took place in different countries varied to some degree (see also Limitations), these findings are a strong indicator for the universality of SDT.

Study strengths and limitations

Although the current study has several strengths, including a large sample size and data from multiple countries, three limitations must be considered. First, it must be noted that sample sizes varied widely across the 17 countries in our study, with one country above 6,000 (Austria), two above 1,000 (Finland and Sweden) and the rest ranging between 104 and 905. Random sampling effects are more problematic in smaller samples; hence, this large variation weakens our ability to conduct cross-country comparisons. At the same time, small sample sizes weaken the interpretability of results within each country; thus, our results for Austria, Finland and Sweden are considerably more robust than for the remaining fourteen countries. Additionally, two participating countries collected specific subsamples: In China, participants were only recruited from one university, a nursing school. In Estonia, only international exchange students were invited to participate. Nevertheless, with the exception of the unexpected positive direct relationship between social relatedness and procrastination, all observed divergent effects were non-significant. Indeed, this adds to the support for SDT’s claims to universality regarding the relationship between perceived autonomy, competence, and social relatedness with intrinsic motivation: Results in the included countries were, despite their differing subsamples, in line with the overall trend of results, supporting the idea that SDT applies equally to different groups of learners.

Second, due to the large number of countries in our sample and the overall volatility of the situation, learning circumstances were not identical for all participants. Due to factors such as COVID-19 case counts and national governments’ political priorities, lockdown measures varied in their strictness across settings. Some universities were fully closed, some allowed on-site teaching for particular groups (e.g., students in the middle of a laboratory internship), and some switched to distance learning but held exams on site (see S1 Table in S1 File for further information). Therefore, learning conditions were not as comparable as in a strict experimental setting. On the other hand, this strengthens the ecological validity of our study. The fact that the pattern of results was similar across contexts with certain variation in learning conditions further supports the universal applicability of SDT.

Finally, due to the novelty of the COVID-19 situation, some of the measures were newly developed for this study. Due to the need to react swiftly and collect data on the constantly evolving situation, it was not possible to conduct a comprehensive validation study of the instruments. Nevertheless, we were able to confirm the validity of our instruments in several ways, including cognitive interview testing, CFAs, CR, and measurement invariance testing.

Conclusion and future directions

In general, our results further support previous research on the relation between basic psychological need fulfilment and intrinsic motivation, as proposed in self-determination theory. It also extends past findings by applying this well-established theory to the new and unique situation of pandemic-induced distance learning across 17 different countries. Moreover, it underlines the importance of perceived autonomy and competence for procrastination and persistence in this setting. However, various other directions for further research remain to be pursued. While our findings point to the relevance of social relatedness for intrinsic motivation in addition to perceived competence and autonomy, further research should explore the specific mechanisms necessary to promote social connectedness in distance learning. Furthermore, in our study, we investigated intrinsic motivation, as the most autonomous form of motivation. Future research might address different types of externally and internally regulated motivation in order to further differentiate our results regarding the relations between basic need satisfaction and motivation. Finally, a longitudinal study design could provide deeper insights into the trajectory of need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and learning behavior during extended periods of social distancing and could provide insights into potential forms of support implemented by teachers and coping mechanisms developed by students.

Supporting information

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257346.s001

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A systematic review of research on online teaching and learning from 2009 to 2018

Associated data.

Systematic reviews were conducted in the nineties and early 2000's on online learning research. However, there is no review examining the broader aspect of research themes in online learning in the last decade. This systematic review addresses this gap by examining 619 research articles on online learning published in twelve journals in the last decade. These studies were examined for publication trends and patterns, research themes, research methods, and research settings and compared with the research themes from the previous decades. While there has been a slight decrease in the number of studies on online learning in 2015 and 2016, it has then continued to increase in 2017 and 2018. The majority of the studies were quantitative in nature and were examined in higher education. Online learning research was categorized into twelve themes and a framework across learner, course and instructor, and organizational levels was developed. Online learner characteristics and online engagement were examined in a high number of studies and were consistent with three of the prior systematic reviews. However, there is still a need for more research on organization level topics such as leadership, policy, and management and access, culture, equity, inclusion, and ethics and also on online instructor characteristics.

  • • Twelve online learning research themes were identified in 2009–2018.
  • • A framework with learner, course and instructor, and organizational levels was used.
  • • Online learner characteristics and engagement were the mostly examined themes.
  • • The majority of the studies used quantitative research methods and in higher education.
  • • There is a need for more research on organization level topics.

1. Introduction

Online learning has been on the increase in the last two decades. In the United States, though higher education enrollment has declined, online learning enrollment in public institutions has continued to increase ( Allen & Seaman, 2017 ), and so has the research on online learning. There have been review studies conducted on specific areas on online learning such as innovations in online learning strategies ( Davis et al., 2018 ), empirical MOOC literature ( Liyanagunawardena et al., 2013 ; Veletsianos & Shepherdson, 2016 ; Zhu et al., 2018 ), quality in online education ( Esfijani, 2018 ), accessibility in online higher education ( Lee, 2017 ), synchronous online learning ( Martin et al., 2017 ), K-12 preparation for online teaching ( Moore-Adams et al., 2016 ), polychronicity in online learning ( Capdeferro et al., 2014 ), meaningful learning research in elearning and online learning environments ( Tsai, Shen, & Chiang, 2013 ), problem-based learning in elearning and online learning environments ( Tsai & Chiang, 2013 ), asynchronous online discussions ( Thomas, 2013 ), self-regulated learning in online learning environments ( Tsai, Shen, & Fan, 2013 ), game-based learning in online learning environments ( Tsai & Fan, 2013 ), and online course dropout ( Lee & Choi, 2011 ). While there have been review studies conducted on specific online learning topics, very few studies have been conducted on the broader aspect of online learning examining research themes.

2. Systematic Reviews of Distance Education and Online Learning Research

Distance education has evolved from offline to online settings with the access to internet and COVID-19 has made online learning the common delivery method across the world. Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) reviewed research late 1990's to early 2000's, Berge and Mrozowski (2001) reviewed research 1990 to 1999, and Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) reviewed research in 2000–2008 on distance education and online learning. Table 1 shows the research themes from previous systematic reviews on online learning research. There are some themes that re-occur in the various reviews, and there are also new themes that emerge. Though there have been reviews conducted in the nineties and early 2000's, there is no review examining the broader aspect of research themes in online learning in the last decade. Hence, the need for this systematic review which informs the research themes in online learning from 2009 to 2018. In the following sections, we review these systematic review studies in detail.

Comparison of online learning research themes from previous studies.

2.1. Distance education research themes, 1990 to 1999 ( Berge & Mrozowski, 2001 )

Berge and Mrozowski (2001) reviewed 890 research articles and dissertation abstracts on distance education from 1990 to 1999. The four distance education journals chosen by the authors to represent distance education included, American Journal of Distance Education, Distance Education, Open Learning, and the Journal of Distance Education. This review overlapped in the dates of the Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) study. Berge and Mrozowski (2001) categorized the articles according to Sherry's (1996) ten themes of research issues in distance education: redefining roles of instructor and students, technologies used, issues of design, strategies to stimulate learning, learner characteristics and support, issues related to operating and policies and administration, access and equity, and costs and benefits.

In the Berge and Mrozowski (2001) study, more than 100 studies focused on each of the three themes: (1) design issues, (2) learner characteristics, and (3) strategies to increase interactivity and active learning. By design issues, the authors focused on instructional systems design and focused on topics such as content requirement, technical constraints, interactivity, and feedback. The next theme, strategies to increase interactivity and active learning, were closely related to design issues and focused on students’ modes of learning. Learner characteristics focused on accommodating various learning styles through customized instructional theory. Less than 50 studies focused on the three least examined themes: (1) cost-benefit tradeoffs, (2) equity and accessibility, and (3) learner support. Cost-benefit trade-offs focused on the implementation costs of distance education based on school characteristics. Equity and accessibility focused on the equity of access to distance education systems. Learner support included topics such as teacher to teacher support as well as teacher to student support.

2.2. Online learning research themes, 1993 to 2004 ( Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006 )

Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) reviewed research on online instruction from 1993 to 2004. They reviewed 76 articles focused on online learning by searching five databases, ERIC, PsycINFO, ContentFirst, Education Abstracts, and WilsonSelect. Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) categorized research into four themes, (1) course environment, (2) learners' outcomes, (3) learners’ characteristics, and (4) institutional and administrative factors. The first theme that the authors describe as course environment ( n  = 41, 53.9%) is an overarching theme that includes classroom culture, structural assistance, success factors, online interaction, and evaluation.

Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) for their second theme found that studies focused on questions involving the process of teaching and learning and methods to explore cognitive and affective learner outcomes ( n  = 29, 38.2%). The authors stated that they found the research designs flawed and lacked rigor. However, the literature comparing traditional and online classrooms found both delivery systems to be adequate. Another research theme focused on learners’ characteristics ( n  = 12, 15.8%) and the synergy of learners, design of the online course, and system of delivery. Research findings revealed that online learners were mainly non-traditional, Caucasian, had different learning styles, and were highly motivated to learn. The final theme that they reported was institutional and administrative factors (n  = 13, 17.1%) on online learning. Their findings revealed that there was a lack of scholarly research in this area and most institutions did not have formal policies in place for course development as well as faculty and student support in training and evaluation. Their research confirmed that when universities offered online courses, it improved student enrollment numbers.

2.3. Distance education research themes 2000 to 2008 ( Zawacki-Richter et al., 2009 )

Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) reviewed 695 articles on distance education from 2000 to 2008 using the Delphi method for consensus in identifying areas and classified the literature from five prominent journals. The five journals selected due to their wide scope in research in distance education included Open Learning, Distance Education, American Journal of Distance Education, the Journal of Distance Education, and the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. The reviewers examined the main focus of research and identified gaps in distance education research in this review.

Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) classified the studies into macro, meso and micro levels focusing on 15 areas of research. The five areas of the macro-level addressed: (1) access, equity and ethics to deliver distance education for developing nations and the role of various technologies to narrow the digital divide, (2) teaching and learning drivers, markets, and professional development in the global context, (3) distance delivery systems and institutional partnerships and programs and impact of hybrid modes of delivery, (4) theoretical frameworks and models for instruction, knowledge building, and learner interactions in distance education practice, and (5) the types of preferred research methodologies. The meso-level focused on seven areas that involve: (1) management and organization for sustaining distance education programs, (2) examining financial aspects of developing and implementing online programs, (3) the challenges and benefits of new technologies for teaching and learning, (4) incentives to innovate, (5) professional development and support for faculty, (6) learner support services, and (7) issues involving quality standards and the impact on student enrollment and retention. The micro-level focused on three areas: (1) instructional design and pedagogical approaches, (2) culturally appropriate materials, interaction, communication, and collaboration among a community of learners, and (3) focus on characteristics of adult learners, socio-economic backgrounds, learning preferences, and dispositions.

The top three research themes in this review by Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) were interaction and communities of learning ( n  = 122, 17.6%), instructional design ( n  = 121, 17.4%) and learner characteristics ( n  = 113, 16.3%). The lowest number of studies (less than 3%) were found in studies examining the following research themes, management and organization ( n  = 18), research methods in DE and knowledge transfer ( n  = 13), globalization of education and cross-cultural aspects ( n  = 13), innovation and change ( n  = 13), and costs and benefits ( n  = 12).

2.4. Online learning research themes

These three systematic reviews provide a broad understanding of distance education and online learning research themes from 1990 to 2008. However, there is an increase in the number of research studies on online learning in this decade and there is a need to identify recent research themes examined. Based on the previous systematic reviews ( Berge & Mrozowski, 2001 ; Hung, 2012 ; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006 ; Zawacki-Richter et al., 2009 ), online learning research in this study is grouped into twelve different research themes which include Learner characteristics, Instructor characteristics, Course or program design and development, Course Facilitation, Engagement, Course Assessment, Course Technologies, Access, Culture, Equity, Inclusion, and Ethics, Leadership, Policy and Management, Instructor and Learner Support, and Learner Outcomes. Table 2 below describes each of the research themes and using these themes, a framework is derived in Fig. 1 .

Research themes in online learning.

Fig. 1

Online learning research themes framework.

The collection of research themes is presented as a framework in Fig. 1 . The themes are organized by domain or level to underscore the nested relationship that exists. As evidenced by the assortment of themes, research can focus on any domain of delivery or associated context. The “Learner” domain captures characteristics and outcomes related to learners and their interaction within the courses. The “Course and Instructor” domain captures elements about the broader design of the course and facilitation by the instructor, and the “Organizational” domain acknowledges the contextual influences on the course. It is important to note as well that due to the nesting, research themes can cross domains. For example, the broader cultural context may be studied as it pertains to course design and development, and institutional support can include both learner support and instructor support. Likewise, engagement research can involve instructors as well as learners.

In this introduction section, we have reviewed three systematic reviews on online learning research ( Berge & Mrozowski, 2001 ; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006 ; Zawacki-Richter et al., 2009 ). Based on these reviews and other research, we have derived twelve themes to develop an online learning research framework which is nested in three levels: learner, course and instructor, and organization.

2.5. Purpose of this research

In two out of the three previous reviews, design, learner characteristics and interaction were examined in the highest number of studies. On the other hand, cost-benefit tradeoffs, equity and accessibility, institutional and administrative factors, and globalization and cross-cultural aspects were examined in the least number of studies. One explanation for this may be that it is a function of nesting, noting that studies falling in the Organizational and Course levels may encompass several courses or many more participants within courses. However, while some research themes re-occur, there are also variations in some themes across time, suggesting the importance of research themes rise and fall over time. Thus, a critical examination of the trends in themes is helpful for understanding where research is needed most. Also, since there is no recent study examining online learning research themes in the last decade, this study strives to address that gap by focusing on recent research themes found in the literature, and also reviewing research methods and settings. Notably, one goal is to also compare findings from this decade to the previous review studies. Overall, the purpose of this study is to examine publication trends in online learning research taking place during the last ten years and compare it with the previous themes identified in other review studies. Due to the continued growth of online learning research into new contexts and among new researchers, we also examine the research methods and settings found in the studies of this review.

The following research questions are addressed in this study.

  • 1. What percentage of the population of articles published in the journals reviewed from 2009 to 2018 were related to online learning and empirical?
  • 2. What is the frequency of online learning research themes in the empirical online learning articles of journals reviewed from 2009 to 2018?
  • 3. What is the frequency of research methods and settings that researchers employed in the empirical online learning articles of the journals reviewed from 2009 to 2018?

This five-step systematic review process described in the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse Procedures and Standards Handbook, Version 4.0 ( 2017 ) was used in this systematic review: (a) developing the review protocol, (b) identifying relevant literature, (c) screening studies, (d) reviewing articles, and (e) reporting findings.

3.1. Data sources and search strategies

The Education Research Complete database was searched using the keywords below for published articles between the years 2009 and 2018 using both the Title and Keyword function for the following search terms.

“online learning" OR "online teaching" OR "online program" OR "online course" OR “online education”

3.2. Inclusion/exclusion criteria

The initial search of online learning research among journals in the database resulted in more than 3000 possible articles. Therefore, we limited our search to select journals that focus on publishing peer-reviewed online learning and educational research. Our aim was to capture the journals that published the most articles in online learning. However, we also wanted to incorporate the concept of rigor, so we used expert perception to identify 12 peer-reviewed journals that publish high-quality online learning research. Dissertations and conference proceedings were excluded. To be included in this systematic review, each study had to meet the screening criteria as described in Table 3 . A research study was excluded if it did not meet all of the criteria to be included.

Inclusion/Exclusion criteria.

3.3. Process flow selection of articles

Fig. 2 shows the process flow involved in the selection of articles. The search in the database Education Research Complete yielded an initial sample of 3332 articles. Targeting the 12 journals removed 2579 articles. After reviewing the abstracts, we removed 134 articles based on the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The final sample, consisting of 619 articles, was entered into the computer software MAXQDA ( VERBI Software, 2019 ) for coding.

Fig. 2

Flowchart of online learning research selection.

3.4. Developing review protocol

A review protocol was designed as a codebook in MAXQDA ( VERBI Software, 2019 ) by the three researchers. The codebook was developed based on findings from the previous review studies and from the initial screening of the articles in this review. The codebook included 12 research themes listed earlier in Table 2 (Learner characteristics, Instructor characteristics, Course or program design and development, Course Facilitation, Engagement, Course Assessment, Course Technologies, Access, Culture, Equity, Inclusion, and Ethics, Leadership, Policy and Management, Instructor and Learner Support, and Learner Outcomes), four research settings (higher education, continuing education, K-12, corporate/military), and three research designs (quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods). Fig. 3 below is a screenshot of MAXQDA used for the coding process.

Fig. 3

Codebook from MAXQDA.

3.5. Data coding

Research articles were coded by two researchers in MAXQDA. Two researchers independently coded 10% of the articles and then discussed and updated the coding framework. The second author who was a doctoral student coded the remaining studies. The researchers met bi-weekly to address coding questions that emerged. After the first phase of coding, we found that more than 100 studies fell into each of the categories of Learner Characteristics or Engagement, so we decided to pursue a second phase of coding and reexamine the two themes. Learner Characteristics were classified into the subthemes of Academic, Affective, Motivational, Self-regulation, Cognitive, and Demographic Characteristics. Engagement was classified into the subthemes of Collaborating, Communication, Community, Involvement, Interaction, Participation, and Presence.

3.6. Data analysis

Frequency tables were generated for each of the variables so that outliers could be examined and narrative data could be collapsed into categories. Once cleaned and collapsed into a reasonable number of categories, descriptive statistics were used to describe each of the coded elements. We first present the frequencies of publications related to online learning in the 12 journals. The total number of articles for each journal (collectively, the population) was hand-counted from journal websites, excluding editorials and book reviews. The publication trend of online learning research was also depicted from 2009 to 2018. Then, the descriptive information of the 12 themes, including the subthemes of Learner Characteristics and Engagement were provided. Finally, research themes by research settings and methodology were elaborated.

4.1. Publication trends on online learning

Publication patterns of the 619 articles reviewed from the 12 journals are presented in Table 4 . International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning had the highest number of publications in this review. Overall, about 8% of the articles appearing in these twelve journals consisted of online learning publications; however, several journals had concentrations of online learning articles totaling more than 20%.

Empirical online learning research articles by journal, 2009–2018.

Note . Journal's Total Article count excludes reviews and editorials.

The publication trend of online learning research is depicted in Fig. 4 . When disaggregated by year, the total frequency of publications shows an increasing trend. Online learning articles increased throughout the decade and hit a relative maximum in 2014. The greatest number of online learning articles ( n  = 86) occurred most recently, in 2018.

Fig. 4

Online learning publication trends by year.

4.2. Online learning research themes that appeared in the selected articles

The publications were categorized into the twelve research themes identified in Fig. 1 . The frequency counts and percentages of the research themes are provided in Table 5 below. A majority of the research is categorized into the Learner domain. The fewest number of articles appears in the Organization domain.

Research themes in the online learning publications from 2009 to 2018.

The specific themes of Engagement ( n  = 179, 28.92%) and Learner Characteristics ( n  = 134, 21.65%) were most often examined in publications. These two themes were further coded to identify sub-themes, which are described in the next two sections. Publications focusing on Instructor Characteristics ( n  = 21, 3.39%) were least common in the dataset.

4.2.1. Research on engagement

The largest number of studies was on engagement in online learning, which in the online learning literature is referred to and examined through different terms. Hence, we explore this category in more detail. In this review, we categorized the articles into seven different sub-themes as examined through different lenses including presence, interaction, community, participation, collaboration, involvement, and communication. We use the term “involvement” as one of the terms since researchers sometimes broadly used the term engagement to describe their work without further description. Table 6 below provides the description, frequency, and percentages of the various studies related to engagement.

Research sub-themes on engagement.

In the sections below, we provide several examples of the different engagement sub-themes that were studied within the larger engagement theme.

Presence. This sub-theme was the most researched in engagement. With the development of the community of inquiry framework most of the studies in this subtheme examined social presence ( Akcaoglu & Lee, 2016 ; Phirangee & Malec, 2017 ; Wei et al., 2012 ), teaching presence ( Orcutt & Dringus, 2017 ; Preisman, 2014 ; Wisneski et al., 2015 ) and cognitive presence ( Archibald, 2010 ; Olesova et al., 2016 ).

Interaction . This was the second most studied theme under engagement. Researchers examined increasing interpersonal interactions ( Cung et al., 2018 ), learner-learner interactions ( Phirangee, 2016 ; Shackelford & Maxwell, 2012 ; Tawfik et al., 2018 ), peer-peer interaction ( Comer et al., 2014 ), learner-instructor interaction ( Kuo et al., 2014 ), learner-content interaction ( Zimmerman, 2012 ), interaction through peer mentoring ( Ruane & Koku, 2014 ), interaction and community building ( Thormann & Fidalgo, 2014 ), and interaction in discussions ( Ruane & Lee, 2016 ; Tibi, 2018 ).

Community. Researchers examined building community in online courses ( Berry, 2017 ), supporting a sense of community ( Jiang, 2017 ), building an online learning community of practice ( Cho, 2016 ), building an academic community ( Glazer & Wanstreet, 2011 ; Nye, 2015 ; Overbaugh & Nickel, 2011 ), and examining connectedness and rapport in an online community ( Bolliger & Inan, 2012 ; Murphy & Rodríguez-Manzanares, 2012 ; Slagter van Tryon & Bishop, 2012 ).

Participation. Researchers examined engagement through participation in a number of studies. Some of the topics include, participation patterns in online discussion ( Marbouti & Wise, 2016 ; Wise et al., 2012 ), participation in MOOCs ( Ahn et al., 2013 ; Saadatmand & Kumpulainen, 2014 ), features that influence students’ online participation ( Rye & Støkken, 2012 ) and active participation.

Collaboration. Researchers examined engagement through collaborative learning. Specific studies focused on cross-cultural collaboration ( Kumi-Yeboah, 2018 ; Yang et al., 2014 ), how virtual teams collaborate ( Verstegen et al., 2018 ), types of collaboration teams ( Wicks et al., 2015 ), tools for collaboration ( Boling et al., 2014 ), and support for collaboration ( Kopp et al., 2012 ).

Involvement. Researchers examined engaging learners through involvement in various learning activities ( Cundell & Sheepy, 2018 ), student engagement through various measures ( Dixson, 2015 ), how instructors included engagement to involve students in learning ( O'Shea et al., 2015 ), different strategies to engage the learner ( Amador & Mederer, 2013 ), and designed emotionally engaging online environments ( Koseoglu & Doering, 2011 ).

Communication. Researchers examined communication in online learning in studies using social network analysis ( Ergün & Usluel, 2016 ), using informal communication tools such as Facebook for class discussion ( Kent, 2013 ), and using various modes of communication ( Cunningham et al., 2010 ; Rowe, 2016 ). Studies have also focused on both asynchronous and synchronous aspects of communication ( Swaggerty & Broemmel, 2017 ; Yamagata-Lynch, 2014 ).

4.2.2. Research on learner characteristics

The second largest theme was learner characteristics. In this review, we explore this further to identify several aspects of learner characteristics. In this review, we categorized the learner characteristics into self-regulation characteristics, motivational characteristics, academic characteristics, affective characteristics, cognitive characteristics, and demographic characteristics. Table 7 provides the number of studies and percentages examining the various learner characteristics.

Research sub-themes on learner characteristics.

Online learning has elements that are different from the traditional face-to-face classroom and so the characteristics of the online learners are also different. Yukselturk and Top (2013) categorized online learner profile into ten aspects: gender, age, work status, self-efficacy, online readiness, self-regulation, participation in discussion list, participation in chat sessions, satisfaction, and achievement. Their categorization shows that there are differences in online learner characteristics in these aspects when compared to learners in other settings. Some of the other aspects such as participation and achievement as discussed by Yukselturk and Top (2013) are discussed in different research themes in this study. The sections below provide examples of the learner characteristics sub-themes that were studied.

Self-regulation. Several researchers have examined self-regulation in online learning. They found that successful online learners are academically motivated ( Artino & Stephens, 2009 ), have academic self-efficacy ( Cho & Shen, 2013 ), have grit and intention to succeed ( Wang & Baker, 2018 ), have time management and elaboration strategies ( Broadbent, 2017 ), set goals and revisit course content ( Kizilcec et al., 2017 ), and persist ( Glazer & Murphy, 2015 ). Researchers found a positive relationship between learner's self-regulation and interaction ( Delen et al., 2014 ) and self-regulation and communication and collaboration ( Barnard et al., 2009 ).

Motivation. Researchers focused on motivation of online learners including different motivation levels of online learners ( Li & Tsai, 2017 ), what motivated online learners ( Chaiprasurt & Esichaikul, 2013 ), differences in motivation of online learners ( Hartnett et al., 2011 ), and motivation when compared to face to face learners ( Paechter & Maier, 2010 ). Harnett et al. (2011) found that online learner motivation was complex, multifaceted, and sensitive to situational conditions.

Academic. Several researchers have focused on academic aspects for online learner characteristics. Readiness for online learning has been examined as an academic factor by several researchers ( Buzdar et al., 2016 ; Dray et al., 2011 ; Wladis & Samuels, 2016 ; Yu, 2018 ) specifically focusing on creating and validating measures to examine online learner readiness including examining students emotional intelligence as a measure of student readiness for online learning. Researchers have also examined other academic factors such as academic standing ( Bradford & Wyatt, 2010 ), course level factors ( Wladis et al., 2014 ) and academic skills in online courses ( Shea & Bidjerano, 2014 ).

Affective. Anderson and Bourke (2013) describe affective characteristics through which learners express feelings or emotions. Several research studies focused on the affective characteristics of online learners. Learner satisfaction for online learning has been examined by several researchers ( Cole et al., 2014 ; Dziuban et al., 2015 ; Kuo et al., 2013 ; Lee, 2014a ) along with examining student emotions towards online assessment ( Kim et al., 2014 ).

Cognitive. Researchers have also examined cognitive aspects of learner characteristics including meta-cognitive skills, cognitive variables, higher-order thinking, cognitive density, and critical thinking ( Chen & Wu, 2012 ; Lee, 2014b ). Lee (2014b) examined the relationship between cognitive presence density and higher-order thinking skills. Chen and Wu (2012) examined the relationship between cognitive and motivational variables in an online system for secondary physical education.

Demographic. Researchers have examined various demographic factors in online learning. Several researchers have examined gender differences in online learning ( Bayeck et al., 2018 ; Lowes et al., 2016 ; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2009 ), ethnicity, age ( Ke & Kwak, 2013 ), and minority status ( Yeboah & Smith, 2016 ) of online learners.

4.2.3. Less frequently studied research themes

While engagement and learner characteristics were studied the most, other themes were less often studied in the literature and are presented here, according to size, with general descriptions of the types of research examined for each.

Evaluation and Quality Assurance. There were 38 studies (6.14%) published in the theme of evaluation and quality assurance. Some of the studies in this theme focused on course quality standards, using quality matters to evaluate quality, using the CIPP model for evaluation, online learning system evaluation, and course and program evaluations.

Course Technologies. There were 35 studies (5.65%) published in the course technologies theme. Some of the studies examined specific technologies such as Edmodo, YouTube, Web 2.0 tools, wikis, Twitter, WebCT, Screencasts, and Web conferencing systems in the online learning context.

Course Facilitation. There were 34 studies (5.49%) published in the course facilitation theme. Some of the studies in this theme examined facilitation strategies and methods, experiences of online facilitators, and online teaching methods.

Institutional Support. There were 33 studies (5.33%) published in the institutional support theme which included support for both the instructor and learner. Some of the studies on instructor support focused on training new online instructors, mentoring programs for faculty, professional development resources for faculty, online adjunct faculty training, and institutional support for online instructors. Studies on learner support focused on learning resources for online students, cognitive and social support for online learners, and help systems for online learner support.

Learner Outcome. There were 32 studies (5.17%) published in the learner outcome theme. Some of the studies that were examined in this theme focused on online learner enrollment, completion, learner dropout, retention, and learner success.

Course Assessment. There were 30 studies (4.85%) published in the course assessment theme. Some of the studies in the course assessment theme examined online exams, peer assessment and peer feedback, proctoring in online exams, and alternative assessments such as eportfolio.

Access, Culture, Equity, Inclusion, and Ethics. There were 29 studies (4.68%) published in the access, culture, equity, inclusion, and ethics theme. Some of the studies in this theme examined online learning across cultures, multi-cultural effectiveness, multi-access, and cultural diversity in online learning.

Leadership, Policy, and Management. There were 27 studies (4.36%) published in the leadership, policy, and management theme. Some of the studies on leadership, policy, and management focused on online learning leaders, stakeholders, strategies for online learning leadership, resource requirements, university policies for online course policies, governance, course ownership, and faculty incentives for online teaching.

Course Design and Development. There were 27 studies (4.36%) published in the course design and development theme. Some of the studies examined in this theme focused on design elements, design issues, design process, design competencies, design considerations, and instructional design in online courses.

Instructor Characteristics. There were 21 studies (3.39%) published in the instructor characteristics theme. Some of the studies in this theme were on motivation and experiences of online instructors, ability to perform online teaching duties, roles of online instructors, and adjunct versus full-time online instructors.

4.3. Research settings and methodology used in the studies

The research methods used in the studies were classified into quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods ( Harwell, 2012 , pp. 147–163). The research setting was categorized into higher education, continuing education, K-12, and corporate/military. As shown in Table A in the appendix, the vast majority of the publications used higher education as the research setting ( n  = 509, 67.6%). Table B in the appendix shows that approximately half of the studies adopted the quantitative method ( n  = 324, 43.03%), followed by the qualitative method ( n  = 200, 26.56%). Mixed methods account for the smallest portion ( n  = 95, 12.62%).

Table A shows that the patterns of the four research settings were approximately consistent across the 12 themes except for the theme of Leaner Outcome and Institutional Support. Continuing education had a higher relative frequency in Learner Outcome (0.28) and K-12 had a higher relative frequency in Institutional Support (0.33) compared to the frequencies they had in the total themes (0.09 and 0.08 respectively). Table B in the appendix shows that the distribution of the three methods were not consistent across the 12 themes. While quantitative studies and qualitative studies were roughly evenly distributed in Engagement, they had a large discrepancy in Learner Characteristics. There were 100 quantitative studies; however, only 18 qualitative studies published in the theme of Learner Characteristics.

In summary, around 8% of the articles published in the 12 journals focus on online learning. Online learning publications showed a tendency of increase on the whole in the past decade, albeit fluctuated, with the greatest number occurring in 2018. Among the 12 research themes related to online learning, the themes of Engagement and Learner Characteristics were studied the most and the theme of Instructor Characteristics was studied the least. Most studies were conducted in the higher education setting and approximately half of the studies used the quantitative method. Looking at the 12 themes by setting and method, we found that the patterns of the themes by setting or by method were not consistent across the 12 themes.

The quality of our findings was ensured by scientific and thorough searches and coding consistency. The selection of the 12 journals provides evidence of the representativeness and quality of primary studies. In the coding process, any difficulties and questions were resolved by consultations with the research team at bi-weekly meetings, which ensures the intra-rater and interrater reliability of coding. All these approaches guarantee the transparency and replicability of the process and the quality of our results.

5. Discussion

This review enabled us to identify the online learning research themes examined from 2009 to 2018. In the section below, we review the most studied research themes, engagement and learner characteristics along with implications, limitations, and directions for future research.

5.1. Most studied research themes

Three out of the four systematic reviews informing the design of the present study found that online learner characteristics and online engagement were examined in a high number of studies. In this review, about half of the studies reviewed (50.57%) focused on online learner characteristics or online engagement. This shows the continued importance of these two themes. In the Tallent-Runnels et al.’s (2006) study, the learner characteristics theme was identified as least studied for which they state that researchers are beginning to investigate learner characteristics in the early days of online learning.

One of the differences found in this review is that course design and development was examined in the least number of studies in this review compared to two prior systematic reviews ( Berge & Mrozowski, 2001 ; Zawacki-Richter et al., 2009 ). Zawacki-Richter et al. did not use a keyword search but reviewed all the articles in five different distance education journals. Berge and Mrozowski (2001) included a research theme called design issues to include all aspects of instructional systems design in distance education journals. In our study, in addition to course design and development, we also had focused themes on learner outcomes, course facilitation, course assessment and course evaluation. These are all instructional design focused topics and since we had multiple themes focusing on instructional design topics, the course design and development category might have resulted in fewer studies. There is still a need for more studies to focus on online course design and development.

5.2. Least frequently studied research themes

Three out of the four systematic reviews discussed in the opening of this study found management and organization factors to be least studied. In this review, Leadership, Policy, and Management was studied among 4.36% of the studies and Access, Culture, Equity, Inclusion, and Ethics was studied among 4.68% of the studies in the organizational level. The theme on Equity and accessibility was also found to be the least studied theme in the Berge and Mrozowski (2001) study. In addition, instructor characteristics was the least examined research theme among the twelve themes studied in this review. Only 3.39% of the studies were on instructor characteristics. While there were some studies examining instructor motivation and experiences, instructor ability to teach online, online instructor roles, and adjunct versus full-time online instructors, there is still a need to examine topics focused on instructors and online teaching. This theme was not included in the prior reviews as the focus was more on the learner and the course but not on the instructor. While it is helpful to see research evolving on instructor focused topics, there is still a need for more research on the online instructor.

5.3. Comparing research themes from current study to previous studies

The research themes from this review were compared with research themes from previous systematic reviews, which targeted prior decades. Table 8 shows the comparison.

Comparison of most and least studied online learning research themes from current to previous reviews.

L = Learner, C=Course O=Organization.

5.4. Need for more studies on organizational level themes of online learning

In this review there is a greater concentration of studies focused on Learner domain topics, and reduced attention to broader more encompassing research themes that fall into the Course and Organization domains. There is a need for organizational level topics such as Access, Culture, Equity, Inclusion and Ethics, and Leadership, Policy and Management to be researched on within the context of online learning. Examination of access, culture, equity, inclusion and ethics is very important to support diverse online learners, particularly with the rapid expansion of online learning across all educational levels. This was also least studied based on Berge and Mrozowski (2001) systematic review.

The topics on leadership, policy and management were least studied both in this review and also in the Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) and Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) study. Tallent-Runnels categorized institutional and administrative aspects into institutional policies, institutional support, and enrollment effects. While we included support as a separate category, in this study leadership, policy and management were combined. There is still a need for research on leadership of those who manage online learning, policies for online education, and managing online programs. In the Zawacki-Richter et al. (2009) study, only a few studies examined management and organization focused topics. They also found management and organization to be strongly correlated with costs and benefits. In our study, costs and benefits were collectively included as an aspect of management and organization and not as a theme by itself. These studies will provide research-based evidence for online education administrators.

6. Limitations

As with any systematic review, there are limitations to the scope of the review. The search is limited to twelve journals in the field that typically include research on online learning. These manuscripts were identified by searching the Education Research Complete database which focuses on education students, professionals, and policymakers. Other discipline-specific journals as well as dissertations and proceedings were not included due to the volume of articles. Also, the search was performed using five search terms “online learning" OR "online teaching" OR "online program" OR "online course" OR “online education” in title and keyword. If authors did not include these terms, their respective work may have been excluded from this review even if it focused on online learning. While these terms are commonly used in North America, it may not be commonly used in other parts of the world. Additional studies may exist outside this scope.

The search strategy also affected how we presented results and introduced limitations regarding generalization. We identified that only 8% of the articles published in these journals were related to online learning; however, given the use of search terms to identify articles within select journals it was not feasible to identify the total number of research-based articles in the population. Furthermore, our review focused on the topics and general methods of research and did not systematically consider the quality of the published research. Lastly, some journals may have preferences for publishing studies on a particular topic or that use a particular method (e.g., quantitative methods), which introduces possible selection and publication biases which may skew the interpretation of results due to over/under representation. Future studies are recommended to include more journals to minimize the selection bias and obtain a more representative sample.

Certain limitations can be attributed to the coding process. Overall, the coding process for this review worked well for most articles, as each tended to have an individual or dominant focus as described in the abstracts, though several did mention other categories which likely were simultaneously considered to a lesser degree. However, in some cases, a dominant theme was not as apparent and an effort to create mutually exclusive groups for clearer interpretation the coders were occasionally forced to choose between two categories. To facilitate this coding, the full-texts were used to identify a study focus through a consensus seeking discussion among all authors. Likewise, some studies focused on topics that we have associated with a particular domain, but the design of the study may have promoted an aggregated examination or integrated factors from multiple domains (e.g., engagement). Due to our reliance on author descriptions, the impact of construct validity is likely a concern that requires additional exploration. Our final grouping of codes may not have aligned with the original author's description in the abstract. Additionally, coding of broader constructs which disproportionately occur in the Learner domain, such as learner outcomes, learner characteristics, and engagement, likely introduced bias towards these codes when considering studies that involved multiple domains. Additional refinement to explore the intersection of domains within studies is needed.

7. Implications and future research

One of the strengths of this review is the research categories we have identified. We hope these categories will support future researchers and identify areas and levels of need for future research. Overall, there is some agreement on research themes on online learning research among previous reviews and this one, at the same time there are some contradicting findings. We hope the most-researched themes and least-researched themes provide authors a direction on the importance of research and areas of need to focus on.

The leading themes found in this review is online engagement research. However, presentation of this research was inconsistent, and often lacked specificity. This is not unique to online environments, but the nuances of defining engagement in an online environment are unique and therefore need further investigation and clarification. This review points to seven distinct classifications of online engagement. Further research on engagement should indicate which type of engagement is sought. This level of specificity is necessary to establish instruments for measuring engagement and ultimately testing frameworks for classifying engagement and promoting it in online environments. Also, it might be of importance to examine the relationship between these seven sub-themes of engagement.

Additionally, this review highlights growing attention to learner characteristics, which constitutes a shift in focus away from instructional characteristics and course design. Although this is consistent with the focus on engagement, the role of the instructor, and course design with respect to these outcomes remains important. Results of the learner characteristics and engagement research paired with course design will have important ramifications for the use of teaching and learning professionals who support instruction. Additionally, the review also points to a concentration of research in the area of higher education. With an immediate and growing emphasis on online learning in K-12 and corporate settings, there is a critical need for further investigation in these settings.

Lastly, because the present review did not focus on the overall effect of interventions, opportunities exist for dedicated meta-analyses. Particular attention to research on engagement and learner characteristics as well as how these vary by study design and outcomes would be logical additions to the research literature.

8. Conclusion

This systematic review builds upon three previous reviews which tackled the topic of online learning between 1990 and 2010 by extending the timeframe to consider the most recent set of published research. Covering the most recent decade, our review of 619 articles from 12 leading online learning journal points to a more concentrated focus on the learner domain including engagement and learner characteristics, with more limited attention to topics pertaining to the classroom or organizational level. The review highlights an opportunity for the field to clarify terminology concerning online learning research, particularly in the areas of learner outcomes where there is a tendency to classify research more generally (e.g., engagement). Using this sample of published literature, we provide a possible taxonomy for categorizing this research using subcategories. The field could benefit from a broader conversation about how these categories can shape a comprehensive framework for online learning research. Such efforts will enable the field to effectively prioritize research aims over time and synthesize effects.

Credit author statement

Florence Martin: Conceptualization; Writing - original draft, Writing - review & editing Preparation, Supervision, Project administration. Ting Sun: Methodology, Formal analysis, Writing - original draft, Writing - review & editing. Carl Westine: Methodology, Formal analysis, Writing - original draft, Writing - review & editing, Supervision

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

1 Includes articles that are cited in this manuscript and also included in the systematic review. The entire list of 619 articles used in the systematic review can be obtained by emailing the authors.*

Appendix B Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2020.104009 .

Appendix A. 

Research Themes by the Settings in the Online Learning Publications

Research Themes by the Methodology in the Online Learning Publications

Appendix B. Supplementary data

The following are the Supplementary data to this article:

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  • Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 20 May 2020

Students’ perceptions on distance education: A multinational study

  • Patricia Fidalgo 1 ,
  • Joan Thormann 2 ,
  • Oleksandr Kulyk 3 &
  • José Alberto Lencastre 4  

International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education volume  17 , Article number:  18 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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Many universities offer Distance Education (DE) courses and programs to address the diverse educational needs of students and to stay current with advancing technology. Some Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that do not offer DE find it difficult to navigate through the steps that are needed to provide such courses and programs. Investigating learners’ perceptions, attitudes and willingness to try DE can provide guidance and recommendations for IHEs that are considering expanding use of DE formats. A survey was distributed to undergraduate students in Portugal, UAE and Ukraine. The results of this pilot study showed that in all three countries, students’ major concerns about such programs were time management, motivation, and English language skills. Although students were somewhat apprehensive many indicated they were interested in taking DE courses. Six recommendations informed by interpretation of students’ responses and the literature, are offered to assist institutions who want to offer DE as part of their educational strategy.

Introduction

The World Wide Web has made information access and distribution of educational content available to a large fraction of the world’s population and helped to move Distance Education (DE) to the digital era. DE has become increasingly common in many universities worldwide (Allen & Seaman, 2017 ). Nonetheless, there are still many universities that do not provide this opportunity because it is not part of their institutional culture. As DE becomes more prevalent, countries and Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that do not provide DE courses will need to look at this option to retain and expand their student population. (Keegan, 1994 ; Nakamura, 2017 ).

In order to develop such programs, it is useful to determine if students are receptive to taking such online courses and are prepared to do so. This study addresses students’ perceptions and their interest in DE. In addition, it provides a comparative analysis across three countries whose IHEs do not have extensive offerings in DE. The results of this research provide some strategies to encourage and support students to take DE courses.

Literature review

A seminal article by Keegan ( 1980 ) presents key aspects of DE. Some of the elements are: physical separation of teacher and learner, learning occurs in the context of an educational institution, technical media are used, teacher and learner communicate, face to face meetings are possible, and an industrial model of providing education is used. More recently varying definitions of DE seem to be based on the perspective of various educators and to reflect the educational culture of each country and IHE. However, some common descriptors seem to be accepted by most stakeholders in the field. Distance education is an educational experience where instructors and learners are separated in time and space (Keegan, 2002 ) which means it can happen away from an academic institution and can lead to a degree or credential (Gunawardena, McIsaac, & Jonassen, 2008 ).

Although there are different types of DE, this research focuses on online learning. The following types of online learning will be investigated: synchronous, asynchronous, blended, massive online open courses (MOOC), and open schedule online courses. In synchronous instruction, teachers and learners meet (usually online) for a session at a predetermined time. According to Watts ( 2016 ) live streaming video and/or audio are used for synchronous interaction. Although videoconferencing allows participants to see each other this is not considered a face-to-face interaction because of the physical separation (Keegan, 1980 ).

Asynchronous instruction means that teachers and learners do not have synchronous sessions and that students have access to course content through the Internet at any time they want or need. Communication among the participants occurs mainly through email and online forums and is typically moderated by the instructor (Watts, 2016 ). According to Garrison ( 2000 ) “Asynchronous collaborative learning may well be the defining technology of the postindustrial era of distance education.” (p.12) Yet another type of DE is blended learning (BL). Garrison and Kanuka ( 2004 ) define BL as combining face-to-face classroom time with online learning experiences. Although it is not clear as to how much time is allocated to online in the blended model “the real test of blended learning is the effective integration of the two main components (face-to-face and Internet technology) such that we are not just adding on to the existing dominant approach or method.” (p.97) In the BL format different teaching strategies and instructional technology can be used to help individuals who have different learning styles, needs and interests (Tseng & Walsh Jr., 2016 ).

Another type of DE is MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). This format was first introduced in 2006 and offers distributed open online courses that are available without cost to a very large number of participants (Cormier, McAuley, Siemens, & Stewart, 2010 ). MOOCs origins can be traced to the Open Access Initiative in 2002 which advocates sharing knowledge freely through the Internet. By providing educational opportunities MOOCs can address the increasing demand for training and education (Zawacki-Richter & Naidu, 2016 ). Finally, in open schedule online courses students work asynchronously with all the materials being provided digitally. Although there are deadlines for submitting assignments, students working at their own pace have some independence as to when they do their coursework (Campus Explorer, 2019 ).

There are advantages and disadvantages in taking DE courses. Some of the advantages are self-paced study, time and space flexibility, time saving (no commute between home and school) and the fact that a distance learning course often costs less. Disadvantages include a sense of isolation, the struggle with staying motivated, lack of face-to-face interaction, difficulty in getting immediate feedback, the need for constant and reliable access to technology, and occasionally some difficulty with accreditation (De Paepe, Zhu, & Depryck, 2018 ; Lei & Gupta, 2010 ; Venter, 2003 ; Zuhairi, Wahyono, & Suratinah, 2006 ).

Most of the literature concerning student perception of DE courses, both blended and entirely online, involves students who have enrolled in online courses. Some articles address comparisons of perceptions between face-to-face and online students regarding DE (Daniels & Feather, 2002 ; Dobbs, del Carmen, & Waid-Lindberg, 2017 ; Hannay & Newvine, 2006 ; Lanier, 2006 ). Additional studies address adult and undergraduate students and cover many aspects of the online experience (Dobbs et al., 2017 ; Horspool & Lange, 2012 ; Seok, DaCosta, Kinsell, & Tung, 2010b , a ). However, little, if any research has been conducted that only addresses perceptions of students who live in countries in which few IHEs offer online courses.

In a study comparing online and face-to-face learning, Horspool and Lange ( 2012 ) found that students chose to take online courses to avoid travel time to class and scheduling problems. A majority of both face-to-face and online students did not experience technological issues. Both groups also found that communication with the instructor was adequate. Online students indicated that instructor response time to questions was prompt. By contrast online students perceived peer communication as occurring much less often. Course satisfaction was comparable for both formats (Horspool & Lange, 2012 ). Responses to another survey concerning online and traditional course formats found that students’ reasons for taking online courses included flexibility to accommodate work and family schedules, the ability to avoid commuting to the university and more online courses being available to them (Dobbs et al., 2017 ). Both online and traditional students agreed that traditional courses were easier, and they learned more in that format. They also concurred that online courses required more effort. Experienced online students indicated that the quality of their courses was good while traditional students who had never taken an online course felt that the quality of online courses was lower.

There is additional research that focuses on students including those enrolled in community colleges, MOOCs, blended learning as well as adult learners. Community college students’ and instructors’ perceptions of effectiveness of online courses were compared by Seok et al. ( 2010b , a ). The researchers focused on pedagogical characteristics (management, Universal Design for Learning, interaction, teaching design and content) and technical features (interface, navigation and support). In addition, responses were examined based on various aspects of the subjects’ demographics. Two surveys with 99 items were distributed electronically. One survey was for instructors and the other for students. In general, instructors and students indicated that teaching and learning online was effective. Female students responded more positively to most questions concerning effectiveness, and instructors also found it more positive (Seok et al., 2010b , a ).

Students who enrolled in a MOOC were motivated to take other courses in this format based on their perception that it was useful for achieving their goals. In addition, their motivation was high if the course was posted on a platform that was easy to use (Aharony & Bar-Ilan, 2016 ). This study also found that as students proceeded through the course, they gained confidence.

Blended learning was examined by Kurt and Yildirim ( 2018 ) to determine student satisfaction and what they considered to be important features of the blended format. The results indicated that the Turkish students who participated, almost unanimously felt that BL was beneficial and that their own role and the instructors’ role was central to their satisfaction. The authors stated, “the prominent components in the process have been identified as face-to-face lessons, the features of online course materials, LMS used, design-specific activities, process-based measurement and evaluation, student-student interaction and out-of-class sharing respectively.” (p. 439) DE has a growth potential and offers the opportunity to reach many people (Fidalgo, 2012 ), hence it can be used as a technique for mass education (Perraton, 2008 ). According to Perraton ( 2008 ) DE can be adapted to the needs of current and previous generations who did not complete their education. DE can also reach individuals who live in remote locations and do not have the means to attend school.

Methodology

Study goals.

The goal of this pilot study is to examine what undergraduate students’ perceptions are concerning DE and their willingness to enroll in this type of course. This study focuses on three countries that do not offer extensive DE accredited programs. By comparing three countries with similar DE profiles, commonalties and differences that are relevant and useful can be found. When the IHEs from these countries decide or have the conditions to move towards DE, the results of this study may help them adapt this format to their particular context and students’ needs. Results may also help IHEs plan their strategy for offering online courses to current and future students and attract prospective students who otherwise would not be able to enroll in the face-to-face courses that are available.

Research questions

Have undergraduate students taken an online course previously?

What are undergraduate students’ perceptions of distance education?

What are the reasons for undergraduate students to enroll/not enroll is distance education courses?

What preparation do undergraduate students feel they need to have before taking distance education courses?

What is the undergraduate students’ receptivity towards enrolling in distance education courses?

What types of distance education would undergraduate students be interested in taking?

This research was conducted at IHEs in three countries (Portugal, Ukraine and UAE). A description of each country’s sociodemographic and technological use provides a context for this study.

Portugal, a country located at the western end of the European continent, has a resident population of just over 10 million people (Instituto Nacional de Estatistica, 2019 ). Data collected by Instituto Nacional de Estatistica in 2019 indicated that almost 81% of households in Portugal had Internet access at home. According to the Portuguese National Statistical Institute ( 2019 ), the rate of Internet use by the adult population is about 76%. Among this population, people who attend or have completed secondary and higher education have a higher percentage of Internet use (98%) (Instituto Nacional de Estatistica, 2019 ).

The most used devices to access the Internet are smartphones and laptops. Regarding computer tasks, the most frequent ones are copying and moving files and folders and transferring files from the computer to other devices (PORDATA - Base de Dados Portugal Contemporâneo, 2017 ).

Among Internet users, 80% use social networks, which is a higher percentage than the European Union (EU) average. Mobile Internet access (outside the home and workplace and on portable devices) is 84% and maintains a strong growth trend (Instituto Nacional de Estatistica, 2019 ).

Ukraine is one of the post-soviet countries located in Eastern Europe and it strives to be integrated in economic and political structures of the EU. The current population of the country is 42 million. Despite the low incomes of many Ukrainians, modern technological devices are widespread among the population. The State Statistics Service of Ukraine ( 2019 ) reported that there were 26 million Internet subscribers in the country in the beginning of 2019. However, Ukrainians do not have a high level of digital literacy yet. According to the Digital Transformation Ministry of Ukraine (Communications Department of the Secretariat of the CMU, 2019 ), almost 38% of Ukrainian people aged from 18 to 70 have poor skills in computer literacy and 15.1% of the citizens have no computer skills.

According to the survey conducted by the Digital Transformation Ministry of Ukraine (The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2019 ) 27.5% Ukrainian families have a tablet, and 30.6% have one smart phone, 26.4% have two smart phones, 16.5% have three smart phones and 10.8% have four and more smart phones. As for laptops, 42.7% Ukrainian families have a laptop and 45.6% have a desktop computer (The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2019 ). The data from the ministry did not indicate if families have multiple devices, however the data shows that technological devices are widespread.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a country located in the Persian Gulf that borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia. The UAE has a population of 9.77 million and is one of the richest countries in the world based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The resident population consists of 11,5% Emiratis and the remaining residents are expats from countries such as India, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt and others (Global Media Insight, 2020 ).

Regarding technology use, 91% of the residents use mobile Internetand over 98% of the households have Internet access (Knoema, 2018 ). Mobile devices such as smartphones are used to access the Internet mainly at home or at work (Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, 2017 ).

In 2017 the most frequent Internet activities were: sending/receiving emails (61%), posting information or instant messaging (55%), getting information about goods or services (45%), reading or downloading online newspapers, magazines or electronic books (41%) and telephoning over the Internet/VOIP (33%). Downloading movies, images, music, watching TV or video, or listening to radio or music is also a frequent activity performed by 27% of the Internet users followed by Internet banking (25%) and purchasing or ordering good and services (22%) (Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority, 2017 ).

While these three countries were selected due to the location of the researchers and thus provided convenience samples, the three countries have a similar lack of DE offerings. Online surveys were emailed to students enrolled in a variety of undergraduate face-to-face courses during the fall semester of 2018. The students in Portugal and the UAE were enrolled in a teacher education program and the survey was emailed to two course sections in Portugal (73 students) and four course sections in the UAE (108 students). At the IHE in Ukraine, students were majoring in applied mathematics, philology, diagnostics, social work and philosophy, and surveys were emailed to 102 students who were enrolled in five course sections. In Portugal and Ukraine, the URL for the online survey was emailed by the instructor of all the course sections. In the UAE the instructor who emailed the URL for the survey taught two of the course sections. The students in the other two sections knew this instructor from taking courses with her previously. The students participating in this study were a convenience sample based on the disciplines taught by the researchers.

Data collection

An online survey with 10 closed questions about undergraduate students’ perception and receptivity towards enrolling in DE courses was developed by the researchers. Ary, Jacobs, Sorensen, and Walker ( 2010 ) compared traditional methods (i.e. face-to-face, paper and pencil) with web-based surveys and found the latter to be are more effective for gathering data from many participants. The questions designed by the researchers were informed by their experience/practice as well as in-depth literature review. The survey was created to respond to the research questions that guided this study. Response choices to the multiple-choice questions were based on issues and concerns related to DE. Students’ responses were collected towards the end of the first semester of the 2018/19 academic year.

The survey was developed to address research questions that assess undergraduate students’ perceptions of DE and students’ receptivity towards enrolling in DE courses (c.f. Appendix ). The use of surveys allows researchers to “obtain information about thoughts, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, values, perceptions, personality and behavioral intentions of research participants.” (Johnson & Christensen, 2014 , p. 192) The survey questions included multiple response formats: Likert scale, select more than one response and multiple choice. Surveys for Portugal were presented in Portuguese. In Ukraine the surveys were translated into Ukrainian. Since English is the language of instruction at the UAE institution, their survey was in English. The URL for the survey was emailed to students by their instructors and was available in an online Google Form. The survey took approximately 10 min to complete. The study consisted of a “self-selected” convenience sample.

Data analysis

Survey results were recorded in Google Forms and an Excel spreadsheet was used to collect students’ responses. Descriptive statistics of the responses to the survey are presented in graphs and tables with percentages of responses displayed. The descriptive statistics provide summaries about the sample’s answers to each of the questions as well as measures of variability (or spread) and central tendency.

Research approval and data management

The research proposal was submitted to the Research and Grants Committee and approved by the Institutional Review Board of the college in the UAE. No personal information (name, College ID number or any other type of information that allows the identification of students) was asked from the students in the surveys. The surveys were anonymous. Only the Principal Investigator (PI) had access to all the data collected. The data will be stored in the PI’s password protected computer for 5 years.

Fifty five of the 73 Portuguese students who received the survey responded and 98 of the 108 UAE students responded. In the Ukraine 102 students were sent surveys and 70 responded. Below are participants’ responses to questions concerning age, gender, as well as level of confidence using the computer and the Internet.

Students’ age range was from 17 to 50 years old. Most students’ age ranges were between 17 and 29 years. Survey responses indicated that 7% of the students in the UAE were male and 93% female, in the Ukraine 43% were male and 57% female and in Portugal 9% male, and 91% female.

Participants were asked about their level of confidence using a computer and the Internet. Results are presented in Table  1 .

The use of participants from three countries allows the study of trends and to determine differences and/or similarities of perceptions about DE. Although the students were enrolled in courses in diverse content areas, they were all undergraduates, almost all under 30 years old, and most were confident using the computer and Internet. These demographic similarities provided a relatively cohesive group for this study while allowing a comparison across countries.

A range of questions were asked about students’ attitudes towards and experience with DE. To determine the participants’ experience with DE two questions were asked.

The data indicates that out of 223 students who responded to the survey, a total of 63 students have taken DE courses. Half of the Ukraine students, about one quarter of the UAE students and only 5% of students in the group from Portugal had taken DE courses (Fig.  1 ). As shown in Fig.  2 , of the students who have had previous experience in DE, most Ukraine students have taken one or two online courses, most UAE students have taken one course and a few Portuguese students have taken one course.

figure 1

Students that have taken distance education courses

figure 2

Number of distance education courses taken

More than half of Portuguese students, about two thirds of the Ukraine students and a little over one third of UAE students had a Very favorable or Favorable attitude towards DE. Approximately one third of Portuguese and Ukraine students were Neutral/Unable to judge their attitude. A little less than half of UAE students also indicated this. A small percentage of Portuguese, and one fifth of UAE students indicated their attitude was Very unfavorable or Unfavorable and no Ukraine students reported this (Table 2 ).

More than one third of Portuguese students shared that managing class and study time, saving time by choosing study location and working at their own pace were reasons to enroll in DE. About two thirds of the students from Ukraine reported that working at their own pace and managing their study time were reasons to enroll. A little more than half of these students reported that reasons for enrolling in DE included managing class time, saving time by selecting study location and not having to travel to school as well as having more options for courses or colleges to attend. Almost half of the UAE students had similar reasons for enrolling in a DE courses including managing class and study time, saving time by choosing study location and working at their own pace. In addition, a little more than half of the UAE students also shared that having more options for courses or colleges to attend were reasons to enroll. The reasons that were selected the least by all three groups were that courses were less expensive and enrolling in a preferred program (Tables  3 and 4 ).

Students were given eleven options as to why they would not enroll in DE courses, which are displayed in Tables  5 and 6 . Two reasons that were chosen most often were difficulty staying motivated and preferring face-to-face classes. A small number of Ukraine students reported this as a reason to not enroll in DE courses. Difficulty getting immediate feedback was also a concern for UAE students. Close to one third in the three groups indicated that difficulty contacting the instructor and interacting with peers as well as missing campus life are reasons for not enrolling. About one tenth of Portuguese, one fifth of Ukraine and one fifth of the UAE students reported difficulty getting accreditation as a reason for not enrolling. Not knowing enough about DE was indicated by one tenth of Portuguese, one fifth of Ukraine and one fifth of the UAE students. Only a small number of all the students indicated three categories that are frequently cited in the literature as preventing students from enrolling, these include access to technology, feeling of isolation and too great an expense.

Tables  7 and 8 show student responses to a question regarding the preparation they think they would need before enrolling in a DE course. A little over one tenth of the Portuguese students indicated that they needed better computer equipment, writing skills and a dedicated study space. About one quarter of these students reported they need better skills in the following areas: time management, computer and English language skills, as well as needing to have learning goals and objectives. Having a better Internet connection and the need to develop a study plan was shared by approximately one third of these students. Finally, the highest rated prerequisite for these Portuguese students was to be more motivated.

Few of the Ukraine students felt that they needed better computer equipment or skills, a dedicated study space or a better Internet connection at home. Their concerns focused on their behaviors as students since half or a little more than half felt they needed to be more motivated, have learning objectives and goals, a study plan and better management skills. About one third of these students also reported that they needed better English language skills.

The UAE students were less confident than the Ukraine students about computer skills and needing better equipment and a better Internet connection at home. Almost half of these UAE students reported their need for a study plan and motivation as their most pressing needs. Better management and English language skills were recorded by about one third of the students. One quarter of the UAE students felt they needed better writing skills and a dedicated study space.

Table 9 shows students’ interest in enrolling in DE courses. Almost one quarter of the Ukraine students are Extremely interested in taking DE courses and almost half are Somewhat interested. This contrasts with the students from Portugal who indicated that only 5% are Extremely interested and almost a quarter Somewhat interested. The UAE students’ interest in enrolling fell in between the students from the two other countries. One fifth to almost one third of all three groups were Neutral/Unable to judge. About one tenth of students from Ukraine reported Not being very interested or Not at all interested which contrasts with the Portuguese and UAE students whose numbers were about one half and one quarter respectively.

Tables  10 and 11 show the types of DE that the students were interested in trying. Portuguese students favored Open schedule courses, followed by Blended learning and Synchronous. Few of these students were interested in MOOCs and Asynchronous. More than half of the students from Ukraine were interested in MOOCs and Blended learning followed by Open schedule. About one third of these students were interested in Synchronous and Asynchronous. UAE students most popular formats were Open schedule and Blended learning followed by Synchronous and Asynchronous. There was little interest in MOOCs by the UAE students. Few Portuguese and Ukraine students indicated that they would not take a DE course, however, almost a quarter of the UAE students indicated this.

Data indicates close to a 100% of the UAE residents use the Internet at home or on their mobile devices (Knoema, 2018 ). By contrast a smaller percentage of individuals use the Internet in Portugal and the Ukraine (Infographics, 2019 ). Internet use in each country does not seem to greatly impact UAE students’ opinions regarding DE.

Students’ perceptions of DE vary across the participants from the three countries. Portuguese and Ukrainian students rated DE more favorably than UAE students. Half of the Ukrainian students have experience with DE which might account for their favorable attitude. In contrast, in Portugal only a very small percentage of the students had experience. However, this does not seem to have negatively influenced their attitude towards DE. The interest level and engagement with new technologies by Portuguese students may help explain the favorable perception the participants had toward DE. A study by Costa, Faria, and Neto ( 2018 ) found that 90% of Portuguese students use new technologies and 69% of them use new technologies more than an hour and a half a day. Based on three European studies, Diário de Noticias ( 2011 ) stated that Portuguese students “appear at the forefront of those who best master information and communication technologies (ICT).” (para.1) Another factor influencing respondents might be that currently, and for the first time, the Portuguese government has passed a law that will regulate DE in the country. This new law will open the possibility for other IHEs to provide DE courses that lead to a degree.

Ukrainian students reported a high level of confidence in operating technological devices. The reason for this may be, in part, because of state educational requirements. Since the end of the 1990s, all Ukrainian students in secondary schools have at least one computer course as a mandatory element of their curriculum. This course covers a wide range of issues, which vary from information society theory to applied aspects of computer usage. Among the seven learning goals of this course three address digital literacy (Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 2017 ). Ukrainian students who responded to the survey have taken computer courses for at least 5 years.

In the UAE, most DE courses and programs are not accredited by the Ministry of Education (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education, 2016 ), which may account for UAE students lack of experience and their inability to judge this type of instruction.

It is worth analyzing the reasons why students enrolled or would enroll in DE courses. The reasons for taking DE courses, such as time management issues, are supported by studies concerning self-regulation and higher retention rates (Bradley, Browne, & Kelley, 2017 ; Peck, Stefaniak, & Shah, 2018 ). Students’ interest in having more control of their study time is also mentioned as one of the primary benefits of DE (Alahmari, 2017 ; Lei & Gupta, 2010 ). Regarding the reasons for not enrolling in DE courses, participants from the three countries mentioned difficulty contacting instructors and peers. Also, more than half of the students in Portugal and the UAE indicated they preferred face-to-face classes. Most students have spent their entire academic lives in traditional classes where interaction and immediate feedback from instructors and peers are more common. These concerns may be why students perceive they would lose a familiar type of interaction and have to engage with classroom participants in a new and different way (Carver & Kosloski Jr., 2015 ; Morris & Clark, 2018 ; Robinson & Hullinger, 2008 ; Summers, Waigandt, & Whittaker, 2005 ). It should be noted that the Portuguese and UAE students were enrolled in teacher education programs and are training to be face-to-face teachers. They may not understand the potential of DE format and are not preparing or expecting to use DE in their professional careers.

Difficulty being motivated was another reason chosen by the participants of the three countries to not enroll in DE courses. The lack of experience in this type of educational format may help explain student lack of confidence with their ability to study and stay on task. This response contrasts with the reasons reported for enrolling in DE courses such as controlling their study time. On one hand, participants like the prospect of having the ability to manage their own time. On the other hand, they are concerned they may lack the discipline they need to be successful.

Although the literature indicates that access to technology, isolation and expense are reasons frequently cited as preventing students from enrolling in DE courses (Lei & Gupta, 2010 ; Venter, 2003 ; Zuhairi et al., 2006 ), these reasons were selected by a very small percentage of the participants of this study. Access and affordability of technology has rapidly increased over the last decade which may help explain this inconsistency. Students may understand that DE courses are now less expensive than traditional university courses (Piletic, 2018 ) and they do not cite this as a reason for not enrolling. Relatively few students indicated they would feel isolated. Since this generation is in constant communication using technology (Diário de Notícias, 2011 ) they may not associate DE learning with isolation. However, it is interesting to note that there was a greater concern for interacting with instructors and peers than isolation.

The Ukrainian students are the most receptive to enrolling in DE courses. This is consistent with their positive perception of this type of learning. In addition, the previous experience of half of the participants may influence their interest as well as encourage their peers’ receptivity. UAE students do not have much experience and fewer than half are open to enrolling in DE courses. This may be due to their lack of experience and other concerns previously mentioned. Only one third of the Portuguese participants indicated their interest in enrolling in DE courses. This is in contrast with almost two thirds saying they had a favorable or very favorable attitude. The reasons for this inconsistency are not evident.

In terms of preparation needed to take DE courses, technical concerns were less of an issue for the participants of all three countries than skills and behaviors. Most participants’ answers focused on student skills including computer, English language and time management. Behaviors such as developing a study plan, having learning goals and objectives and being more motivated were also mentioned. The perceived need for better English language skills was expressed by about one third of the participants, none of whom have English as their native language. English speaking countries have been dominant in DE making English the most commonly used language in online learning (Sadykova & Dautermann, 2009 ). Regarding time management, half of the Ukrainian students expressed their need for improvement in contrast to approximately one third of the participants from the other countries. The difference among responses may be because the Ukrainian students are more self-reflective, or the others are more disciplined. Although both DE and face-to-face courses have deadlines for tasks and assessments, in the face-to-face courses, students meet in person with their instructors who may support and press them to do their work. Lack of in person contact may account for the participants feeling they need to improve these skills when taking DE courses (De Paepe et al., 2018 ). Students expressed concerns about lacking certain skills and having certain behaviors that would lead them to be reluctant to enroll in DE courses. The need for help and preparation are some of the concerns that participants reported. Perceived needs may account for the students’ apprehensions regarding taking DE courses. To promote this type of instruction, IHEs could address students’ concerns (Mahlangu, 2018 ).

Open schedule and blended learning courses were the two preferred formats stated by the participants. The reason that Open schedule is the most popular may be that it provides more freedom than other types of courses. Blended learning offers the familiar face-to-face instruction and some of the conveniences of DE which may be why participants are interested in this model.

Studies regarding the use of MOOCs in all three countries have been conducted indicating that researchers in these locations are aware that this course format is of potential interest to local students (Eppard & Reddy, 2017 ; Gallacher, 2014 ; Gonçalves, Chumbo, Torres, & Gonçalves, 2016 ; Sharov, Liapunova, & Sharova, 2019 ; Strutynska & Umryk, 2016 ). Ukrainian students selected MOOCs much more than students in the other countries. The reason for this may be that these students are more knowledgeable about MOOCs, because this type of course is usually at no cost and/or offered by prestigious IHEs (Cormier et al., 2010 ). However, this study did not ask why students were interested in MOOCs or other types of DE courses.

Limitations and future research

While this study offers useful information regarding undergraduate students’ perception and receptivity in taking DE courses, it has limited generalizability because of the size of the sample and the type of statistical analysis performed. Participants from two of the countries were enrolled in teacher education programs and were primarily female, thus future studies would benefit from including more students in diverse programs and a more equitable gender distribution.

Since many IHEs also offer programs for graduate students it would be useful to survey these students about their opinion and availability to enroll in DE courses. This would provide additional information for IHEs that are interested in developing DE programs.

There were some inconsistencies in the students’ responses such as Portuguese students’ interest in enrolling in DE courses not matching their favorable/ very favorable attitude towards DE. It would be helpful to conduct future research regarding this and other inconsistencies.

A study is currently being planned to collect data that will provide a larger and more diverse sample and include additional IHEs. This future research will potentially increase the available knowledge on how to provide DE for a greater number of students.

Conclusion and recommendations

Further development of DE courses and programs at IHEs in countries such as Portugal, UAE and Ukraine have good prospects. The students’ primary concerns regarding taking DE courses were similar among the three countries. These concerns included time management, motivation, and English language skills. However, this did not totally diminish participants interest in taking online courses especially for the Ukrainian students.

Based on this research, there are some obstacles that can be addressed to support the expansion of DE in the three countries that were studied and in other countries. The following recommendations may assist IHEs in promoting DE.

Recommendations for preparation within IHEs

IHEs can take proactive steps to prepare DE offerings, however, a one-size fit all model may not be appropriate for all countries and IHEs. Each institution needs to develop their own plan that meets the needs of their students and faculty. Data from this pilot study and the literature (Elbaum, McIntyre, & Smith, 2002 ; Hashim & Tasir, 2014 ; Hux et al., 2018 ) suggest that following steps might be taken:

Assess readiness to take DE courses through a survey and have students speak with counselors.

Provide pre-DE courses to build skills and behaviors based on students’ concerns.

Train instructors to develop and deliver DE courses that help to overcome obstacles such as motivation and time management.

Offer courses in a blended learning format to familiarize students with online learning which may provide a transitional model.

Recommendations for IHE outreach

This study shows that there is some student interest in enrolling in online courses. It is not sufficient for IHEs to make changes internally within their own institution. IHEs need to develop external strategies and actions that help advance the development of DE:

Promote DE in social media to target potential students and encourage them to take courses.

Urge government agencies to accredit DE courses and programs.

This pilot study provides some background information that may help IHEs to offer DE courses. Additional research about students’ preferences and needs regarding DE should be conducted. The sample size, IHEs included and participating countries could be expanded in order to gain a greater understanding.

Different cultural characteristics need to be taken into account in the development of online courses and programs. DE is being increasingly included by IHEs all around the world. To stay current, universities will need to find ways to offer DE to their current and prospective students.

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Patricia Fidalgo

Educational Technology Division, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, USA

Joan Thormann

Philosophy Department, Oles Honchar Dnipro National University, Dnipropetrovs’ka oblast, Ukraine

Oleksandr Kulyk

Department of Curricular Studies and Educational Technology, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

José Alberto Lencastre

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Patricia Fidalgo: design of the work, data collection, analysis, interpretation of data, and draft of the work. Joan Thormann: design of the work, analysis, interpretation of data, and draft of the work. Oleksandr Kulyk: data collection, interpretation of data, and draft of the work. José Alberto Lencastre: data collection. The author(s) read and approved the final manuscript.

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Online Survey Questions

1. If the students have taken any distance education courses previously and if yes, how many;

2. What are the students’ perceptions of distance education;

3. What are the reasons students would enroll in distance education courses;

4. What are the reasons students would not enroll in a distance education course;

5. What preparation do students feel they need before taking distance education courses;

6. What is the level of students’ interest towards enrolling in distance education courses;

7. What types of distance education would students be interested in trying;

8. What is the students’ age;

9. What is the students’ gender;

10. How confident do students feel using a computer and the Internet.

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Fidalgo, P., Thormann, J., Kulyk, O. et al. Students’ perceptions on distance education: A multinational study. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 17 , 18 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-020-00194-2

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-020-00194-2

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How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

dissertation on distance education

Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Dissertations / Theses on the topic 'Distance education Educational evaluation'

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Fox, Jan Isobel. "Review of the factors influencing the satisfaction of learning in online courses at Marshall University." Morgantown, W. Va. : [West Virginia University Libraries], 2000. http://etd.wvu.edu/templates/showETD.cfm?recnum=1345.

Kerr, Brian D. "A responsive evaluation of a graduate distance education course offering, Education 6104, foundations of program evaluation." Thesis, National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, 1997. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp01/MQ34194.pdf.

Stubblebine, Stuart Gerald 1961. "Analysis, design and performance evaluation of a video and computer teleconference system for distance learning." Thesis, The University of Arizona, 1988. http://hdl.handle.net/10150/276930.

Finnegan, Brian. "Estimating the Impact of Distance Education on Student Learning Outcomes Using the ETS Major Field Test in Business." Diss., Temple University Libraries, 2012. http://cdm16002.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p245801coll10/id/164617.

Rocci, Randy L. "A cognitive and pedagogical evaluation framework for computer-based training." Thesis, Monterey, Calif. : Springfield, Va. : Naval Postgraduate School ; Available from National Technical Information Service, 2003. http://library.nps.navy.mil/uhtbin/hyperion-image/03sep%5FRocci.pdf.

Kline, Jeanie Pollard. "Managing change for a distance learning initiative: An evaluation." W&M ScholarWorks, 1996. https://scholarworks.wm.edu/etd/1539618625.

Jenkins, Timothy Edward. "Adult learning outcomes based on course delivery methodology." CSUSB ScholarWorks, 2005. https://scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/etd-project/2853.

Riedling, Ann Marlow. "An Exploratory study : distance education doctoral students in the field of educational policy studies and evaluation at the university of Kentucky /." Ann Arbor, Mich. : U.M.I. Dissertation Services, 1998. http://0-proquest.umi.com.aupac.lib.athabascau.ca/pqdweb?did=739487261&sid=1&Fmt=2&clientId=12302&RQT=309&VName=PQD.

Chen, Jingjing. "Enhancing student engagement and interaction in e-learning environments through learning analytics and wearable sensing." HKBU Institutional Repository, 2016. https://repository.hkbu.edu.hk/etd_oa/287.

Flannigan-Wheeler, Nadine. "The deprivation and application of standards in distance education program evaluation." Thesis, National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, 1997. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk2/ftp04/mq23132.pdf.

Mundine, Jennifer. "Nursing Distance Learning Course Comparison of Assignments and Examination Scores." Thesis, Walden University, 2016. http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10137911.

Nursing programs have embraced distance learning in their curricula, but discussion is ongoing about course assignments and grading criteria to increase examination scores in nursing distance learning courses. Because course examinations are a predictor of success on the postgraduate licensing examination (NCLEX-RN), the purpose of this study was to determine whether differences existed in student examination scores between nursing distance learning courses with and without points aligned to assignments. The theoretical framework was Knowles’s theory of andragogy, which highlights adults’ motivation and self-direction to succeed. The quantitative causal comparative study included a convenience sample of 164 students to compare archival data of 4 examination scores between 2 nursing distance-learning courses. Data analysis included an independent-groups one-tailed t test. No significant differences were found between the 2 courses, suggesting that students do not achieve higher examination scores with course points aligned with course assignments. Nursing administrators and faculty in nursing programs with a distance learning component will benefit from the findings of this study. Findings may be used to draft, revise, and implement assignment criteria and point alignment for nursing distance learning courses. Social change will occur when nursing distance learning faculty use problem-solving and critical thinking assignments, including case studies, discussion boards, group assignments, concept mapping and NCLEX-RN style testing in each nursing distance learning course. Because point alignment to course assignments do not significantly improve examination scores, implementation of problem-solving and critical thinking assignments is necessary to promote student learning and examination success.

Bore, Julia Chelagat. "Distance Education in the Preparation of Special Education Personnel: An Examination of Videoconferencing and Web-based Instruction." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2005. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4818/.

Crabtree, Donna Sue. "A study of students' learning styles in ITV broadcast, remote, and traditional classrooms at East Tennessee State University." [Johnson City, Tenn. : East Tennessee State University], 2003. http://etd-submit.etsu.edu/etd/theses/available/etd-0318103-213844/unrestricted/CrabtreeD032703f.pdf.

Shaw, Donna Carole. "Academic dishonesty in traditional and online courses as self-reported by students in online courses." [Johnson City, Tenn. : East Tennessee State University], 2004. https://dc.etsu.edu/etd/896.

Pérez, Cereijo Maria Victoria. "Factors Influencing How Students Value Asynchronous Web Based Courses." Thesis, University of North Texas, 1999. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6151/.

Alenezi, Hanadi. "Evaluation of faculty perceptions of online dental education in the Kuwait University Faculty of Dentistry." Thesis, University of the Pacific, 2015. http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=1588024.

In recent years, online learning has become a recognized method for delivering educational content in numerous institutions of higher education. Despite the prevalence of this new method of education and training, few studies have been performed regarding online learning in the field of dental education. This research describes and analyzes faculty perceptions in the Kuwait University-Faculty of Dentistry regarding online dental education. Out of sixty-six full-time faculty members thirty-three of them have responded to questionnaires regarding their perceptions. The data were analyzed for themes and patterns. There was a general positive perception toward online learning as a good tool to enhance dental education. When replying to questions about the challenges and obstructions of online learning, faculty members’ answers indicated that a lack of time and administrative support created barriers to teaching online learning courses.

Viewpoints of the faculty members were further analyzed by age, gender, education level, and teaching experiences. The results showed some variation in the levels of agreement toward online learning based on various components of identity. Females were slightly more positive about online teaching and learning. However, there were no noticeable differences between faculty members of different ages. The academic positions did correlate with perceptions: those who hold the highest academic position (professors) had the least favorable perceptions of online teaching. Further, participants who had 6 to 10 teaching experience years had a stronger positive attitude than those who had been teaching for fewer than 5 years or more than 16 years.

Keywords : online education, dental education, web-based learning, distance learning, e-learning, faculty perception.

Dungan, Jeffrey. "International School Leadership and the Diffusion of Distance Education in East Asian International Schools." NSUWorks, 2017. http://nsuworks.nova.edu/fse_etd/136.

Fresen, Jill Winifred. "Random variables a CAI tutorial in statistics for distance education /." Thesis, Pretoria : [s.n.], 1996. http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10192001-124625.

Kuo, Yu-Chun. "Interaction, Internet Self-Efficacy, and Self-Regulated Learning as Predictors of Student Satisfaction in Distance Education Courses." DigitalCommons@USU, 2010. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/741.

Upton, Patricia Ann. "An evaluation of the Army Reserve Readiness Training Center's (ARRTC'S) first web-based training product." Online version, 2002. http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/thesis/2002/2002uptonp.pdf.

Hibbard, Laura E. "Student Literature Access in an Online School: A Program Evaluation." Ohio University / OhioLINK, 2013. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ohiou1375807647.

Young, Debra J. "Evaluation of the Unit Administration Basic Course for the 84th United States Army Reserve Readiness Training Command." Menomonie, WI : University of Wisconsin--Stout, 2005. http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/thesis/2005/2005youngd.pdf.

Reddy, Mahesh C. "The assessment and evaluation of on-line courses to determine their content vilidity." Online version, 1999. http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/thesis/1999/1999reddy.pdf.

Pao, Tammy Crews. "Nontraditional Student Risk Factors and Gender as Predictors for Enrollment in College Distance Education." Chapman University Digital Commons, 2016. http://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/ces_dissertations/4.

Sadik, Alaa M. "The design, implementation and evaluation of a web-based learning environment for distance education." Thesis, University of Hull, 2002. http://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:8533.

WALDROP, LAWRENCE EDWARD. "AN EXAMINATION OF THE DESIGN, IMPLEMENTATION, AND EVALUATION OF DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSES AT RAYMOND WALTERS COLLEGE." University of Cincinnati / OhioLINK, 2000. http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ucin973194102.

McPherson, Rebekah. "International Distance Learning in Special Education: A Program Evaluation of a US-Ecuador Collaboration." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2010. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30493/.

Zubaidah, Ida. "Evaluating the implementation of the online tutorial for the Universitas Terbuka distance learning bachelor degree program in Indonesia." Thesis, The Florida State University, 2013. http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=3596613.

Universitas Terbuka (UT), the Indonesia Open University and the 45 th state university in the country, is the only one that uses distance learning as its sole mode of delivery and instruction. Although UT has operated for 28 years, unlike face-to-face classroom-based education, distance education has not been considered as a fully legitimate delivery system in Indonesia. In the mindset of the people of Indonesia, "education" necessarily implies a conventional classroom environment; and, as a consequence, the relatively new format of distance learning does not register as "real education." Yet under the pressure of increased demand for higher education, the participation in distance learning programs at UT has been rapidly growing.

However, that popularity also poses a problem. Indonesian students have difficulty with distance formats given lack of familiarity with the requirements of independent study and a low level of current aptitude for reading on their own. UT has therefore developed tutorial programs to assist distance learning students with overcoming the problem and reviewing their material. Most are offered face-to-face but are only accessible to the minority of students living near centers where such instruction can be delivered. With the spread of internet access in the country, online tutoring programs have been established but have been little evaluated. This study was devoted to assessing the quality of implementation and effectiveness of online course tutoring for Bachelor's degree distance learning students enrolled in UT.

Results indicate that despite difficulties of administration, the program is relatively well implemented and in the majority of classes, online tutorial participants score better than classmates who do not participate in the tutorial on final exams. Overall, therefore, the online tutorial program appears to be performing a real service but to be in need of better specification, some modification of methods and closer quality control. A number of recommendations for greater effectiveness and better service to UT students are offered in the last section of the text.

Atchade, Pierre Jacques. "A qualitative study of distance learners' perceptions of learning computer technology delivered through two-way audio video conferencing and online instruction." Ann Arbor, MI : UMI Dissertation Services, 2002. http://0-proquest.umi.com.aupac.lib.athabascau.ca/pqdweb?did=726373631&sid=1&Fmt=6&clientId=12302&RQT=309&VName=PQD.

Nill, John G. "istance-Mediated Christian Higher Education: Student Perceptions of the Facilitative Nature of Selected Instructional Development Factors." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2001. https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2784/.

Wallace, Joanna R. "Faculty and student perceptions of distance education using television : the Ball State University M.B.A. model." Virtual Press, 1992. http://liblink.bsu.edu/uhtbin/catkey/832994.

Strawser, Michael G. "A MODEL MODALITY: ASSESSING THE EDUCATIONAL INTEGRITY OF THE BLENDED BASIC COURSE." UKnowledge, 2015. http://uknowledge.uky.edu/comm_etds/34.

Kubista, Stacy Lynn. "Converting a unit of nutrition for healthy living to a distance education format and an evaluation of this converted unit." Online version, 1998. http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/thesis/1998/1998kubistas.pdf.

Kaikumba, N. O. "Inset at a distance in Sierra Leone : Development and evaluation of a course." Thesis, University of Surrey, 1986. http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.374314.

Plumb, Robin L. "Barriers to the implementation of the Oklahoma learning site initiative." [Johnson City, Tenn. : East Tennessee State University], 2004. http://etd-submit.etsu.edu/etd/theses/available/etd-0330104-210405/unrestricted/PlumbR040804f.pdf.

Lenio, James. "Investigating Employer Support as a Predictor of Online Master's Student Retention." ScholarWorks, 2019. https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/dissertations/7551.

DiGiacomo, Karen. "Program Evaluation of a Competency-Based Online Model in Higher Education." ScholarWorks, 2017. https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/dissertations/3938.

Hilgenberg, Cheryl S. Kennedy Larry DeWitt. "Distance education perceptions of satisfaction and critical thinking opportunities among graduate students /." Normal, Ill. Illinois State University, 1997. http://wwwlib.umi.com/cr/ilstu/fullcit?p9803724.

Roiter, Margaret A. "A comprehensive evaluation of the industrial technology distance education program after its first year of pilot implementation at the University of Wisconsin-Stout." Online version, 1998. http://www.uwstout.edu/lib/thesis/1998/1998roiterm.pdf.

Gogia, Laura. "DOCUMENTING STUDENT CONNECTIVITY AND USE OF DIGITAL ANNOTATION DEVICES IN VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY CONNECTED COURSES: AN ASSESSMENT TOOLKIT FOR DIGITAL PEDAGOGIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION." VCU Scholars Compass, 2016. http://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/etd/4307.

Levi, Genoveva, and Eduardo Ramos. "MATHEMATICAL COMPETENCE ASSESMENT OF A LARGE GROUPS OF STUDENTS IN A DISTANCE EDUCATION SYSTEM." Saechsische Landesbibliothek- Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek Dresden, 2012. http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:14-qucosa-82663.

Phatudi, Nkidi Caroline. "Assessing learner needs for student academic support and development in the Early Childhood Education Department of the South African College for Teacher Education (SACTE)." Thesis, Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2001. http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/52138.

Palmer, Stuart Rohan, and mikewood@deakin edu au. "An evaluation of Australian undergraduate engineering management education for flexible delivery." Deakin University. School of Engineering and Technology, 2001. http://tux.lib.deakin.edu.au./adt-VDU/public/adt-VDU20050815.112159.

Carls, John W. "System evaluation of hardware and software for a streaming multimedia server using the multicasting protocol." Thesis, Monterey, Calif. : Springfield, Va. : Naval Postgraduate School ; Available from National Technical Information Service, 2003. http://library.nps.navy.mil/uhtbin/hyperion-image/03sep%5FCarls.pdf.

Belam, Patricia Viana. "Avaliação do website \'Voice assessment: speech-language pathology and audiology & medicine\', volume 1 - do Projeto Homem Virtual - no contexto de ensino e aprendizagem da língua inglesa." Universidade de São Paulo, 2014. http://www.teses.usp.br/teses/disponiveis/25/25143/tde-16072014-114803/.

Daniels, Jacqulyn Anne Donnenwirth. "The Impact of Online Professional Development on the Assessment Efficacy of Novice Itinerant Teachers of Students with Multiple Disabilities Including Visual Impairments." PDXScholar, 2018. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/open_access_etds/4400.

Porter, Michael. "Online Education, Accrediting Standards, and Student Success: An Examination of the Relationship Between the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Standards for Online Education and Student Success." FIU Digital Commons, 2015. http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/etd/1917.

Mowes, Delvaline Lucia. "An Evaluation of student support services in open and distance learning at the University of Namibia." Thesis, Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2005. http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1263.

Ryan, Marion. "Evaluation of distance learning in biomedical science education and the examination of veterinary medical education in the context of the student approaches to study." Thesis, Ulster University, 2005. http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.428609.

Uzun, Erman. "An Action Research On Design, Delivery And Evaluation Of A Distance Course In A Vocational Higher Education Institution." Phd thesis, METU, 2012. http://etd.lib.metu.edu.tr/upload/12615320/index.pdf.

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Education Dissertation Topics

Published by Grace Graffin at January 5th, 2023 , Revised On August 11, 2023

Introduction

Education as a subject helps in understanding the various learning approaches and different types of education. When you choose education as your major subject, you will be expected to develop a critical understanding of the issues surrounding education.

To choose an education dissertation topic, you can look into a wide array of topics, including public school education, holistic education, the role of ethnicity, gender and class on academic achievements, adult education, pre-school and primary school education, college and university education, child development, distance learning, politics and policy in education, teacher education, and curriculum.

To help you get started with brainstorming for education topic ideas, we have developed a list of the latest topics that can be used for writing your education dissertation.

These topics have been developed by PhD-qualified writers of our team , so you can trust to use these topics for drafting your dissertation.

Here is our selection of education topics we think can help you develop a truly valuable dissertation.

Topic 1: Investigating the impact of Covid-19 on the learning experience of the students

Topic 2: an analysis of the impact of classroom interaction and participation on the personality development and confidence of the students., topic 3: the potential use of virtual reality for educational assessment of the students., topic 4: an evaluation of the impact of the rising cost of academic education on the lower-income background students in the uk., topic 5: an investigation into the impact of interactions among students of multiple ethnicities on the cross-cultural communication and behaviour of the pupils..

You may also want to start your dissertation by requesting  a brief research proposal  from our writers on any of these topics, which includes an  introduction  to the topic,  research question ,  aim and objectives ,  literature review  along with the proposed  methodology  of research to be conducted.  Let us know  if you need any help in getting started.

Check our  dissertation examples  to get an idea of  how to structure your dissertation .

Review the full list of  dissertation topics for 2022 here.

Research Aim: The research aims to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the learning experience of the students.

Objectives:

  • To analyse the impact of Covid-19 on education delivery across schools.
  • To evaluate the impact of the pandemic on teaching delivery and learning outcomes of the students.
  • To investigate how the pandemic affected the learning experience of the students

Research Aim: The aim of the research is to analyse the impact of classroom interaction and participation on the personality development and confidence of the students.

  • To analyse the importance of classroom interaction for the students and how it contributes to personal development.
  • To investigate the impact of classroom participation on the confidence of the students.
  • To evaluate how classroom interaction and participation impact the personality development and confidence of the students.

Research Aim: The research aims to analyse the potential use of virtual reality for the educational assessment of students.

  • To analyse the technologies available for student assessment across higher educational institutions.
  • To evaluate the role of virtual reality in education delivery and assessment.
  • To investigate how virtual reality influences the educational assessment of the students for improvement in the learning experience and knowledge.

Research Aim: The aim of the research is to evaluate the impact of the rising cost of academic education on the lower-income background students in the UK.

  • To analyse the factors impacting the affordability of higher education in the UK.
  • To understand the challenges of lower-income background students in the UK.
  • To investigate the impact of the rising cost of academic education on the lower-income background students in the UK and how the meritorious students can be supported.

Research Aim: The aim of the research is to investigate the impact of interactions among students of multiple ethnicities on the cross-cultural communication and behaviour of the pupils.

  • To analyse the impact of student interactions among different ethnicities.
  • To determine the importance of cross-cultural communication and tolerance of the students.
  • To examine the impact of interactions among students of multiple ethnicities on the cross-cultural communication and behaviour of the pupils.

More Education Dissertation Topics

Topic 1: the need to use information and communication technology to study in public institutions in any country of your choice. a reflection on the impact of covid19 on the education sector in the chosen country..

Research Aim: This research will focus on the lack of good information and communication technology equipment in the public institutions of study and the need to find the education sector to meet the new standard of learning in work. It will also analyse the pandemic’s impact on the students in public institutions at home throughout the pandemic without any academic activities.

Topic 2: The fear of maintaining social distancing in schools

Research Aim: This research aims to evaluate the fear of maintaining social distancing in schools. It will also suggest possible solutions to minimise the fear of parents, educators, and students.

Topic 3: Online Education- Increased screen time or quality education

Research Aim: This research aims to identify whether online education exposes students to increased screen time or quality education.

Topic 4: The emergence of coding courses for young children and their cognitive development and age. A comparative study.

Research Aim: This research aims to identify how far is coding education beneficial for children? What sort of positive and negative consequences are concerned with the future of young children with their access to such kind of advanced technology?

Topic 5: Data science and growing opportunities for data scientists

Research Aim: This research will focus on identifying the emergence of degrees, courses in data science, their importance, and growing opportunities for data scientists. Who can become a data scientist? What is its career scope?

Covid-19 Education Topics 

Impacts of coronavirus on education.

Research Aim: This study aims to review the impacts of Coronavirus.

Online educational programs to educate students during COVID-19

Research Aim: The widespread Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown have disrupted the education of many students, including school, college, and university levels. This study will identify the online programs offered through various platforms, schools, colleges, and universities. It will discuss how students can have access to these courses and how it will benefit them?

Impact of COVID-19 on educational institutes

Research Aim: This study will focus on identifying the impacts of COVID-19 on educational institutes. What steps can be taken to ensure a safe environment for the students and teaching staff?

Role of teachers and professors during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Research Aim: This study will focus on knowing about the contribution of teachers and professors and institutions in providing education. What challenges are they facing? What would be the possible ways to improve the current education system?

The future of education post Coronavirus pandemic.

Research Aim: This study will collect information about the current education methods during a pandemic and predict the future of education after Coronavirus.

Topic C1: How the Coronavirus pandemic is reshaping education?

Research Aim: Coronavirus has offered a stark reminder of the very human nature of schools. Students have leapt into online learning but cannot wait to get back into her building. Being online, I don’t think you really get a true sense of whether a student is really engaged and has proper understanding. This study will aim to understand the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping education.

Topic C2: How Coronavirus could affect the well-being of people with intellectual disabilities

Research Aim: We are all feeling more anxious than usual. We may be worried about accessing food and services, going to work, enduring self-isolation, or catching COVID-19. While some anxiety is normal, some of us may be more resilient to changes in our routines and the general uncertainty the world is experiencing. But for the 1.5 million people in the UK with an intellectual disability, these effects may be much greater. This research will aim to establish how Coronavirus could affect the wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities.

Topic C3: The impact of the 2019–20 Coronavirus pandemic on education

Research Aim: The 2019–20 Coronavirus pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the widespread closures of schools and universities. As of 28 March 2020, over 1.7 billion learners were out of school due to school closures in response to COVID-19. According to UNESCO monitoring, over 100 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting nearly 90% of the world’s student population. This research will explore the impact of the 2019–20 Coronavirus pandemic on education.

Topic C4: What actions are being taken by universities in response to Coronavirus?

Research Aim: we have seen a growing number of decisions by universities to start implementing social distancing strategies, such as moving to more online delivery of teaching and increased home working by staff. At present, there is no government advice to universities about this. Therefore any operational decision by individual universities must be based on their local circumstances, which vary for various reasons. This research will examine some of the measures we see across the universities in response to the pandemic.

Topic C5: The impact of Coronavirus on international students and the response from universities

Research Aim: This research will explore the impact of Coronavirus on international students and the response from universities.

The Best Education Dissertation Topics

Topic 1: a comparison of wonderlic tests and standardised tests as means to assess academic performance..

Research Aim: Although there are many techniques and methods for assessing academic performance, this research will focus on the comparative analysis of Wonderlic and standardised tests. In the end, the research will conclude which approach would be better in different academic situations.

Topic 2: The theory and practice of educational games as a means to promote better learning.

Research Aim: In recent times, many pieces of research have focused on identifying different learning approaches to provide quality education. This research will analyse the concept of educational games for young children to promote and improvise the learning mechanisms.

Topic 3: The impact of learning ability of a child: A case study of kindergarten students

Research Aim: With the emergence of technological advancements, many organisations, including education institutes, have started embracing innovative technologies. The main purpose of these advancements is to improvise the different ways of education. This research will focus on how the use of smart technology has improved the learning ability of kindergarten students.

Topic 4: Comparing and analysing the teaching approaches and mechanism of privately owned schools and public school: Case of developing countries

Research Aim: Due to the rise of capitalist economies, many institutions have developed unique mechanisms to improve business operations and sales. The same is the case with educational institutes. However, the teaching mechanism and approach for private schools have been more effective than public schools. Therefore, this research will critically analyse the teaching approaches and mechanisms of privately owned schools and public schools and compare and analyse their teaching approaches.

Topic 5: Analysing the current curricular development of K12 students and how it can be linked with current economic issues

Research Aim: It has been found out that the curriculum of the majority of the educational institutes has become obsolete and monotonous. In other words, students are not being taught current affairs and the latest knowledge with respect to technology, etc. Therefore, the main aim of this research will be to analyse the current curricular development of K12 students and how it can be moulded to reflect the true economic conditions and issues of society.

Early Childhood Education Dissertation Topics

Early childhood education in the UK and many other countries refers to any form of education that children between 2 and 6 years obtain. Some early childhood education dissertation topics are listed below:

Topic 6: The effectiveness and implementation of early childhood education curriculum interventions

Research Aim: This research will discuss how effective curriculum interventions have been in early childhood education and how they can be effectively implemented.

Topic 7: Linking theory to practice and back again: The use of collaborative enquiry and video documentation to facilitate critical thinking in preservice teacher education

Research Aim: This research will provide theoretical and practical evidence to establish how collaboration inquiry and video documentation effectively affect critical thinking in preservice education.

Topic 8: Improving early childhood literacy development and English education through the use of multiple media tools

Research Aim: This research will analyse how effective medical tools are in early childhood education.

Topic 9: Supporting emergent literacy at the pre-school level through the use of technology.

Research Aim: This research will present how supportive technology can be for emergent literacy at the pre-school level.

Topic 10: Merging multimodality, technology, and literacy in the era of kindergarten digital storytelling

Research Aim: This research will explore the effectiveness of multimodality, literacy, and technology in today’s era of kindergarten storytelling.

Topic 11: Computer-based reading program with at-risk pre-kindergarten students

Research Aim: This research will discuss how computer-based reading programs are at risk with pre-kindergarten students.

Topic 12: Pre-school educational settings and the nature of children’s leadership

Research Aim: This research will analyse how educational settings in pre-school help develop leadership skills in children.

Topic 13: How urban students’ academic accomplishments can be influenced by a school district’s pre-school education policies

Research Aim: This research will discuss the academic accomplishments of children and how educational policies influence them.

Topic 14: Investigating the relationship between kindergarten achievement and classroom quality

Research Aim: This study will investigate the relationship between kindergarten students’ achievement and education quality.

Topic 15: Creating efficient learning environments to facilitate the process of early childhood education

Research Aim: This research will understand the learning environments that facilitate the process of childhood education.

Elementary Education Dissertation Topics

In the United Kingdom and other developed regions of the world, elementary education is the first level of compulsory education that children between the ages of 6 and 13 years obtain.

Primary or elementary education helps establish history, geography, mathematics, science, and other social sciences. In some countries, basic sexual education is also part of the elementary education curriculum. Some important primary education issues to explore are listed below:

Topic 16: Establishing the factors inhibiting and enhancing elementary school children’s creativity

Research Aim: This research will discuss the factors that help enhance children’s creativity in elementary school.

Topic 17: Developing life skills in elementary school pupils in the United Kingdom (or any other country of your choice)

Research Aim: This research will explore how life skills are developed in elementary school in the UK. (Country can be changed according to your choosing)

Topic 18: Monitoring and evaluating instruction in private elementary schools in China from the perspective of headteachers and teachers.

Topic 19: including children with special educational needs in a mainstream elementary educational institute – a case study of any elementary school.

Research Aim: This research will discuss inclusive education, i.e. including special needs students in elementary school. You are free to choose the school of your choice.

Topic 20: Implementing inclusive education in elementary/primary schools in Australia – The challenges and opportunities

Research Aim: This research will discuss the challenges and opportunities of implementing inclusive education in Australian elementary schools.

Topic 21: Classroom evaluation in England – Teachers’ practices and perceptions in Maths

Research Aim: This research will evaluate a typical classroom in England. It will assess the practices adopted by Math teachers teaching in elementary school.

Topic 22: Integrating outdoor learning activities with elementary curriculum in the United Kingdom

Research Aim: This research will analyse the results of integrating outdoor learning activities with curriculum activities.

Topic 23: Investigating the use of technology in elementary school physical education

Research Aim: This research will investigate and analyse the use of technology in elementary school physical education.

Topic 24: Investigating the impact of the age of information on current courses taught in primary school

Research Aim: This research will investigate the impact of information on courses taught in primary school.

Topic 25: Should primary schools allow their students to study more independently to achieve improved performance?

Research Aim: This research will assess whether elementary school students should be allowed to study independently or not and its impacts.

Read More About   Elementary Education / Primary Education

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Secondary Education Dissertation Topics

Secondary school education primarily covers formal education obtained by pupils between 13 years to 18 years. Secondary education is compulsory in most countries, including the United Kingdom, and it may be taught in the form of Ordinary Levels, Advanced Levels, and SSC and HSC exams.

There is a wide array of research areas to be explored under this field of study, and any of the following research topics could be selected for your education dissertation.

Topic 26: Investigating the impact of teacher education on secondary education in the European Union

Research Aim: This research will investigate how secondary education in the EU is impacted by teacher education.

Topic 27: Investigating the impact of secondary school dual enrolment course participation on pupils’ academic accomplishments

Research Aim: This research will investigate the impact of dual course enrolment and its impact on academic accomplishments in secondary school.

Topic 28: The role of sustainability in learning and teaching in secondary schools to transform the soul of education

Research Aim: This study will explore the role of sustainable learning and teaching in secondary school, and it helps transform the soul of education.

Topic 29: Investigating secondary school teachers’ thinking in a professional development project

Research Aim: This research will analyse the teachers’ thinking with the help of a professional development project.

Topic 30: Betraying the college dream: How student aspirations are undermined by the disconnected post-secondary and K-12 education systems

Research Aim: The post-secondary schooling and K-12 education systems are misaligned. Thus, this research will investigate how this adversely impacts students, and as a result, more and more students are giving up on their college dreams.

Topic 31: Analysing supply & demand in light of the rising cost of secondary education

Research Aim: This research will assess and analyse the rising cost of education and its impact on the supply and demand for education.

Topic 32: To study the use of instructional and information technologies in teacher training in secondary schools and colleges in the United Kingdom

Research Aim: This research will study the use of technologies in teacher training and how it impacts secondary education in the UK.

Topic 33: Should secondary school teachers emphasise today’s demanding issues such as energy conservation, sustainability, and environmental protection?

Research Aim: This research will study whether or not teachers should emphasize current issues like energy preservation, sustainability, and environmental protection.

Topic 34: How can religious and racial tolerance increase among pupils by reintroducing religious education in the secondary schooling system?

Research Aim: This research will explore whether introducing religious education in secondary education help decrease religious and racial intolerance.

Topic 35: To investigate the benefits of teaching business management and entrepreneurship related courses to secondary school students over social science courses?

Research Aim:  This research will study the uses and benefits of teaching business management and entrepreneurship at the secondary schooling level.  Read More About   Secondary Education

Higher Education Dissertation Topics

Higher education or college/university education covers the formal education available to college, undergraduate and postgraduate students. Some interesting higher education dissertation topics are listed below.

Topic 36: International mobility of graduate and undergraduate students of mathematics, engineering, technology and science; Push and Pull Factors

Research Aim: This research will study and analyse the push and pull factors that impact the graduate and undergraduate students’ choice of university.

Topic 37: International graduate students and their decisions to stay or leave the US; The decisive factors

Research Aim: This study will explore the factors that lead students to decide whether they should stay or leave their universities in the US.

Topic 38: Aligning higher education to labour market requirements in the UK

Research Aim: This research will assess whether higher education in the UK should be aligned with the labor market requirements or not.

Topic 39: Internationalisation drivers, obstacles and rationales: A case study of any higher education institute in the UK

Research Aim: This research will analyze the internationalisation drivers, obstacles, and rationales of higher education institutes in the UK.

Topic 40: An investigation into the governance systems of academic planning in both private and public sector higher education institutes

Research Aim: This research will investigate the governance systems of academic planning in both, private and public higher education institutes.

Topic 41: Higher education system: Should all universities follow the same education pattern?

Research Aim: This research will explore if every university should follow the same educational pattern.

Topic 42: Evaluating teaching quality in higher education schools from students’ perspective

Research Aim: This research will evaluate the performance of teachers based on students’ perspectives. Suggestions will be provided as to how it should be improved.

Topic 43: Identify the factors affecting student mobility in Europe – The quality aspect

Research Aim: This research will explore the factors that impact student mobility in Europe.

Topic 44: Assessing and Evaluating the Impact of Hiring, Firing and Retiring Professors in Higher Education System on Students

Research Aim: This research will evaluate the various impacts of hiring, firing and retiring professors in the higher education system on students.

Topic 45: Do university graduates perform better than those who do not obtain formal education but have practical work experience?

Research Aim: This research will evaluate and assess the performance of two sets of students. First, university graduates, second, will be those who have no formal education but have practical work experience.  Also Read:   Fashion and Culture Dissertation Topics

Teaching Method Dissertation Topics

The role of primary, secondary or higher education teachers is highly important, particularly considering the ever-increasing need to provide a growth-oriented academic environment to students. Some interesting teaching methods dissertation research topics are listed below.

Topic 46: The influence of teaching methods on students’ academic success and achievements

Research Aim: This research will explore the influence of teaching methods on students’ academic success and achievements.

Topic 47: A transactional method to learning and teaching in an English language arts methodologies conference

Research Aim: This study will explore the transactional learning and teaching method in an English language arts methodologies conference.

Topic 48: How the effect of constructivist teaching methods can largely influence the algebraic understanding of primary and secondary school students

Research Aim: This research will understand how constructivist teaching methods affect primary and secondary school students.

Topic 49: Student learning of DNA and the effect of teaching methods

Research Aim: This research will study the impact of various teaching methods on students.

Topic 50: Teaching English through conventional and direct approaches – A qualitative study

Research Aim: This will be a qualitative study that will help assess the teaching of English as a subject through direct and conventional approaches.

Topic 51: Investigating the relationships of teachers’ pedagogical beliefs, knowledge and efficiency: A multimethod approach

Research Aim: This research will investigate the relationship between teacher’s pedagogical beliefs, efficiency, and knowledge.

Topic 52: Exploring the benefits of employing the Socratic methodology as an approach to learning

Research Aim: This research will investigate the benefits of the Socratic method learning approach.

Topic 53: The benefits of introducing mathematics software to higher education mathematics teachers

Research Aim: This study will explore the benefits of introducing mathematics software to higher education math teachers.

Topic 54: The increasing importance of teachers training taking into consideration various threats to students such as weapons and drugs

Research Aim: This research will understand the importance of teachers’ training with respect to threats such as drugs and weapons.

Topic 55: Are the teachers more prone to violence at the hands of their students as compared to the past: How the profession of teaching has evolved over the last twenty years

Research Aim:  Purpose: This research will conduct a comparison of the teacher’s profession in the past twenty years and will conclude how it has changed.  Read More About:   Teaching Methods in the UK

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Education Leadership and Policy Studies Dissertation Topics

The role of leadership, politics, and policies cannot be overlooked. Education leadership and policy studies have two main roots, including organisational theory and political science. This may be an interesting area of research for your educational dissertation.

Topic 56: Implementing educational change in failing middle schools through examination of one’s fundamental leadership procedures and processes

Research Aim: This research will explore the impact of implementing educational change in failing middle schools by examining leadership procedures at the institutes.

Topic 57: Historical background and development of co-curricular transcripts

Research Aim: This research will date back to history and explore how co-curricular transcripts were developed, and will compare them to today’s processes.

Topic 58: Evaluating the self-efficiency of high performing first-generation university students

Research Aim: This research will evaluate the self-efficiency of high performing university students.

Topic 59: The influence of spiritual growth on leadership development of college and university students

Research Aim: This research will explore the influence of spiritual growth on the leadership skills development of university students.

Topic 60: The peril and power of globalisation: The Higher education, the World Bank, and the Global Knowledge Economy

Research Aim: This research will focus on the globalisation aspect of education and will talk about how it has been impacted.

Topic 61: The self-reported impact of instructional coaching on middle school teachers’ practices

Research Aim: This research will investigate the impact of instructional coaching on middle school teachers’ practices.

Topic 62: An investigation into the policies designed to address bullying in schools of the UK: The beliefs, opinions and perceptions of teachers and principals

Research Aim: This research will explore in-depth the policies that are designed to address and eliminate bullying in UK schools.

Topic 63: Investigating the causes of under-representation of black students in advanced placement courses in the USA

Research Aim: This research will explore the racial issues in the educational system of the US, i.e. underrepresentation of black students.

Topic 64: Lecture note-taking skills of adolescents with and without learning disabilities

Research Aim: This research will understand the note-taking skills of adolescents and how they differ with respect to learning.

Topic 65: A qualitative study to evaluate the educational policies in the UK

Research Aim:  This study will assess and evaluate the various educational policies in the UK.  Read More About:  Courses About International Education Leadership And Policy

Adult Education Dissertation Topics

Vocation-based or professional adult education has gained tremendous popularity in the academic world over the last couple of decades. Here is a wide range of research topics within this field of study to base your dissertation on.

Topic 66: Investing social and personal benefits and costs of basic adult education from students’ perspective

Research Aim: This research will investigate the social and personal benefits and costs of basic adult education.

Topic 67: The perception of adult learners regarding their satisfaction with their educational experiences

Research Aim: This research will explore the perception of adult learners regarding their educational experiences.

Topic 68: Use of bounded agency approach to promoting participation in adult education programmes

Research Aim: This research will discuss the bounded agency approach to promote participation in adult education programs.

Topic 69: A psychoanalytic investigation to explore adult teaching and learning theory

Research Aim: This research will conduct a psychoanalytic investigation in order to explore adult teaching and learning.

Topic 70: Comparing perception of adult learners in face to face and online courses

Research Aim: This research will compare the perception of adult learners in online and face to face courses.

Topic 71: Use of Hatcher-Assagioli Synthesis to analyse practices, principles, and goals for community-based adult education

Research Aim: This research will utilise Hatcher Assagioli Synthesis to analyse community-based education practices, principles, and goals.

Topic 72: A review of the UK government spending on adult education over the last two decades

Research Aim: This research will review the UK government spending on adult education for two decades.

Topic 73: The relationship between unemployment and government funding for adult education – A quantitative analysis

Research Aim: This research will explore the relationship between government funding and unemployment for adult education.

Topic 74: The impact of entrepreneurship, wealth building and personal finance-related courses in adult education

Research Aim: This study will study the impact of courses like entrepreneurship, personal finance et. For adult education.

Topic 75: Frequent career changes over working life and the increasing importance of adult education in today’s world

Research Aim: This research will assess the importance of adult education and how it influences students to change their career choices frequently.

Private School Education Dissertation Topics

Private schools have become a large profit-making industry in both the developed and developing world. More and more parents want to send their children to private schools even though the expenses associated with private education are constantly on the rise. Following are some suggestions for your education dissertation research:

Topic 76: Evaluating the effectiveness of management in private schools in the UAE

Research Aim: This research will evaluate the effectiveness of private school management in the UAE.

Topic 77: To study the level of cooperation between home schools, public schools and private schools in the United Kingdom

Research Aim: This research will explore the cooperation level in home schools, private and public schools in the UK.

Topic 78: A qualitative analysis to determine the causes why parents choose to send their children to private schools in south Asian countries

Research Aim: This research will conduct qualitative analysis to determine why parents send their children to private schools in Asia.

Topic 79: Investigating the policies concerning the fee structure of private schools in Shanghai

Research Aim: This research will investigate the various policies that concern the fee structure of private Shanghai schools.

Topic 80: An empirical analysis of the impacts of the universal primary education policies on educational performances in South Asia

Research Aim: This research will conduct an empirical analysis to understand the impact of universal primary education policies on educational performance in the South Asian region.

Topic 81: Use of information technology and teaching tools in private schools in the UK

Research Aim: This research will explore the use of technology in private schools and assess its effectiveness.

Topic 82: Schooling for money – The impact of the profit motive on Swiss educational reform

Research Aim: This research will study the Swiss educational reform and its impact on the system.

Topic 83: Challenges and experiences of children with disabilities in private schools of India

Research Aim: This research will evaluate the challenges and experiences of children with disabilities in Indian schools.

Topic 84: Why are private school students considered to have the edge over public schools – A qualitative study

Research Aim: This will be a qualitative study on why private school students are preferred over public school students.

Topic 85: Emphasis on personality formation and character in private schools – Are private school students more competitive than public school students?

Research Aim:  This research will study the personality formation and character building of private school students.  Read More About   Private School Fee Increase for First Time.

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Public School Education Dissertation Topics

Most schools in the developed world are publicly funded, offering elementary, secondary, and higher education. There is a wide array of topics of research under this field of study that can be explored. Some of them are suggested below:

Exploring the Funding of Public Schools – How they can be improved. This research will explore the ways through which public schools are funded and will study what can be done to improve them.

Topic 86: Investigating the impact of teacher leadership in public schools in the UK

Research Aim: This research will study the impact of teacher leadership in UK public schools.

Topic 87: Is it true that public schools are better able to prepare their students to face the challenges of the real world as compared to the private schools

Research Aim: This research will explore a common misconception that public school students are better prepared to face real-world challenges than private school students.

Topic 88: Can publicly-funded religious schools help to counter radicalisation and terrorism?

Research Aim: This study will explore an important topic, i.e. can terrorism and radicalisation be countered with public funding of schools.

Topic 89: Encouraging values and morals in the younger generation by reintroducing religious education in public schools in the UK

Research Aim: This research will study how reintroducing religious education help encourage values and morals in the younger generation in the UK.

Topic 90: Healthy eating habits and the role of public schools offering courses such as meal choice, cooking and home economics

Research Aim: This research will explore the benefits of cooking and home economic courses and promote healthy eating.

Topic 91: How public school students can be encouraged to participate in sporting activities?

Research Aim: This research will assess how public school students can be encouraged to participate in sporting activities.

Topic 92: The perception of special education administrators on the use of paraprofessionals in the education of students with disabilities

Topic 93: the perception of special education administrators on the use of paraprofessionals in the education of students with disabilities.

Research Aim: This research will discuss special education administrators and how they help offer quality education to disabled students.

Topic 94: Educating students with disabilities and the beliefs of public school principals

Research Aim: This research will explore the beliefs of public school principals and how these beliefs help offer quality education to disabled students.

Topic 95: Advanced teaching tools in public school classrooms – How they Help Improve Quality Education

Research Aim:  This research will explore how quality education is provided by implementing innovative technology in classrooms.

Read More About   Public School in the UK

Home Schooling Dissertation Topics

Homeschooling is a highly growing educational phenomenon in developed countries. Any form of education that children obtain within their home setting under the supervision of their parents/adults is classified as homeschooling. Some interesting home school dissertation topics are suggested below:

Topic 96: A qualitative study to understand the significance of the role of information technology in homeschooling

Research Aim: This research will assess the importance of information technology for homeschooling through qualitative research.

Topic 97: The advantages and disadvantages of home schooling – Do home children perform with the top private and public school students?

Research Aim: This research will assess the pros and cons of home schooling. It will also assess the performance of home schooled students as compared to private and public school students.

Topic 98: A qualitative analysis on socialisation and academic accomplishments among home schooled university students

Research Aim: This research will be a qualitative analysis with respect to socialization and academic accomplishments with respect to home schooled university students.

Topic 99: Factors motivating students to choose home schooling over conventional schooling systems

Research Aim: This study will explore the factors that motivate students to opt for homeschooling over the conventional schooling system.

Topic 100: A qualitative study to understand parental motivation to home schooling

Research Aim: This will be a qualitative study to assess the parental motivation to home school their children.

Topic 101: Are partnerships available in homeschooling? Exploring their Effectiveness

Research Aim: This research will explore whether partnerships are available in homeschooling or not and how beneficial do they prove to be.

Topic 102: A qualitative analysis to understand the educational beliefs of home schooled pupils and their parents

Research Aim: This research will conduct a qualitative analysis to assess the educational beliefs of homeschooled students and their parents.

Topic 103: A qualitative analysis on the relationship between financial literacy and homeschooling

Research Aim: This research will assess whether there is a relationship between homeschooling and financial literacy or not.

Topic 104: The duties and responsibilities of parents concerning the homeschooling of their children

Research Aim: This research will explore the duties and responsibilities of parents with respect to the homeschooling of their children.

Topic 105: Do Homeschool Children Develop Personalities and Characters like Private and Public Schooled Children?

Research Aim: This research will explore whether homeschooled children build strong character and confident personalities just like private and public schooled students or not.

Read More About   Public Schools in the UK

Simple Ordering Process

A system that works for everyone, important notes:.

As a student of education looking to get good grades, it is essential to develop new ideas and experiment with existing education theories – i.e., to add value and interest to your research topic.

The field of education is vast and interrelated with so many other academic disciplines. That is why creating an education dissertation topic that is particular, sound, and actually solves a practical problem that may be rampant in the field is imperative.

We can’t stress how important it is to develop a logical research topic; it is the basis of your entire research. There are several significant downfalls to getting your topic wrong; your supervisor may not be interested in working on it, the topic has no academic creditability, the research may not make logical sense, and there is a possibility that the study is not viable.

This impacts your time and efforts in  writing your dissertation , as you may end up in the cycle of rejection at the very initial stage of the dissertation. That is why we recommend reviewing existing research to develop a topic, taking advice from your supervisor, and even asking for help in this particular stage of your dissertation.

While developing a research topic, keeping our advice in mind will allow you to pick one of the best education dissertation topics that fulfil your requirement of writing a research paper and add to the body of knowledge.

Therefore, it is recommended that when finalizing your dissertation topic, you read recently published literature to identify gaps in the research that you may help fill.

Remember- dissertation topics need to be unique, solve an identified problem, be logical, and be practically implemented. Take a look at some of our sample education dissertation topics to get an idea for your own dissertation.

How to Structure your Education Dissertation

A well-structured   dissertation can help students   to achieve a high overall academic grade.

  • A Title Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • Declaration
  • Abstract: A summary of the research completed
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction : This chapter includes the project rationale, research background, key research aims and objectives, and the research problems. An outline of the structure of a dissertation can also be added to this chapter.
  • Literature Review :  This chapter presents relevant theories and frameworks by analysing published and unpublished literature available on the chosen research topic in light of research questions to be addressed. The purpose is to highlight and discuss the relative weaknesses and strengths of the selected research area while identifying any research gaps. Break down of the topic, and key terms can positively impact your dissertation and your tutor.
  • Methodology: The  data collection  and  analysis methods and techniques employed by the researcher are presented in the Methodology chapter, which usually includes  research design, research philosophy, research limitations, code of conduct, ethical consideration, data collection methods, and  data analysis strategy .
  • Findings and Analysis: Findings of the research are analysed in detail under the Findings and Analysis chapter. All key findings/results are outlined in this chapter without interpreting the data or drawing any conclusions. It can be useful to include  graphs ,  charts, and  tables in this chapter to identify meaningful trends and relationships.
  • Discussion and  Conclusion: The researcher presents his interpretation of the results in this chapter and states whether the research hypothesis has been verified or not. An essential aspect of this section is to establish the link between the results and evidence from the literature. Recommendations with regards to implications of the findings and directions for the future may also be provided. Finally, a summary of the overall research, along with final judgments, opinions, and comments, must be included in the form of suggestions for improvement.
  • References:  Make sure to complete this in accordance with your University’s requirements
  • Bibliography
  • Appendices: Any additional information, diagrams, and graphs used to complete the dissertation  but not part of the dissertation should be included in the Appendices chapter. Essentially, the purpose is to expand the information/data.

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Online engineering management master’s rises in rankings

The Ohio State University College of Engineering’s online engineering management degree is again recognized among the top programs in the nation by  U.S. News & World Report’s  Best Online Programs rankings.

In the publication's  Management specialty area , Ohio State’s Master of Engineering Management rose to No. 14 nationally (No. 16 in 2023) in its second year of being ranked within the category.

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The Ohio State's 100% online  Master of Engineering Management (MEM)  program prepares engineering professionals to take the next step in their careers. Students learn new engineering management and business skills while better understanding policy and the business-government relationship. Working professionals can complete online coursework and access materials at a time that best fits their schedules. Students also have the unique opportunity to earn Six Sigma certification as part of the MEM degree.

This program is made possible through a partnership between Ohio State's College of Engineering, the Fisher College of Business, and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, offering students interdisciplinary expertise throughout all online courses.

Affordability and quality of instruction are at the forefront of the consideration of  U.S. News & World Report . The site uses insights from these factors and others to rank online programs at regionally accredited institutions across the country.

View the full list of  2024  U.S. News & World  Report Best Online Programs rankings .

Story originally posted by The College of Engineering. 

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  1. An Analysis of the Effect of Distance Learning on Student Self-Efficacy

    dissertation on distance education

  2. (PDF) A research examination of Distance Learning Students Experiences

    dissertation on distance education

  3. An Introduction to Distance Education

    dissertation on distance education

  4. (PDF) A Study on the Factors Affecting the Academic Performance of

    dissertation on distance education

  5. (PDF) Encouraging the development of distance education? Encouraging

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  6. 1990 Dissertation Distance Field In Learning Onwards Written

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COMMENTS

  1. Students' Learning Experiences and Perceptions of Online Course Content

    This Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by the Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies Collection at ScholarWorks. It has been ... higher learning offered distance education courses in 1996. By the fall of 2000-2001,

  2. Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic

    Shahini, Fiona, "Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World. Case of Kosovo" (2021). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from This Senior Project is brought to you for free and open access by the RIT Libraries. For more information, please

  3. PDF A Comprehensive Look at Distance Education in the k-12 Context

    in adult distance education and policies adapted from traditional learning en-vironments. This review of literature provides an overview of the field of distance education with a focus on the research conducted in K-12 distance education environments. (Keywords: Distance education, distance learning, virtual schools, cyber-schools, K-12.)

  4. Distance Education Administrators Starting Online Programs in Higher

    Theses and Dissertations--Education Sciences College of Education 2021 Distance Education Administrators Starting Online Programs in Higher Education: A Case Study of the Tasks, Processes, and Challenges of Change to E-Learning Jason P. Johnston University of Kentucky, [email protected]

  5. Full article: Distance education students' mental health, connectedness

    Students' descriptions of connectedness in a distance education context are consistent with Moore's (Citation 2018) theory that transactional distance involves the psychological (rather than geographical) distance between learners and the teacher (Moore & Kearsley, Citation 2011). Furthermore, students appeared more likely to report on ...

  6. Distance learning in higher education during COVID-19: The role of

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, higher educational institutions worldwide switched to emergency distance learning in early 2020. The less structured environment of distance learning forced students to regulate their learning and motivation more independently. According to self-determination theory (SDT), satisfaction of the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and social ...

  7. Research trends in online distance learning during the COVID-19

    Distance Education Volume 42, 2021 - Issue 4. Submit an article Journal homepage. 2,240 Views 18 CrossRef citations to date ... Online distance learning emerged as a solution to continue with teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to more scholarly publications in the field. ...

  8. A systematic review of research on online teaching and learning from

    2.1. Distance education research themes, 1990 to 1999 (Berge & Mrozowski, 2001)Berge and Mrozowski (2001) reviewed 890 research articles and dissertation abstracts on distance education from 1990 to 1999. The four distance education journals chosen by the authors to represent distance education included, American Journal of Distance Education, Distance Education, Open Learning, and the Journal ...

  9. Students' perceptions on distance education: A multinational study

    Many universities offer Distance Education (DE) courses and programs to address the diverse educational needs of students and to stay current with advancing technology. Some Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that do not offer DE find it difficult to navigate through the steps that are needed to provide such courses and programs. Investigating learners' perceptions, attitudes and ...

  10. Collaborative Online Education: A Case Study of an Ed.D. Program

    Dissertations UMSL Graduate Works 11-8-2021 Collaborative Online Education: A Case Study of an Ed.D. Program ... Part of the Online and Distance Education Commons Recommended Citation Rong, Han; Zhang, Yang; Cao, Rongjing; and Xu, Jinge, "Collaborative Online Education: A Case Study of an ...

  11. PDF Examining the Practices and Challenges of Distance Education of PhD

    Keywords: training of PhD candidates, distance education/learning, COVID-19 pandemic, online learning technologies, health and recreational technologies. ... both on the amount of work on the dissertation, which has been set aside . 76 since the previous meeting, and on questions to the supervisor. In this way, the conferences will be as ...

  12. PDF EVALUATING DISTANCE EDUCATION: THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE A Dissertation

    dissertation entitled EVALUATING DISTANCE EDUCATION: THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE ... distance education courses (Lewis, et al., 1998; see also Miller & King, 2003). Allen and Seaman (2004) report that it was 2002 that found actual enrollments of over 1.6 million studying online. These figures demonstrate that distance education has indeed rapidly

  13. PDF THE IMPACT OF DISTANCE EDUCATION ON HIGHER EDUCATION: A Case Study of

    Online education has been acclaimed for bringing education to students who would not otherwise have the opportunities to go to college (Carr, 2012). The purpose of this study was to examine the research to determine the impact of distance education on higher education in the United States.

  14. The Effect of Motivation on Student Persistence in Online Higher

    Electronic Theses and Dissertations Spring 5-11-2018 The Effect of Motivation on Student Persistence in Online Higher Education: A Phenomenological Study of How Adult Learners Experience Motivation in a Web-based Distance Learning Environment Kevin Lucey Follow this and additional works at:https://dsc.duq.edu/etd

  15. PDF A Model and Principles for Effective Internet-based Distance Education

    Internet-based distance education is becoming an increasingly accepted and important part of U.S. higher education, creating a unique opportunity to explore new ... Internet-Based Distance Education This dissertation is based on the proposition that the contribution most needed in the emerging field of Internet-based distance education (IBDE ...

  16. The 'dissertation marathon' in doctoral distance education

    The opportunities that come with online mentoring were documented by Zey (2011) and strategies for distance mentoring outlined by Starr-Glass (2014); Wong and Premkumar (2007); and Kumar, Johnson ...

  17. [PDF] Strategies to Assist Distance Doctoral Students in Completing

    Completing doctoral dissertations is difficult work and may be harder for distance students physically separated from institutional and collegial supports. Inability to complete independent research contributes to doctoral student attrition. Factors impacting completion include institutional factors, student characteristics, and supervisory arrangements (Manathunga, 2005).

  18. World Maritime University The Maritime Commons: Digital Repository of

    This dissertation is a study of the distance education continuum and the constant evolution that is taking place particularly due to the dynamism of information technology. Information technology has become the catalyst for change and, as a result, distance education is becoming the preferred choice of education among adults in higher education.

  19. PDF Trends in Distance Education: A Content Analysis of Master's Thesis

    Distance Education (AJDE) and found that quantitative studies were conducted at most and mixed studies at least. Mishra (1997) examined the studies published in the journals of AJDE, Distance Education (DE), Open ... the one that produced most dissertations in the field of distance education (40%). METHOD In the present study, content analysis ...

  20. Dissertations.se: DISTANCE EDUCATION

    1. Letters & Bytes : Sociotechnical Studies of Distance Education. Abstract : This dissertation studies the social aspects of technology in distance education trough the lens of history - in the form of correspondence education - and a possible future - in the form of a project of technical standardization, Learning Objects.

  21. How technology is reinventing K-12 education

    New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand ...

  22. The Rise Of Online Learning In The U.S.

    In 2012—a watershed year in online education that saw the founding of MOOC giants edX and Coursera—over 25% of U.S. college and university students took at least one distance learning course ...

  23. Dissertations / Theses: 'Distance education Educational evaluation

    Consult the top 50 dissertations / theses for your research on the topic 'Distance education Educational evaluation.' Next to every source in the list of references, there is an 'Add to bibliography' button.

  24. 120+ Education Dissertation Topics and Titles

    Here is our selection of education topics we think can help you develop a truly valuable dissertation. Topic 1: Investigating the impact of Covid-19 on the learning experience of the students. Topic 2: An analysis of the impact of classroom interaction and participation on the personality development and confidence of the students.

  25. PDF Effectiveness of Self Instructional Material of Distance Education

    Distance education provides opportunity of interaction among the students and teachers. It is a flexible learning and best means of self-learning which is used by the learners in most common way and become most common among the learners (Roy et al., 2004, Ghalib Ahsan et al.,

  26. Online engineering management master's rises in rankings

    The Ohio State University College of Engineering's online engineering management degree is again recognized among the top programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Programs rankings. In the publication's Management specialty area, Ohio State's Master of Engineering Management rose to No. 14 nationally (No. 16 in 2023) in its second year of being ranked within the ...